22 September 2019

Deputy Secretary-General, Meeting Heads of State, Government, Pledges Support of United Nations, African Development Bank for Continental Free Trade Area

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the joint meeting between the United Nations and the African Development Bank with Heads of State and Government of African countries, in New York today:

I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss with you ways to strengthen the partnership between the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations to accelerate our work for the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.  I bring you warm greetings from the Secretary‑General, who attaches great importance to our partnership with the African Union and the African Development Bank.

Let me start by underscoring the strong convergence between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the African Development Bank’s “High Fives”, which enables us to work with greater coherence in support of the African agenda and the national priorities.  I would also like to note the progress that has been made in implementing the African Union‑United Nations Framework for Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was signed last year.

We are aligning and integrating the development objectives of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda into national development plans.  In driving its own agenda, the region launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will boost African economies by harmonizing trade liberalization across the continent, fostering a more competitive manufacturing sector and promoting economic diversification.  As one of the largest free trade areas in the world, the African Continental Free Trade Area demonstrates the strength of African unity and the huge positive impact such unity has on the future of African people.

The United Nations stands ready and together with the African Development Bank to support consolidating Africa into one free trade area and ensuring that the risks of increased competitive pressure, adverse working conditions and job losses in some economies and economic depletion are mitigated.  Indeed, much is on the move across the continent — from strengthening data ecosystems and promoting gender inclusion, to advancing technology and addressing conflict.

To build on these efforts and fast‑track sustainable development, African countries need to invest in key infrastructure and social services and strengthen institutions and governance.  Reducing inequalities and addressing climate change are also critical, as is harnessing the capacities of young people, investing in peaceful societies and building resilience.

But, as we are all keenly aware, the investment requirements are vast, with estimates ranging from $600 billion per year to as much as $1.2 trillion.  In 1 out of every 5 African countries, domestic revenue is insufficient to meet basic State functions.  The continent therefore needs a massive scaling up of private capital and investment to complement the efforts of Governments.

The role of the African Development Bank is crucial.  The AfDB and other multilateral development banks can use their capital to de‑risk investments and channel financing to large‑scale projects aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.  At the national level, we need to establish enabling business environments to attract private financial flows and move towards long‑term finance.  It is equally important to strengthen capacity to design bankable projects.

At the same time, there is an urgent need to take aggressive steps to ensure accountability for public expenditures and to stop illicit financial flows.  The United Nations is ready to work with countries, the African Development Bank and other international financial institutions to help Governments develop financing strategies and mobilize financing in line with national sustainable development priorities.

Times are ripe for every country’s nationally determined contributions to become aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.  We are entering a Decade of Action for Delivery of the Goals.  Let us discuss how best the United Nations and the African Development Bank can work in common to support your countries in this endeavour.  A reformed and dedicated United Nations remains your steadfast partner.

I look forward to hearing your insights.

Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.