Our Perspective

      • Africa is transforming itself: How do we turn intentions into reality?

        15 Aug 2014

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        Better investment in infrastructure could help Africa's transformation. Photo: Benoit Almeras Martino/UNDP DRC

        Recently I attended an event from the Global Compact, a UN initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Entitled "Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership", it was held for the first time in Africa, bringing over 300 participants together from businesses, Global Compact networks, UN agencies and governments. Africa's economic transformation with various partners from China, Europe and the US was among the key topics discussed. But, while multinational companies do play a role, it is increasingly clear that African policy makers and business people are setting the continent’s agenda. Participants largely agreed that Africa’s transformation requires investment in better infrastructure, education, skills, jobs, policies and more. The WHAT was better articulated than the HOW. Africa is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing regions, with 4.8 percent growth in 2014 and over 5 percent in 2015, according to the recent African Economic Outlook 2014. However, this transformation goes well beyond economic growth. Development practitioners talk more and more about ‘inclusive growth’, agreeing that businesses should go beyond philanthropy and corporate social responsibility towards making their core activities better suited for societies and the environment.  As UNDP's Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu stated: "InclusiveRead More

      • Sao Tome: A tiny nation mobilizes for change

        08 Aug 2014

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        Photo: WFP Sao Tome

        In September, people in Sao Tome e Principe, a tiny Central African nation situated in the Gulf of Guinea, will go to the polls to elect a new parliament and local governments. Intense efforts are underway to organize the vote. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the National Electoral Commission to enroll new voters amongst the country --, many of them youth and women,  -- using biometric technology. Beyond the technical aspects of the ballot itself, my top priority as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations is to encourage the country to come together and see these elections as a huge opportunity. It is an opportunity to represent the aspirations of the people, to involve women and men in decision-making and to boost the development process, through cohesion, determination and openness.  The country’s  national dialogue, initiated by the President at the end of last year, has been aiming to advance that agenda. The dialogue built on a series of nationwide, UNDP-sponsored consultations on the post-2015 development agenda and has tabled a number of key concerns and aspirations. Sao Tome, where 60 percent of the population is living in poverty, is pinning its hopes on oil exploration toRead More

      • Turning subsistence farmers into market suppliers in Africa

        31 Jul 2014

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        Although agriculture is a major source of income in Africa, smallholder farmers face many challenges. Photo: Benoit Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC

        As I sat down for my first dinner in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after a bit more than one year since my last visit, I suddenly remembered that something is very wrong with food prices here. How can a simple margarita pizza with only cheese, tomato, oil and flour, be USD 20? How can local fish be USD 30? Admittedly I did not eat in the cheapest local restaurant, yet the prices are 4 to 5 times more expensive in comparison to similar dishes in Addis Ababa, where I live. Indeed, food in the DRC is at least twice as expensive as the average world food price for basic commodities. Why is that? A combination of poor farmer productivity, lack of infrastructure and a difficult business environment, mean that the cost of producing goods and taking them to markets is high, and imports are often more readily available or cheaper than local products. In 2008, Bralima, one of DRC’s leading brewers, sourced 16% of its rice from outside the country, due to its inability to source it from the local market. With 80 million ha of arable land and 90 percent of it not cultivated, DRC offers huge untappedRead More