Head of UNDP Africa on AU Vision 2063

Oct 23, 2013

“An Integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”, significantly more action is still required on a number of fronts.”
AU’s Vision 2063

1.    How is the vision of an ‘’integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’’ reflected in the 2063 Agenda?
2.    What strategies should be adopted in order to create and promote shared values and responsibilities and co-ordination mechanisms in achieving this Agenda?
3.    What are the key drivers of change and how will they impact peacemaking initiatives on the continent?
4.     In partnership, how can we achieve the balance


1. Ladies and Gentlemen, I take this opportunity to congratulate you and our continent on the 50th anniversary of the African Union celebrated earlier this year. 50 years is a significant achievement but at the same time we acknowledge that this continent still faces significant challenges in order to reach levels that would translate into acceptable socio-economic and political standards for all of the continents peoples. By all accounts, Africa is at the cusp of tremendous change.

Today, the continent is enjoying unprecedented economic growth. Analysis from the UNDP-ECA-OECD African Economic Outlook reports clearly indicates  that Sub-Saharan Africa has become one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, with some countries like Cote d’Ivoire,  Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, Niger, Liberia Rwanda featuring on the top list of fastest growing economies today.  

Steady economic growth has also contributed to improvements in poverty reduction, and had a positive impact on MDG progress in various areas. Globally in 2012, 15 of the 20 countries who made the greatest progress on the MDGs were from Africa according to the latest UNDP MDG report shows. For instance:

-  there has been advances in universal primary education enrolment, marked by an average enrolment of 90% in São Tomé and Príncipe, Burundi and Tanzania;
- the fight against HIV/AIDS has led to a decline in prevalence, especially in a number of countries particularly in Eastern and Southern Africa and;
-  the rate of poverty and the absolute number of poor in Africa has declined from 56.5per cent in 1990 to 47.5 per cent in 2008 and is forecast to reduce to 35.8 per cent by 2015.  Countries like Botswana are on target to eradicate extreme poverty by 2016.

Furthermore, in recent years, the region has witnessed an increase in the number of peaceful elections and the increasing rate of women participating in politics and public positions in countries like Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, is also encouraging.

Yet, a number of development challenges continue to persist, that if not addressed within the context of operationalizing national development plans, the vision 2063 will not be achieved. These include conflict, food insecurity, quality of service delivery, poverty (especially in rural areas), inequality, unemployment (particularly among the youth) and vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.

However, the report also shows that climate-related shocks manifested by extreme weather conditions have destroyed livelihoods and exacerbated Africa’s food insecurity, resulting in a high incidence of underweight children, widespread hunger and poor dietary consumption patterns. Hence, the importance to invest in prevention and preparedness, strengthen the ability of states to respond to a crisis and build resilience of the communities. The report also shows that it is imperative that countries continue to learn from one another, as the countries that have sustained, equitable growth, with political stability and human development-oriented policies, are doing well in most of the goals.

2.Today as we sit here to discuss and strategize on the African Union’s Vision 2063 agenda, expectations are high as the vision charts out a veritable map towards real, demonstrable change in the next 50 years. The bar for an ‘’integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’’ is indeed very high and it is inevitable that all our efforts should be geared towards the attainment of this single objective. The plans laid out in the AU vision 2063 agenda are commendable and with our commitment to support and see through the objectives, we can bring forth sustainable development to many of the African countries lagging way behind in their development. The 2063 Agenda talks of the need to accelerate the pace and sustainability of development programming to ensure that change is indeed transformational. It is true that indeed many African countries enjoy solid and sometimes even innovative development programming and only to fall back into the cycle of poverty and under-development due to the unavailability of the requisite resources and the inability of partners to commit whether financially or technically for any protracted period.

A stark example of this is in countries recovery from crisis where indeed in many cases capacities are almost completely eroded. Any chance to turn the corner from the effects of crisis (protracted or cyclical) would require real commitment from all sides. In addressing this, we need to work with our partners towards putting the concept of resilience at the heart of our development agenda; and in this working towards equipping people, infrastructure, communities and institutions to withstand external and often cyclical shocks as in the Sahel or global shocks as in the case of the economic crisis. A resilience-based approach offers a comprehensive basis and theory of change for achieving sustainable development. It also means the development of institutions and systems able to withstand regional and global upheavals or crisis. Clearly, therefore, there is a need to go far beyond adaptation, and to build the systemic capacities of society both to prevent and to ameliorate the adverse consequences of shocks. Resilience-based sustainable development invokes the agency of people, institutions, and systems.

It calls for developing the capacity of the poor to overcome their conditions. It draws on local knowledge and expertise, and the resilience of those who are vulnerable. It is about building the capacities of societies to prevent, resolve, learn, and grow. It is about the replenishing and regeneration of innate capacity. It means that in moving forward and investing in sustainable development, equally important is assessing our achievements so far and developing policies, strategies and programmes that seek to build upon them.

3. But regardless of the multiplicity of strategies and endless available resources, an essential element is to understand that sustainable development can only thrive within the context of governance which is active, effective, honest, fair, responsive and representative. The role and leadership of national governments to lead and guide the development agendas within their national boundaries and influence sub-regional policies and strategies cannot be over-emphasized. Sustainable development is neither attained nor sustained if the quality of governance is poor. Reasons for poor governance are many and can range from state’s institutions lacking the requisite capacities or are undermined by corruption and abuse of authority, or because the state itself is so fragile that it cannot give effective guidance on policy of any kind. Either way, this leadership role of national governments must be supported and nurtured as part of our overall peace and development agenda.

4. The 2063 Agenda also proposes the need for a consensus vision and a framework for structural transformation and socio-economic development, keeping very much in line with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The need to learn from the past and to build on the modest progress, strategically exploiting opportunities towards positive transformation over the next 50 years. In Africa, the issues of youth employment and social cohesion a critical elements in the path towards an ‘’integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’’. 

In addressing this, there is the need for comprehensive and holistic strategies to youth employment that should take on board sub-regional and indeed regional dynamics and their impact on national employment policies. Entities such as ours have a critical role to play to ensure the development of adequate action plans that will address issues of self-employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment of youth and development of their skills for sustainability of employability and competitiveness including vocational training. 

Strategic partnerships should be established and nurtured with the AU and the RECs in supporting the harmonization of legal frameworks and strategies that can facilitate regional integration, as well as guarantee linkages between job creation, food security, peace and inclusive development throughout Africa. We must acknowledge that the lack of adequate resources at the country level represents one of the major challenges to the implementation of the policies and programmes for socio-economic development. Building strong partnerships will go a long way in countering these challenges and in this key partnerships should be established and maintained with the ILO, African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), IRDC (International Research Development Centre), UNESCO, UNWOMEN, AFRISTAT, and ECA.

5.    The 2063 agenda highlights the need for inclusivity, making sure that the majority of the continent’s population constituting youth and women are also able to benefit from growth.  Africa ranks worrying low compared to the rest of the world on gender equity for example, and the closing the gender gap and yet in all internationally accepted measures of human development, gender equality is considered an intrinsically and globally necessary goal and a reflection of good governance.  Using the World Economic Forum’s global gender index rankings, whilst South Africa ranks 20 and is a leader in the region on gender parity, Africa also contains some of the lowest ranking countries in the world, including Senegal (90) and Nigeria (110) out of 135 countries. Mali comes in 128, Cote d’Ivoire at 130 and Chad at 133. 

Specifically in many conflict affected and fragile states, women’s issues and gender equality are central to authoritarian regimes, party politics and conservative, extremist religious groups. Morality police, public punishments, assassinations, rape as an instrument of war, and honor killings are among the instruments of terror used to restrict the rights of girls and women including the right to go to school, to participate in social and political life, to limit their freedom of movement and dress, and to control their reproductive health and sexual rights. It would be amiss not to mention here that too often our national partner and ally (meaning national governments) who should lead in helping advance gender equality may, in some fragile, conflict-affected or crisis environments, become the most significant detractor.

The world is indeed changing and with it, new regional and global alliances among governments can all contribute towards the erosion of international standards for women. These entities increasingly are asserting a growing influence in multilateral fora) and at regional and national levels.  To address gender inequality, a strategic discussion is needed not only with national partners but also  with non-traditional partners including multi-national companies, regional entities and  non-governmental organizations ; and a more contextual approach is needed to guide our actions that take into account all forms of state and non-state repression and violence, as well as the socio-cultural, political and economic factors.


6.    Last but by no means least, investing in prevention. The first priority must be prevention, complemented by explicit efforts to reduce societal vulnerabilities and a commitment to maintain the integrity of communities, institutions, and ecosystems. These are the very foundations of resilience and sustainable development. Clearly violent conflict impacts very negatively on development and on this continent, there is endless data to back that evidence. To demonstrate this, it is estimated that while people living in fragile and conflict-affected countries make up fifteen per cent of the world's population, they represent more than thirty per cent of all people living in extreme poverty; it is also estimated that sixty per cent of the world’s undernourished children, 77 per cent of the children not in school, and 65 per cent of people without access to safe drinking water  live in countries which have recently faced significant armed violence or violent conflict; Nine of the ten countries with the lowest Human Development Index ranking have experienced conflict in the past twenty years; and Projections in the 2011 World Development Report reveal that not one of the fifty states burdened by fragility has achieved or will achieve a single MDG by 2015.

The negative effects of armed conflict also extend well beyond these measurable social and economic costs. It destroys essential infrastructure, social cohesion; and breaks families. Conflict also undermines public institutions, facilitates corruption, and encourages a climate of impunity. It contributes to and is sustained by transnational crime, including the trafficking of people, drugs, and arms.  In all these ways, conflict jeopardizes sustainable development. It is therefore no surprise that in the current discussion on a post-2015 development agenda, there is strong advocacy for fully integrating peace and security into it. The report to the UN Secretary General on the post-2015 agenda from a UN Task Team of officials suggested that peace and security should be one of four core dimensions of the new development framework - along with inclusive social development, environmental sustainability, and inclusive economic development. In addressing prevention, especially conflict prevention, it is also important to note that the world is changing.  Conflict is increasingly not between states, but, rather, within a state.  It also has regional dimensions – as is the case of Mali, where we see the upheaval in Libya and the serious spillover effects contributing the exacerbation of the Malian conflict. Our responses must reflect these new realities.

7.    Similarly for disasters, the statistics are equally stark. It is well known that poorly managed economic growth and climate change is driving a rapid overall rise in global disaster risk for all countries. In addition to the human toll, disasters are expensive. The estimated cost of damage and loss of income caused by disasters over the last two decades is more than US$ 2 trillion. In 2012 310 disasters caused by natural hazards claimed 9,930 lives, affected more than 106 million people and caused economic damages of US$138 billion. Striking inequalities persist, with global disaster risk disproportionately concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance.

Ninety-five percent of disaster-related deaths occur in developing countries, and while the overall risk of being killed by a cyclone or flood is lower today than it was 20 years ago, less than two percent of global deaths from cyclones occur in countries with high levels of development. More than half of cyclone deaths occur in least developed nations. As in the case of conflicts, preventing disasters is the key to long term development. Increasingly in the region, we see an unfortunate collision of the two and with it untold human suffering. This is unfortunately increasingly the case for the Sahel region for example. Working with national governments, ECOWAS, sub-regional intuitions and other partners, the challenge is how best to respond.

8.    To be competitive in the quickly evolving global context, Africa needs to be able to match up to and to respond to global trends. The challenges the continent faces today are a far cry from those of fifty years ago and our strategies, policies and programmes at national, sub-regional and regional levels must take that into account. Priorities are changing and with it the impacts of our lives. With climatic, environmental, demographic, political, sociological and technological evolutions, our responses necessitate a paradigm shift in the way that we respond to the existing and emerging challenges. Looking towards the Africa Union as the guiding force for transformational change in the region, organizations such as ours must continue to commit to bring the requisite financial and innovative technical resources that are required. As we go into the next 50 years of Africa’s development agenda, the 2063 Agenda highlights the need for better planning and more coherent and coordinated partnerships.

The need for more strategic and coherent planning but within the context of fragile states was also raised at the Busan Forum, and efforts are being made to achieve that. UNDP, as the manager of co-ordination of the UN development system, is active in these discussions, particularly with the g7+ - a group of countries which have acknowledged their own fragility, and have entered into a New Deal with international partners to support their transformation into capable and resilient states. So many 21st Century shocks have profound economic, social, demographic, and political implications beyond the state boundaries within which they initially occurred. A comprehensive response requires cross-border and regional strategies – and, in the case of the global economy, effective multilateral action too. The complicated situation in the Sahel now is an example of such a challenge, which requires cross-border and cross-sectoral responses. The Sahel further demonstrates the need for better exploitation of the region’s capacities and more efforts for south – south cooperation.

9.    In this regard, partnerships need to be at the heart of our work going forward. Collaboration with other international agencies multiplies the advantages that each organization offers. in this regard, the UN as a system has been working on nurturing strategic partnerships with entities such as the World Bank. This year for example saw the historic visit by the World Bank President and the UNSG to the Great lakes Region. A second visit is planned imminently for the Sahel. In keeping with the spirit of the 2063 Agenda, we must work together to be able to recognize our strengths and that of our partners in order to ensure a more effective interventions for the region.

10.    For our part and within the context of our new strategic plan 2014 - 2017, UNDP continues to work on the Continent with clear objectives aimed at supporting the programme countries to consolidate their development gains by
o    promoting sustainable human development through inclusive growth strategies; strengthening  inclusive and effective governance systems; and strengthening resilience particularly at community level.
o    accelerating MDG achievement through initiatives such as the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF) and;
o    supporting the post-2015 national and regional consultations to ensure that issues arising are reflected in the global discussions.
Working closely with African governments, civil society organizations, private sector, communities, regional entities and international and bi-lateral partners, UNDP seeks to support capacity development, knowledge sharing and resource mobilization. UNDP’s new strategic plan identifies UNDP’s priorities over the next four years, many of which are in line with the national development priorities of the countries we support as well as with strategic objectives outlined in the AU Vision 2063 agenda. UNDP seeks to reinforce the concept of sustainable development complimented by human development, as the way out of endemic poverty and inequality. In this, our strategies converge, prioritizing areas such as inclusive and sustainable growth and development; employment creation and livelihoods targeting especially the poor and marginalized; citizen participation in democratic processes; democratic governance and accountability; strengthened institutions for basic service delivery and strategies to accelerate gender disparities.

I thank you for your attention.


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