The African Moment: on the Brink of a Development Breakthrough

01 Jun 2011


In this paper we present some of the evidence that underlies the recent change in perceptions on African development and we discuss some of the key challenges facing the continent going forward. The paper is intended to stimulate discussion among UNDP senior managers as they convene for the Global Management Meeting 26 June to 1 July 2011 in New York. We are particularly interested in generating a debate among the Resident Representatives and Country Directors that serve in Sub-Saharan Africa and we aim to make the paper a common point of reference for the Organization’s analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing the continent. This type of analysis and debate should be viewed in the context of UNDP’s mission as one of leveraging its global knowledge to provide upstream policy advice and to
programme its resources so as to generate transformational change and advance human development. As such the paper accompanies key corporate strategic documents such as the Mid-Term Review of the UNDP Strategic Plan and the revised strategic priorities for UNDP outlined in the document: ‘Aiming Higher: Strategic Priorities for a Stronger UNDP’, and it discusses many of the issues raised in these documents from a distinctly African perspective.


The next section of the paper presents the evidence for why Sub-Saharan Africa appears to be on the brink of a real development breakthrough. The subsequent three sections analyse the continents challenges within three broad areas: limits to the inclusiveness of the growth process, vulnerability to shocks and threats to long-term sustainability. The task for UNDP will be to assist African peoples and governments in seizing the African moment, and turn these challenges into opportunities at global, regional and country level. In the final section of the paper we outline some proposed next steps for doing just that.

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