Africa Rich in Resources, But Not Support, Secretary-General Tells Regional Summit, Urging More Economic, Climate Action to Ensure Prosperous Future
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the African Union Summit “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa”, in Addis Ababa today:
Let me begin by recognizing President Macky Sall for his leadership as Chair over the last year. President Assoumani, we look forward to working with you as incoming Chairperson. And I want to commend all of you for uniting around the theme of “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa”.
The African Union is taking inspiring steps to help realize the enormous potential of this great continent. Africa is poised for progress. Agenda 2063, the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion, the continent’s abundance of natural resources and its greatest advantage of all, its people, representing a diverse range of cultures and languages.
In particular, I’m pleased to see your strong focus on job-creation and the enormous potential of the African Continental Free Trade Area. This represents a truly transformative pathway to job-creation and new sources of prosperity for Africans, especially for the youth.
And I applaud the exciting progress that has been made so far, and the commitment of President Issoufou as champion of this important effort. The United Nations is proud to be your partner and to work together. The ties between the African Union and the United Nations have never been stronger.
But, I also recognize the enormous tests that Africa — and indeed our world — is facing on virtually every front. I recently addressed the United Nations General Assembly on the multiple, interlinked challenges confronting our world — greater than any in our lifetimes.
And in many ways, the people of Africa are bearing the brunt of these crises. A dysfunctional and unfair global financial system that is failing developing countries when they need it most. The deep inequalities in the availability of resources for the recovery from the pandemic. A cost-of-living crisis — exacerbated by the consequences of the Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine. Climate chaos — that the people of Africa did very little to cause — that is whipping up floods and deadly droughts, putting communities and lives at risk and displacing millions. And peace and security threats often involving interests — and profits — far beyond the continent’s borders.
Across all these areas, the message is clear: Africa needs action. First, economic action. Africa is rich with potential. But, it is not rich in global support. Investing in African pathways to prosperity requires finance. And developing countries are repeatedly left in the lurch. The global financial system routinely denies them debt relief and concessional financing, while charging extortionate interest rates. As a result, vital systems are starved of investment — from health and education to green technology, social protection and the creation of new, sustainable jobs.
Meanwhile, women and girls are still not receiving the support and investment they need — in the classroom, in the workplace, in civil society and across political systems. African countries cannot invest in these critical areas and climb the development ladder with one hand tied behind their backs.
I have called for a new Bretton Woods moment to radically transform the global financial architecture. The beating heart of this system — every decision, mechanism and process — should be centred on the needs of developing countries. They should have a far greater voice in global institutions — including financial institutions. The Security Council, the Bretton Woods system are typical examples where Africa is dramatically underrepresented.
We need a new debt architecture that provides debt relief and restructuring to vulnerable countries — including middle-income countries — while providing immediate debt suspension and write-downs to countries in need. Multilateral Development Banks should transform their business model and accept a new approach to risk. This includes massively leveraging their funds to attract greater flows of private capital into your countries. It means scaling-up guarantees and adopting first-loss positions in coalitions of financial institutions to support developing countries, particularly in Africa.
I will also continue pushing Group of 20 (G20) leaders for a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Stimulus to support the Global South. The SDG Summit this September must be a breakthrough moment in delivering support for developing countries and reforming a broken global financial system. I will continue standing with you in this fight.
Second, Africa needs climate action. The brutal injustice of climate change is on full display with every flood, drought, famine and heatwave endured on this continent. The countries least responsible for this crisis are feeling its most devastating impacts. Meanwhile, several African countries are demonstrating strong leadership on climate. This includes Kenya’s green economy strategy, the effort to protect the tropical forests of the Congo, South Africa’s Just Transition Energy Partnership and the African Union’s ambitious Green Stimulus Programme. I am encouraged by the leading role of the African Small Island States, a role they are playing in championing the Great Blue Wall Initiative.
It is clear, the world must decarbonize. But, we need to ensure that the transition to renewable energy is a just transition, particularly in Africa, where energy access and development challenges must be properly addressed. This includes wider access to technologies like battery-storage systems, components and raw materials. The upcoming Transboundary Battery and Electric Vehicle Value Chain Initiative hosted by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia is a good example.
But, all these efforts must be matched by a tidal wave of support from developed countries. They must deliver on the $100 billion promise to developing countries. They must deliver on the loss and damage fund agreed to at the last Conference of the Parties, in Sharm el-Sheikh. They must deliver on doubling adaptation finance. They must deliver on replenishing the Green Climate Fund.
And deliver on plans for early warning systems to protect every person in the world within five years — including the 6 in 10 Africans who lack these systems. In September, I will convene a Climate Ambition Summit on our pathway to COP28 [twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in December, where Governments, business and civil society will demonstrate their commitment to reach net zero.
And third — Africa needs action on peace. The United Nations is a proud partner of peace in Africa. From our joint missions and programmes. To strengthening electoral processes and peaceful transfers of power. To our peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts. To our joint efforts to end terrorism across Africa.
But our work is becoming more complex every year. Terrorism, insecurity and conflict are rising. I am deeply concerned by the recent increase in violence by armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and by the progression of terrorist groups in the Sahel and elsewhere. I support your call for the return of democratically elected, civilian-led Governments in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Sudan.
We know that peace is possible. The African Union-led ceasefire agreement here in Ethiopia — and I congratulate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the success of the process — the ceasefire in Libya, the peace agreements in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, and the forward momentum in Somalia. These all give us hope. We need to keep fighting for peace. But, frankly, the machinery of peace is shaking. The system is not as agile and effective as it must be.
The proposed New Agenda for Peace is our plan at the United Nations to revitalize multilateralism and strengthen our peace operations around the world. It aims to take a holistic view that identifies root causes and prevents the seeds of war from sprouting. It will set out a comprehensive approach to prevention, linking peace, sustainable development, climate action and human rights, drawing on the broader participation of women and young people. And we are committed to strengthening our work with the African Union to bolster democratic and responsive governance structures. We will continue to strengthen and enhance peacekeeping operations.
At the same time, and I want to insist on this point: We wholeheartedly support the creation of a new generation of robust peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by the African Union with a Security Council mandate under Chapter VII and with guaranteed, predictable funding, including through assessed contributions. And we must continue strengthening our work together on important peace initiatives — as we’ve done through the joint Independent High-Level Panel on Security and Development in the Sahel. I look forward to working with all of you to silence the guns and create the conditions for peace that the 1.4 billion people of Africa need.
The twenty-first century is poised to be Africa’s century. The United Nations is committed to working with all of you to unlock this enormous potential, and overcome the barriers that stand in the way. Let’s deliver action for Africa.