Speakers Welcome Free Trade Area, Other Steps towards Regional Integration
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development — now fully embedded in the development paradigms of both the United Nations and the African Union — remained the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of growth, the General Assembly heard today, as delegates drew attention to security concerns and other obstacles still facing the continent.
Speakers stressed that the partnership, known as NEPAD, was particularly critical in the areas of social and economic development, with several welcoming the recent facilitation of a Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement aimed at harmonizing three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade. Meanwhile, others cited serious challenges facing Africa’s security and stability — ranging from human and drug trafficking to terrorism and the illicit flow of resources away from the continent — and urged development partners to redouble their support for national and regional efforts to combat them.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, speaking on behalf of the African Union, expressed concern that Africa’s inequality gap continued to widen, with negative repercussions for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion. Demographics ‑ especially youth and youth unemployment ‑ was a critical part of the continent’s development, he said, noting that with a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people. Indeed, some 440 million people on the continent would be entering the labour market by 2030, meaning that Africa must rapidly expand its efforts in job creation, entrepreneurship development and skills training. NEPAD was engaged in several such initiatives, he said, also describing its work in areas such as infrastructure, Internet connectivity and intra‑continental trade.
Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, was among the many voices this morning hailing recent accomplishments in the global integration and regional streamlining of African trade. “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding that it could very soon become a practical reality. While major hurdles remained across the continent, NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, with the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations acting as engine rooms of progress. In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, and efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development.
Rwanda’s representative, recalling that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda had established a strong foundation for the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, cited notable socio‑economic progress made across Africa since the latter’s adoption in 2015. Meanwhile, the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change had reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes. Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes. Among other critical challenges were those related to peace and security, which necessitated stronger efforts in conflict prevention and responses to early warning signs of conflict.
Egypt’s representative, also drawing attention to the peace and security nexus, highlighted Africa’s leadership on those issues and the importance of maintaining its ownership over the development process. “There can be no lasting security without inclusive development,” he said, while “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development.” African countries had taken numerous steps to address security challenges, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force ‑ consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — as well deploying a Multinational Joint Task Force to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Libya’s representative, also echoing concerns over security and stability, agreed that Africa would be unable to move forward in its development without addressing those crucial issues. Many countries on the continent, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations. Calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it, he said his country suffered especially from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues. “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone, he stressed, noting that origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.
Sudan’s delegate, voicing regret that conflicts and other security issues had adversely affected the prosperity of Africa’s people, said climate change and its impacts on food security were another source of grave concern. African countries and the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon. Echoing support for the continued integration of the 2030 Agenda into the continent’s development plans, he said regional organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in that regard. Additionally, he called for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.
Delegates from Asia, Europe and other regions also expressed their support for NEPAD and reiterated their commitment to back development efforts on the African continent. India’s representative, for one, spotlighted trade and diaspora links with Africa ‑ as well as a shared colonial past — and noted that the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts to build capacity, mobilize financial support and share technical expertise. Indeed, trade between his country and Africa had doubled in the last five years, making India the continent’s fourth‑largest trading partner.
Before the Assembly for that discussion was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: fifteenth consolidated progress report on implementation and international support” (document A/72/223), which outlined progress made in implementing NEPAD, spotlighted national and regional efforts to mainstream the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, listed recent accomplishments under the partnership and recommended more measures aimed at providing African countries with financing, trade, capacity development and technology transfer.
Also before the Assembly was a report of the Secretary‑General titled, “Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa” (document A/72/269), covering the period from July 2016 to June 2017, which highlighted major developments related to peace and security and their links with sustainable development in Africa.
Also speaking were the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Kuwait, Thailand, Israel, the Russian Federation, Morocco, Indonesia, Mozambique, Turkey, Myanmar, Algeria, Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 26 October, to take up the report of the International Court of Justice.
MIROSLAV LAJČÁK (Slovakia), President of the General Assembly, said that since its adoption, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had led to transformative change and big strides in the integration of African trade. The recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement was an important step that would harmonize three sub‑regional blocs which previously had their own rules and models for trade. “The Continental Free Trade Area is no longer a distant dream,” he said, adding: “It could very soon be a reality”. Nevertheless, major hurdles remained and faster progress was required, not only in agriculture and trade, but also in a wide range of key areas, including infrastructure, industry, economic diversification and poverty eradication.
NEPAD, together with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063, should be harmonized and integrated, particularly regarding reporting, follow‑up and review, he said. No development in Africa could take hold unless it was led from within. The adoption of NEPAD was a strong sign of regional leadership in development, which was then reaffirmed through the African Union’s adoption of Agenda 2063. The role of the African Union, regional economic communities and sub‑regional organizations had been indispensable and had acted as the engine rooms of progress in sustainable development, as well as in building African capacities in peace and security. There had also been many exciting developments at the national level, as well as on‑going efforts to integrate the goals and targets of international and regional frameworks into national development plans.
In an increasingly globalized world, no country or region could move forward alone, he stressed. Efforts in Africa must be supported by a revitalized partnership for development, and in that context, there needed to be closer partnerships between Africa and its development partners, including United Nations bodies and Member States. Official development assistance (ODA) and other commitments were crucial to enhance finance, technology transfer and market access, while there must be investment incentives at the national, regional and international levels. “Development in Africa can never be seen as a standalone activity,” he stressed, highlighting that the trade agreement would be hindered without efforts to address the root causes of conflict. “Foreign direct investment is not on the mind of someone who is running from a shower of bullets,” he said.
PHILIPP CHARWATH (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development, said the role of industrialization as a catalyst for sustainable development had been well established and was reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Welcoming efforts by the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa and other partners to develop a roadmap for Africa to achieve short‑, medium‑ and long‑term industrialization, as well as efforts by the “Group of 20” (G‑20) nations to support such initiatives through investment promotion and capacity‑building, he said the United Nations should also play its role in assisting countries.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in particular, had a leading role to play in close cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Development Bank and the United Nations Office for Africa, he said. Among other things, UNIDO assisted developing countries in designing and implementing industrial policies and enhancing local productive capacities and entrepreneurship, and its technical assistance contributed to job creation, advancing economic competitiveness and enabling market access, while also advancing the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies and production practices.
IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD MOUSTAFA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the peace and development nexus was particularly evident in the two reports of the Secretary‑General. “As the world is pursuing the new milestone in the global partnership for development […] it is imperative to continue to place Africa at the centre of United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty,” he said, as well as to address the impacts of climate change and ensure inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. Eradicating poverty remained the greatest development challenge for African countries, where half the world’s poor people lived. Expressing concern over the fact that ‑ two years into the 2030 Agenda’s implementation ‑ global hunger was again on the rise and affected some 815 million people, he said efforts should focus on the necessary means of implementation, including financial resources, technology transfer and capacity‑building. “The scale must be ambitious enough to meet the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed, adding that developed countries should fulfil their commitments as laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, including those related to ODA.
While international support was important, he continued, African ownership of the development process was critical and “is not just a mere concept”. African countries had taken the primary responsibility for their own development, and their experience with the Millennium Development Goals had shown that significant advances had been made with African nations leading the way. Nevertheless, systemic issues had affected the continent’s rates of economic growth and international support was not sufficient to bring about a significant reduction in unemployment and poverty levels, nor in advancing other goals. The challenges facing Africa today traversed peace, security and development, he stressed, noting that “there can be no lasting security without inclusive development” and “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development”. African countries had taken numerous steps to address peace and security challenges at national and regional levels, including establishing the “Group of 5” Sahel force, consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, the Multinational Joint Task Force and the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Partners must enhance their support for such peace and security activities, as no country or region could resolve those challenges alone.
DATO ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it was encouraging to see many African countries intensify their efforts and seize opportunities to accelerate progress towards durable peace, security and development. Reaffirming its solidarity with Africa, ASEAN supported NEPAD’s implementation, which would provide a strong foundation for Agenda 2063. ASEAN was exploring ways to promote synergies and complementarities between its ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that there was ample scope for greater collaboration between the two regions on mutual concerns and sustainable development.
Noting that ASEAN and African countries had an enduring friendship dating back to the 1955 Asian‑African Conference in Bandung, he said ASEAN and its member States stood ready to exchange ideas and share experiences in such areas as agriculture, education, information and communications technologies and innovation, trade and infrastructure development. Emphasizing that a supportive international environment was vital for Africa’s development, he said development partners, international financial institutions, regional and sub‑regional organizations and the international community, especially the United Nations, must redouble efforts to ensure sustainable peace and development on the continent.
SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said that Agenda 2063 was mutually reinforcing with the 2030 Agenda and embraced the core priorities of NEPAD. International cooperation remained a key element in Africa’s quest to achieve peace and prosperity. Africa had made rapid strides in recent years — poverty rates had fallen, infrastructure connectivity had improved and economies were more diversified, while banking, telecommunications and retail had expanded, life expectancies had increased, school enrolment had grown and more women were being elected to political office. Africa’s demographic dividend could be reaped by providing the youth with greater opportunities for education and employment. Trade and diaspora links as well as a shared colonial past had framed India’s relationship with Africa. The core strength of the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts aimed at capacity‑building, the mobilization of financial support and the sharing of technical expertise. He noted that Africa‑India trade had doubled in the last five years, making India the fourth‑largest trading partner for Africa. Further, he highlighted that the African Development Bank had held its annual board meeting in India.
Mr. ALMUNAYER (Kuwait) expressed hope that the long‑term development visions of the 2030 Agenda and the 2063 Agendas would be implemented to bring prosperity to Africa. The harmony and inter‑dependence of the two development plans provided a common path to reach Africa’s aims. Insufficient financial support, the spread of weapons and transnational crime, and the trafficking of resources were all impediments to development in Africa and undermined progress aimed at achieving development goals. The recommendations in the Secretary‑General’s report, including those on good governance, the rule of law, the protection of the rights of women, the promotion of peacebuilding efforts and the pursuit of an Africa free of conflict, must be implemented. He went on to point out that the Kuwait Development Fund had loaned some $20 billion thus far to 106 countries around the world; and that African countries had received 18 per cent of that funding.
VALENTINE RUGWABIZA (Rwanda), noting that the Addis Agenda had established a strong foundation to support the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063, said the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes. Throughout the continent, notable socio‑economic progress had been made since 2015, including through the African Union’s recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement. Agriculture was an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, she said, noting that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes. The continent still faced challenges, and development could not be sustained amidst conflict. She therefore underscored the nexus between security and development, as well as the importance of conflict prevention and response to early warning signals with rapid interventions to protect civilians. The Joint United Nations‑African Union Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security was an important blueprint for boosting coordination between those two organizations, she said.
OMAR A. A. ANNAKOU (Libya), associating himself with the African Group, said Agenda 2063 was a human‑centred plan for achieving Africa’s sustainable development. Its goals, as well as those of the 2030 Agenda, must be translated into regional and national policies, while taking into account national priorities and local and cultural specificities. Despite strong efforts and some progress, Africa was still facing many challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda, including poverty, violence, conflicts, climate change, capital outflows, migration and more. The continent also suffered from high unemployment, low education levels and a lack of basic services. Donor countries must honour their commitments to the continent and support its countries in strengthening economic stability and attracting investment, he said, adding that “this will lead to true human resource development in Africa.”
Calling for efforts to ensure Africa’s youth were educated and empowered, he went on to say that, many African countries, including Libya, regrettably continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations. Development was impossible without security and vice versa, he stressed, calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it. “The African continent cannot move forward with development without enjoying peace, security and stability,” he said, noting that Libya suffered in particular from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues. “This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone. Origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes. Member States must not serve as havens for the trillions of dollars of illicit financial flows that continued to “haemorrhage” from Africa, he added, warning that corruption would continue until such havens were eradicated.
VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted the similarities between Asia and Africa’s development challenges. Having become a donor country, Thailand was committed to extending its regular support and assistance to Africa through various forms of cooperation, including scholarships, training and local‑to‑local knowledge transfers. Through the Thailand‑Africa Partnership for Sustainable Development, it sought to share with its African friends the late King Bhumibol’s homegrown approach to sustainable development. It was also sharing its health‑care experience and know‑how, particularly in areas related to epidemics and rural healthcare management.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) said that the relationship between Israel and Africa had never been stronger. African nations faced many of the same challenge as Israel and both sought to use human capital to create sustainable solutions. Through its Agency for International Development Cooperation, Israel worked with African partner countries, United Nations agencies, civil society and the private sector to further education and training. In December 2016, Israel hosted a three‑day ministerial conference with African agriculture ministers, followed by a training session on applied research for agriculture experts. Knowledge gained from those seminars would be useful in making progress on the African Union’s vision of providing support for 25 million farming households employing climate‑smart agriculture practices by 2025. She went on to note the non‑governmental organization “Innovation Africa” that was working to bring Israeli solar energy and water technologies to remote African villages.
SERGEY B. KONONUCHENKO (Russian Federation) said that despite continued weak economic growth and crisis situations on the continent, African countries were demonstrating resolute commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. It was concerning that the Secretary‑General’s report noted a 3 per cent decrease in foreign direct investment to the continent in 2016. African countries must have support in achieving the 2030 Agenda, without which there was a real threat that the progress achieved in recent years would stall. The Russian Federation continuously provided support to Africa through inter‑governmental initiatives, and had forgiven more than 20 billion in African debt, while also using innovative mechanisms to ease African debt burden. Further, his Government had carried out projects to ensure food security and improve industrial and transport infrastructure through international programmes and other specialized United Nations bodies. He went on to underscore that his Government was one of the first to react and respond to the Ebola outbreak. The future of Africa was dependent on the development of the production and trade potential of the continent, he said, adding that his delegation welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Development Countries.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco), stressing that only African action based on regional integration would help the continent overcome challenges to sustainable development, said those actions included the financing of the NEPAD programme. Indeed, the funding capacity of many African countries remained limited and resource challenges were compounded by difficult access to international markets and decreasing development assistance. Calling for enhanced partnerships to overcome those issues, he said promoting investment, bolstering technology transfer, improving market access and providing debt relief, among other actions, were critical. Strengthening the private sector was also crucial to boosting income and job opportunities. Another important issue was agricultural adaptation, which was critical to ensuring Africa’s food security, and was closely related to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Recalling that, in a meeting on the margins of the twenty‑second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakesh, African Heads of State and Government had committed to supporting such adaptation, he said those efforts would focus in particular on combating desertification and improving the resilience of farmers. The promotion of South‑South cooperation would also be essential, he said, outlining a major “upswing” in Morocco’s own cooperation with countries across the African continent.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), associating herself with ASEAN, said the impacts of the global financial crisis still cast a shadow over many countries, with the pace of recovery uneven around the world. While 2.6 per cent growth in Africa was expected this year, more rapid growth was needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. There must be enhanced international cooperation to mobilize development financing for Africa, as well as initiatives to generate inclusive and sustained growth. Collaboration between the United Nations and Africa vis‑à‑vis sustainable development must also be enhanced. Noting that Indonesia had always been a true partner for African countries, she said it would host the Indonesia‑Africa Forum in 2018 to explore economic opportunities, strengthen technical cooperation and enhance the existing partnership between both sides.
ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group, said that while the modest increase in ODA to Africa ‑ from $54.3 billion in 2014 to $56.6 billion in 2015 — was encouraging, the continued decline in foreign direct investment was of concern, considering its important role in infrastructure development. Agriculture continued to be a source of survival in Africa, particularly in rural areas where the majority of Africans lived. In that context, the need to modernize agriculture would be crucial to efforts to eradicate poverty. His country remained committed to encouraging the participation of all stakeholders in recognition of the essential role of community empowerment in improving the welfare of the most vulnerable, as well as in the protection of the environment. Agriculture development, food security and nutrition goals demanded investment capacity to create national resilience as well as holistic multisector coordination. Providing quality health care was another important undertaking in Mozambique, including child immunizations and treatment for HIV/AIDS and malaria.
FERIDUN H. SINIRLIOĞLU (Turkey) said his country’s Africa Partnership Policy fully embraced the principle of “African solutions to African issues”. Those countries and Governments had the best knowledge to address their own challenges, he said, outlining Turkey’s support in such areas as infrastructure development, humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of security and stability. Since 2005, Turkey had multiplied its ODA to sub‑Saharan Africa by more than 100 times, and it was engaged in several projects relating to macroeconomic management, health, urbanization, agriculture and education. It also collaborated with small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises to carry out sustainable development projects related to industrialization and job creation, and organized training programmes around the continent and in Turkey.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) associating himself with ASEAN, called NEPAD a collective vision and strategic framework for African countries. His Government was encouraged by the impressive progress of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, which targeted 16 cross‑border projects. Asia and Africa were continents of opportunities and challenges, he underscored. Given the similarity of the two continent’s development paths, Myanmar recognized the tremendous potential for future collaboration in many areas through South‑South cooperation and the New Asian‑African Strategic Partnership. Myanmar was a leading country when it came to building friendship and solidarity among Asian and African countries, and in that regard, Myanmar would continue to stand firmly in support of NEPAD’s objectives of political stability, economic growth and sustainable development.
SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria), associating himself with the African Group, said the international community should support Africa in creating sustainable growth based on domestic production, effective tax collection and strengthened capacity‑building. The continent also required improved market access, particularly among developed countries, he said, calling on those nations to show more openness in supporting Africa’s development efforts and its inclusion in the international system. Economic stabilization measures, as proposed by some voices in rich countries, might impede Africa’s contribution to the world economy. He said progress in combating poverty in Africa was hampered by several factors, including a multitude of crises, the effects of natural disasters, climate change and volatile commodity prices. However, the continent’s resilience could and must be strengthened, he said, calling on Africa’s partners to support Agenda 2063 and continental programmes embedded in NEPAD. He went on to outline initiatives including the Trans‑Sahara Highway project and the installation of 4,500 kilometres of terrestrial optic fibre, both linking Algeria and Nigeria.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said that since 2000, Africa had registered encouraging economic growth which had reduced poverty, but the continent still faced multiple challenges. African leaders had therefore endorsed the Agenda 2063 in order to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent. The Agenda 2063 was African‑led and African‑owned and was fully aligned with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda. In realizing the Agenda 2063 vision, special attention must be given to silencing the guns. Development was the prerequisite for ensuring sustainable peace and security. It was important to enhance financial, technological and capacity‑building support to the 2030 and 2063 Agendas in a more coordinated and enhanced manner and cooperation and coordination between the United Nations and the African Union should be further coordinated, he said.
MODEST MERO (United Republic of Tanzania) associated himself with the African Group and said that African countries were determined to eradicate poverty and guarantee prosperity for their peoples. Africans had always addressed challenges through a common purpose and solidarity. He stressed the importance of implementing the 2030 Agenda, Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. African countries intended to support the Secretary‑General’s reform agenda and to address peace and security challenges through regional initiatives and partnerships with the international community. Addressing infrastructure development on the continent, investment in industrialization and value addition would be essential for putting the continent on the right track.
HAMID MOHAMED ELNOUR AHMED (Sudan), associating himself with the African Group, said that Africa’s contributions to human civilization had been proven, yet the continent had been left behind when it came to recent industrialization and development. Unfortunately, the continent had grown into a region of conflicts, which had resulted in great destruction and adversely affected the prosperity of the African people. Climate change and its impacts on food security were of grave concern for the African people and in that regard, the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon. The 2030 Agenda was a roadmap for development in Africa, and in that context, regional organizations including the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had an important role to play in reaching those development objectives. He went on to call for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.
IBRAHIM ASSANE MAYAKI, Chief Executive Officer of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency, speaking on behalf of the African Union, said NEPAD was embedded in the latter’s Agenda 2063 and served as the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of transformation and growth. NEPAD was especially critical in areas related to social and economic empowerment, he stressed, noting that his Agency was set to become the African Union’s development agency in the context of its recent reform efforts. Key to Africa’s sustainable development was the issue of demographics, especially youth and youth unemployment. Indeed, it was not enough to expand gross domestic product (GDP) levels if such progress was not accompanied by growth and transformative changes in jobs, economic opportunities, access to education and other human development strides. With a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people. In that vein, he recalled that the African Union had dedicated 2017 to making progress on the issue of youth unemployment, and noted that some 440 million people on the continent would enter the labour market by 2030.
Outlining the NEPAD Agency’s initiatives in such areas as employment creation and entrepreneurship development, he said Africa needed to rapidly expand its capacity to offer skills and vocational training to its young people and women. The expansion of African trade — including intra‑continental trade — was equally critical, he said, spotlighting the need to accelerate progress on the policy front. Changes were necessary in such areas as customs procedures, visa restrictions and bringing to full ratification the use of the single African Passport, as well as enhancing the form, quality and diversity of transboundary goods and services. Describing other initiatives aimed at improving Africa’s railways and expanding its Internet connectivity, he said the issue of wealth distribution was also a critical one. The continent’s inequality gap continued to widen, which was bad for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion. In that regard, the NEPAD Agency was discussing transformative action within a clear medium‑ to long‑term plan, while also working with African Union member States and other actors to foster a better domestic understanding of inequality.