|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on New Partnership for Africa’s Development
In the past decade, Africa had posted impressive gains in peace and security, agricultural development and technological advancement, but heavy debt loads, labour market woes and gender inequality still plagued much of the continent, the top United Nations policy official on Africa said today during a Headquarters news conference.
“We are still discussing and struggling to implement the priority areas of NEPAD,” said Maged Abdelaziz, Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa, referring to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the African- designed and led development strategy aimed at expediting regional and continental integration towards, among other goals, forming an African economic community by 2028.
He was joined at the press conference by Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD’s Planning and Coordinating Agency. Both were participating in “Africa Week”, which runs at Headquarters through Friday and features a series of book launches and debates intended to raise awareness about NEPAD on the margins of the General Assembly’s 17 October meeting on Africa. The officials briefed Member States yesterday on their report to the Assembly’s upcoming session and progress in implementing NEPAD’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa.
Mr. Abdelaziz said that as of December 2011, 30 countries had signed on to NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme. Fifteen of the 31 that had joined the African Peer Review Mechanism had already been reviewed. The information and communications technology revolution was sweeping the continent, particularly in mobile phone service. And democratic elections were held or scheduled between August 2011 and March 2013 in 23 countries.
Still, serious challenges existed in several regions including the strife-torn Sahel. Further, famine in the Horn of Africa was impacting some 13 million people, and, more broadly, women faced restricted access to the labour market and socio-cultural barriers to their full participation in society, he said.
Moreover, despite the boost in official development assistance (ODA) from $47.96 billion in 2010 to $50 billion in 2011, foreign direct investment in Africa had fallen from $43.1 billion to $41.7 billion over the same period, and debt remained a serious challenge in several countries emerging from conflict such as Sierra Leone, Burundi and Central African Republic.
Mr. Abdelaziz drew attention to three reports released today that focused on those and other Africa issues: “Assessing Progress in Africa toward the MDGs”, published jointly by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), African Union Commission, African Development Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); “Africa’s Decade of Change”, published by the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, NEPAD and ECA; and “The Mutual Review of Development Effectiveness in Africa: Promise and Performance”, a joint publication of ECA and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Mr. Mayaki said NEPAD had set in motion specific frameworks to expand infrastructure and agriculture – the continent’s two main priority areas. Infrastructure development would be crucial to regional integration, as would job creation for the continent’s youth in the next two decades if Africa was to avoid the kind of social unrest sweeping the Arab world that had been sparked by high youth unemployment. “This is an issue we have to be very careful about and address in a very systematic way,” he said.
Job creation must be integral to the Sustainable Development Goals and other post-2015 development schemes, he continued. Africa would need strong partnerships with the United Nations system to help create coherent strategies and programmes towards that end.
Asked if Africa had received and spent its share of the $1 trillion pledged by the world’s largest economies at the G20 Summit in London in 2009 to aid troubled economies during the global financial crisis, Mr. Mayaki said the level of commitment was “way under what was expected in terms of implementation”.
But the suggestion by the G20’s working group on development and its high-level panel on infrastructure that multilateral development banks use their own resources to leverage funds from private actors for infrastructure projects in Africa was working very well, he said. Today, African countries were spending $45 billion annually on infrastructure, but $30 billion more was needed. The G20 Working Group had set up a formula for public-private partnership mechanisms to fill in the gap. The African Development Bank would play a critical role in its implementation. The Bank was also setting up an infrastructure bond initiative open to African and G20 countries.
Mr. Abdelaziz said thus far only 22 African countries had qualified for funding from the $20 billion pledged at the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila under a World Bank-sponsored agricultural and food security project. Another 32 African countries had yet to benefit. The United Nations had begun negotiations with the World Bank to ease restrictions on African nations seeking access to the funds.
Asked if NEPAD or the Office of the Special Adviser were involved in economic issues between Sudan and South Sudan, Mr. Abdelaziz said a high-level meeting had recently taken place in New York to push for implementation of the six economic agreements made between the two nations’ Governments and to advocate for agreements on outstanding issues, including on the status of Abyei, Kordofan and Blue Nile. Mr. Mayaki added that at the South Sudanese Government’s request, NEPAD was spearheading the design of that country’s national development plan, with a focus on transport, energy and agriculture.
Responding to a query about whether African nations had fulfilled the NEPAD goals, Mr. Mayaki said that over the past decade economic growth in many African nations had risen to between 5 and 7 per cent annually thanks to improvements in governance, while poverty had fallen from 50 per cent to between 46 and 47 per cent. Yet, that growth had not been sufficiently inclusive. Moving forward, it was necessary to foster job creation in all sectors, bolster Africa’s private sector and create regional solutions to pressing economic ills such as youth unemployment.
Mr. Abdelaziz said the problem was global commitments on Africa had not been fully implemented. To help rectify that, the United Nations had set up mechanisms to track progress and supplement the OECD’s Mutual Review of Development Effectiveness and other monitoring mechanisms. The United Nations bodies reported their findings biennially to the Assembly.
He dismissed a reporter’s claim that there had been a drop in the number of Africans appointed to senior United Nations posts. On the contrary, their numbers were increasing, he said, noting that Africans currently headed the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and served as the Organization’s special advisers on sexual violence, and on armed conflict, among other areas.
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