In Benin, Head of UNDP Africa emphasizes the role of youth and innovation in continent’s development

31 Jul 2014

imageA UNDP-promoted Business Promotion Center in Benin (Photo: UNDP)

Ending a week-long visit to Benin, the Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Africa, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, called on African countries to ensure innovation becomes the "currency of their emergence”.

"Innovation in policies and institutions, investments in science and technology, efforts to expand market access for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), structural change [are essential to] breaking the vicious cycle of low-income and poverty," he said.

Speaking at a conference on LDCs chaired by the President of Benin, Yayi Boni, Mr. Dieye acknowledged the political willingness of many of these countries to graduate out of the LDC category.

Increasing the production capacity of LDCs is considered a major challenge and an opportunity to reduce poverty and accelerate sustainable and inclusive development across the continent. For instance, the share of manufacturing in LDC economies is less than 10 percent, compared to 21 percent in all developing countries. In 2012, the combined exports of all 48 LDCs made up a little over one percent of worldwide exports.

Mr. Dieye recalled that in 40 years, only 4 countries graduated out of the LDC group: Cape Verde, Maldives, Samoa and Botswana. Five factors can help trigger or accelerate the emergence of these countries: expanding fiscal space, economic patriotism, structural transformation, stability, institutional cohesion, and innovation.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Mr. Dieye moderated a session on the transformational potential of agriculture and the possibility of creating stronger partnerships to invest in that sector. The session drew on the experience of New Zealand, a global agricultural leader, and was attended by ministers from that country and seven African States.
During his visit to Cotonou, Mr. Dieye also reviewed the partnership between Benin and UNDP.

Accompanied by the UNDP Resident Representative in Benin, Odile Sorghum-Moulinier, Mr. Dieye discussed with the country’s President, Yayi Boni, the follow-up to the Paris Roundtables, held in June, and during which Benin had mobilized 12 billion dollars to revive its economy.

The Government of Benin will be investing in priority sectors such as transport, energy, agriculture and tourism. Unemployment now stands at nearly 60 percent among the country’s youth, while about 35 percent of the population still lives in poverty.

As part of his official visit, Mr. Dieye also met with ministers, members of government, heads of the country’s national institutions, international partners and the United Nations, including UNDP staff in Benin.

Mr. Dieye also received the distinction of “Grand Officer of the National Order of Benin”, awarded by the President in recognition of UNDP’s long-standing work in the country.

During his stay, Mr. Dieye also visited one of the four business promotion centers sponsored by UNDP, located in the suburbs of Cotonou. The centers aim to promote entrepreneurship, micro-enterprise and job creation among young people and women and have already trained one thousand young people. Their number is expected to increase to ten.

Speaking to the participants, he said: "You have in your hands transformation tools and the key to development. It is important that you rise in the value chain and not limit yourselves to the local market."

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