Trade and investment keys to spurring Africa’s growth, says Ban Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the opening ceremony of UNCTAD XII

21 April 2008 – Increased trade and investment, particularly in agriculture, are crucial if Africa is to achieve the kind of growth needed to meeting its development targets, as well as to address the current global food crisis, which threatens to undo the gains made so far, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

“We face a development emergency,” Mr. Ban told the high-level segment of the twelfth UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), taking place in Accra, Ghana.

He noted that well past the mid-point of the race to achieve the set of internationally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many countries are falling behind.

Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, “is most at risk – here, not a single country is on track to meet all of the MDGs by 2015,” he told the gathering of trade and development officials from around the world.

At the same time, advances on specific goals in individual African countries such as Ghana, Kenya and Uganda suggest that rapid progress is certainly possible, Mr. Ban stated, adding that the successes in these countries need to be replicated and expanded across Africa with effective support from the international community. “This scaling-up of our development activities requires unprecedented effort, but it is achievable.”

The Secretary-General pointed out that Africa has yet to fully benefit from globalization, especially increased trade and investment, noting that the continent’s share of global trade and foreign investment languishes at a mere 3 per cent.

Critical to spurring Africa’s growth is to ensure a breakthrough in the Doha Round of trade talks, as well as more South-South exchanges and greater foreign direct investment, he said.

Mr. Ban also drew attention to the “alarming” rise in global food prices, which he said threatens to undo the gains achieved so far in fighting hunger and malnutrition.

The situation calls for a substantial increase in investment and expenditure in agriculture, and underscores the importance of pushing for an open trading system in agricultural commodities – which would benefit countries around the world, the Secretary-General said.

Stating he was “especially troubled” by incidents of food riots in Africa and around the world, Mr. Ban urged countries to consider “bold measures to guarantee affordable food to even the poorest of the poor.”

In particular, he urged donors to support the appeal for $755 million by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to sustain food aid to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

In addition, he called for a substantial increase in expenditures on agriculture, adding that trade and investment should be used to bring about a ‘Green revolution’ of improved agricultural productivity across Africa.

The Secretary-General’s visit to Ghana is the first stop on a four-nation tour of West Africa that will also take him to Liberia, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.

“We all know what needs to be done,” Mr. Ban said later in his closing remarks to the high-level session. “But the window for decisive action is closing, and it is closing fast. So let us seize this moment. Let us take bold steps. And let us deliver for the people of Africa.”

While at the conference, Mr. Ban met with a number of leaders, including Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Tarja Halonen of Finland and John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana and Vice President Ana Vilma Albanez de Escobar of El Salvador, and discussed the issue of rising food costs with all of them.

The Secretary-General is now heading to Liberia, where he will meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and see the work of the UN Mission in that country. Liberia is the second stop on a four-nation tour of West Africa that will also take him to Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.

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