5 February 2022

World Must ‘Ignite Engine of Economic Recovery’ by Reforming Financial System, Secretary-General Tells African Union Assembly

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the thirty-fifth Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, in Addis Ababa today:

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to address this Assembly — and for welcoming the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammad, who is representing me in person.

Africa is a home for hope.  For two decades, the African Union has helped bring this hope to life to realize the continent’s enormous potential.  From the Continental African Free Trade Area, to the recent launch of the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion, to your focus at this year’s Summit on transforming food and agricultural systems.

The cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations is stronger than ever, and so is our shared commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 — a central pillar of our partnership.

Your unity of purpose — and action — is needed now more than ever.  We are living in troubling times.  Injustice is baked into global systems — and Africans are paying the heaviest price.  The unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has led to people in high-income countries being vaccinated at seven times the rate of African countries.

A morally bankrupt global financial system has failed the global South, starving the people of Africa of needed investment, limiting opportunities for growth, and locking countries into spirals of debt and extortionate interest rates.  The war on nature and insufficient climate action are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

The immoral inequalities that are suffocating Africa are fuelling armed conflicts, political, economic, ethnic and social tensions, human rights abuses, violence against women, terrorism, military coups and a sense of impunity.

Tens of millions of people are displaced across the continent.  And democratic institutions are in jeopardy.  Our world needs solidarity.  You can count on me — and the UN family — to stand with Africa as we ignite four engines of recovery.

First, we need to ignite the engine of vaccines and vaccinations for all.  I commend your leadership in establishing AVATT — the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team — and other mechanisms that have delivered over 34 million COVID-19 vaccine doses across the continent, and I applaud the recent announcement that vaccines will be manufactured in South Africa and other African countries, starting this year.

I call on all developed countries and manufacturers to rally behind the AVATT and the COVAX Facility.  I call on them to create the conditions to multiply the number of African countries able to produce tests, vaccines and treatments in Africa — including solving the problems of intellectual property and providing the necessary technological and financial support.  And I call on them to prepare for the next outbreak through investing in primary care… in routine, life-saving immunizations, and in supporting the efforts of outstanding institutions like the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Excellencies, second — we need to ignite the engine of economic recovery by reforming the global financial system.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals depends on supporting massive investments in strong health and education systems, in job-creation, especially in the green and care sectors, and in universal social protection, gender equality and opportunities for young people.  But, the deck is stacked against Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing cumulative economic growth per capita over the next five years that is 75 per cent less than the rest of the world.  We need to accelerate investment into Africa.  We need to deliver real investment resources, including by redirecting special drawing rights to countries that need support now, reforming the international debt architecture for the future, increasing concessional forms of finance and ensuring that African countries with sound economic fundamentals are not unduly penalized by markets and rating institutions.  And we need to fuel the immense promise of the Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Third, we need to ignite the engine of a green recovery across Africa.  Africa contributes just 3 per cent of global greenhouse‑gas emissions, but many of the worst impacts of climate change are being felt there.  To address today’s tragic reality, we need a radical boost in funding for adaptation and mitigation on the continent.

The Glasgow commitment to double adaptation finance — from $20 billion — must be implemented.  But, this is not enough.  Access and eligibility systems must be reviewed to allow developing countries to get the finance they need on time.

I commend African Union member States for ambitious nationally determined contributions and adopting the African Union Green Stimulus Programme.  I’m committed to working with the global community to match Africa’s climate ambitions with the resources, financing and technologies it needs to accelerate the transition from coal to renewables, and create new green jobs.  I’m calling on wealthier countries to make good on the $100 billion climate finance commitment to developing countries, starting this year, and hold to account private sector partners who have made commitments so far.

Our planet will speed past the 1.5°C temperature threshold without steep emission cuts this decade by all major economies.  We are in emergency mode and we need all hands on deck.  COP27 [the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Egypt will be an opportunity for Africa and our world.

And fourth — we need to ignite the engine of peace across Africa.  Conflicts and violence have many roots — from economic inequalities and competition for scarce resources, to ethnic and religious tensions, among others.  African States are proudly multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural.  The African Union is about showing how people can coexist — even flourish — by working together.  That requires inclusive and participatory structures that speak to this diversity in all its richness through governance that delivers for all.

We need to bolster platforms for inclusivity — especially for young Africans, who need connectivity to access information, communication, education and jobs.

The United Nations is committed to working with the African Union to strengthen democratic and responsive governance structures — and people’s faith in them.  This requires leadership on all sides.  For example, we have signed an important new framework to ensure that African Union Peace Support Operations are planned and conducted in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.  Our recent shared commitment to take forward a joint strategic assessment on security in the Sahel to improve our collective effort is another example.

I reaffirm my appeal for a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, and an inclusive national dialogue in Ethiopia — the seat of the African Union and a country that is critical to continental stability.  And I pledge the full support of my good offices to silence the guns across the continent.  From our joint missions and programmes, to strengthening electoral processes and peaceful transfers of power, to the UN’s peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, to our commitment to support robust African forces and interventions to tackle terrorism across Africa, including my advocacy for the UN Security Council to support the predictable financing of Africa-led operations.

My report on Our Common Agenda offers a fresh opportunity to rethink and reposition our approach to peace in Africa, and ensure our peace architecture is fit for purpose to address the rapid shifts and changes we see across the continent and around the world.  I encourage your continued engagement as we advance this Agenda together.

Excellencies, peace is never easy, but it is always necessary.  Let us keep working together, in common purpose, with and for the people of Africa, and let us bring to life the words of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu:  “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

As you begin your Summit, please know that the United Nations is proud to walk with you in the struggle for fairness and dignity, for peace and justice for all.  In solidarity, and always, guided by a spirit of humanity and hope.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.