INVESTMENT IN AFRICA NEEDED FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO TAKE ROOT, SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL ROUND TABLE

14 May 2008
DSG/SM/392-AFR/1696-ENV/DEV/986

INVESTMENT IN AFRICA NEEDED FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO TAKE ROOT, SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL ROUND TABLE

14 May 2008
Deputy Secretary-General
DSG/SM/392 AFR/1696 ENV/DEV/986
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

INVESTMENT IN AFRICA NEEDED FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO TAKE ROOT,

SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL IN REMARKS TO MINISTERIAL ROUND TABLE

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the Commission on Sustainable Development Ministerial Round Table on Investing in Africa, in New York, 14 May:

I’m very pleased to be here at this Ministerial Round Table on Investing in Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development.  Investing in Africa is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  That’s why I’m so glad to be with you here today.  Because we need to pool our ideas to make this happen.

Africa has ingenuity and resources to spare.  What the continent needs is consistent support and unwavering solidarity.  You, as ministers, can encourage your Governments to manifest the political will and the visionary leadership needed to help Africa to meet its development needs.  And beyond Governments, we need to harness the energy of non-governmental organizations, corporations and other sectors of society.

But, even with the strongest political will and the best ideas, we still need investment for sustainable development to take root.

African countries have some of the lowest rates of domestic savings and investment in the developing world.  Africa’s financial institutions and capital markets need to be strengthened so they can offer people a return on their savings.  In other words, an incentive to save.

But investment means much more than money in the bank or property that can be sold at a profit.  The best investment in a society’s future is not a line on a balance sheet -- it is a child in a classroom.  Education is closely correlated with economic growth, with smaller family size, with greater health and wealth.

African families like families everywhere want so badly to educate their children.  But they can’t always afford to do so.  So, investing in people by providing them with proper education, health care and other basic social services is critical to the continent’s advancement.  The first investment is in the next generation: ensuring that children have all the protections that they deserve.

This is especially true in countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS -- and there are far too many in Africa.

In addition to investing in people, we must build infrastructure, but this will be a major challenge.   Africa is vast.  The United States, Western Europe, China, India and Argentina would all fit inside this one continent.  Linking roads and electricity networks over such long distances would be a major challenge anywhere.  In Africa, the problems are compounded by the damaging legacy of the colonial past, bad governance, vulnerability to climate change and well-known security challenges.

So investing in basic infrastructure, from all-weather roads to electricity to water and sewerage, is a prerequisite to sustainable development in Africa.  This is critical to scaling up economic growth.

Likewise, because most people in the region still live in rural areas, they need irrigation for their crops, including water-saving drip technologies.  Farmers in Africa also need to be able to store their crops and to get them to the market with a minimum of spoilage and damage.  They need improved varieties of local crops which will be able to withstand drought, heat and other stresses brought on by climate change.  This will require an investment in agriculture.

The outlay for agriculture will generate a self-sustaining economy that will protect the continent’s people from the shocks we are now experiencing due to the crisis in food prices.  More importantly, this investment in farmers will help the world’s population to feed itself.

Ultimately, agriculture can be the most dynamic and stable sector in Africa.  But to succeed, it will require a conducive international trading environment.

Cities in Africa are expanding, so we need to boost water supply, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications and transport systems.  By enabling people to communicate and travel, we can unleash great entrepreneurial potential.  Then growth will be self-sufficient -- and self-sustaining.

African Governments will need to mobilize domestic resources for this purpose.  But they will not be able to finance all these initiatives themselves.  So they have to create a climate that will attract private investment.  And international partners must honour their commitments to help Africa meet its financial needs.

The Secretary-General’s MDG Africa Steering Group, which brings together powerful development and financial institutions, has put forward fresh ideas, like launching Africa’s own green revolution to tackle hunger and malnutrition.

This is a clear path to success.  But we need your input on how best to mobilize resources to invest in Africa’s future.  To invest in Africa’s children.  To develop Africa’s enormous economic potential.  To protect the continent’s stunning but fragile natural environment.

I will be following your discussions, honourable ministers, so please share your experiences and insights.  Together, we can reach the Millennium Development Goals and achieve sustainable development across Africa.

I thank you very much for your kind attention and for your fruitful deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.