New York

20 September 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at the luncheon hosted on the occasion of the Global Compact Leaders' Summit "United Nations Private Sector Forum: Africa" [as prepared for delivery]

Earlier this year I attended the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Organisation of African Unity and African Union.

The theme was Africa’s renaissance.

I said then that the narrative is changing. 

Africa is rising to its challenges.

African corporate leaders are playing a key role.

Economies are stirring.

Markets are expanding.

Investment is flowing.

Governments are supporting market fundamentals and the rule of law.

African leaders and business have made progress against corruption.

I commend these advances and expect them to continue.

Next week we will take stock of MDG successes.

Member States are now considering the development agenda to follow.

Through the UN Global Compact, thousands of companies are determined to be part of the post-2015 agenda.

Many are based in Africa.

Seventeen 17 African nations host Global Compact Local Networks.

This morning, I unveiled a proposal for an architecture to scale up private sector involvement.

I foresee a tipping point in favour of corporate sustainability – social and environmental responsibility that supports progress, prosperity and a healthy planet.

This afternoon I would like to highlight four topics – finance; employment; women’s empowerment and education.

First, we need to extend innovative and sustainable finance across the continent.

The race is already on.

Governments are evaluating investment in terms of impact on their own people and their own natural environment.

Investors are taking social and environmental stability into account.

And, while upgrading the quality of incoming investment, African governments and businesses are looking to build and use domestic capital.

One area needing extra funding is infrastructure.

Transport links, river basin management, energy, water, sanitation and digital networks are the muscle and sinew of nations and the continent.

If international private capital and multilateral institutions play their part, and Africans pool resources, the prospects are good.

Second, we must spur job creation and inclusive economic growth.

Corporate leaders can support inclusive business models, vocational training and local economic development.

They can and must also work with Governments in resource-rich countries improving governance of extractive industries for the benefit of all.

But to shore up continued economic growth we must expand Africa’s manufacturing base.

We must also extend its benefits to the rural sector.

This is where poverty is most widespread, where access to clean water, sanitation, clinics and energy are most scarce, and where climate change will strike hardest.

The key is support to smallholder farmers, most of whom are women.

Farmers are business people.

And so are marginalized people working in the informal sector in the cities.

These people can work their way up the ladder.

They need inclusive finance, links to national and global supply chains, and supportive infrastructure.

Business can contribute to social empowerment and stability.

Through job creation, skills training for youth, hiring former combatants, and strategic social investment projects, they can provide economic alternatives to conflict. 

Third, we must focus on women.

Some gains are visible.

Women’s share of wage employment in sub-Saharan Africa has gone from less than one quarter in 1990 to more than a third now.

This is a faster increase than in any other region.

And the vibrant role of women small-scale entrepreneurs is well known.

Girls have near parity in primary school enrolment.

The proportion of female parliamentarians is growing.

But Governments and the private sector can do more through providing jobs and business opportunities.

Economic empowerment is the surest step toward personal and political empowerment.

Finally, education.

This is key for equality, growth and inclusiveness.

The new UN Global Compact Business for Education initiatives is a valuable supplement to my global Education First initiative.

Tomorrow we will approve a new strategy for unlocking the power of corporate sustainability in Africa.

I am heartened by Africa’s growing spirit of confidence and self-reliance.

Africa can and will decide its own fate.

To continue this journey, all sectors – private, public and civil society – must combine efforts.

I call on all companies in the African Local Networks to provide vision and leadership and help swell the ranks of those working for corporate sustainability.

Together you are part of Africa’s renaissance.

Thank you.