Natural resources, innovation among Africa’s strongest assets

08 Dec 2013

Johannesburg, South Africa – Africa should capitalize on its natural resources and the entrepreneurship of its people to transition from economic growth to sustainable development, the Heads of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 46 African countries said today.

As the annual meeting of UNDP Africa came to a close on Wednesday, delegates called on African leaders to double their efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) saying they should aim to build economies and societies that provide security and opportunities for all.

Participants paid homage to the role of creativity in development and awarded an innovation prize to UNDP in Rwanda for its work in boosting youth entrepreneurship and creating jobs in the area of information technology.

“Youth have been at the forefront of mobile technology innovation. I have enormous faith in the contribution Africa’s youth are making to development, and, with more skills and opportunity, they can be empowered to do more,” said Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator at the opening ceremony.

She spoke on several occasions of the potential of women and other groups in development. “By reducing inequalities, African countries can lift human development further and harness the full potential of women and currently marginalized groups to contribute to development”, she added.

In addition, the gathering looked extensively at the role of mining, forests and water resources in generating revenue for economic diversification and opportunities to invest in infrastructure, social services and business development.

“Where we have extractives, at the local level we must invest in communities. That’s what will make development sustainable and kill the incentives for conflict,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Head of UNDP Africa.

Participants in the meeting also looked at development trends in areas such as the Sahel and the Great Lakes region. In these sub-regions, communities have lived in chronic poverty and are vulnerable to war and violence, climate change, environmental degradation and economic instability.

Thematic discussions looked at how to assist countries in building resilience, ensuring good governance translates into better lives and reducing poverty in all of its dimensions.

The meeting examined how to expand UNDP’s ability to support countries in Africa as they tackle increasingly complex challenges. The organization has played a key role in helping them to achieve breakthroughs on the MDGs, as well as planning for the post-2015 development agenda.

The organization has equipped itself with a new strategic plan for 2014-2017, which aims to increase its intellectual leadership, effectiveness and coherence.

In separate discussions, the participants also assessed the role of UNDP in helping further the UN reform agenda and coordinating the development activities of the global institution down to the country level.