Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Director, Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP. Photo: Hideyuki Mohri/UNDP Tokyo

The Assistant Secretary General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, called on African countries to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchains and machine learning, and deploy these in various sectors for the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She made the call during a panel session at a side event at the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) in Yokohama, Japan. The event, titled “From Idea to Action: Harnessing the Potential of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Africa’s Development”, was organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank.

Ms. Eziakonwa noted that, Africa needs to harness the potential of STI for development by prioritizing policies and making investments to increase access to state-of-the-art technologies such as e-governance, finance and digital literacy and skills – at secondary and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) level. She called for the adoption of innovative financing schemes that combine both public and private sector resources and technical expertise for the achievement of the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environment.

“Mobilizing public, private and donor resources to finance research and development, and creating an enabling environment for multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral collaboration for innovation and entrepreneurship, remain the key to accelerate Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy”, stated Ms. Eziakonwa.

The UNDP Africa Director added that, with the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), digitization can reduce barriers to entry and help connect Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with global markets and value chains. She said this can provide SMEs with necessary services such as simplified payments and logistics to facilitate exports.

“Technology-driven innovations, such as mobile payments systems, AI, big data and blockchain, can be innovatively deployed to accelerate financing for SMEs, to generate new jobs, and help reduce poverty”, Ms. Eziakonwa noted.

It is estimated that e-commerce in Africa could reach 75 billion USD by 2025 and could be of particular benefit to MSMEs, which constitute more than 80 percent of African enterprises. For UNDP, fostering innovation for accelerated socio-economic gain is now a priority, as the organisation has launched its first Digital Strategy. UNDP is also working with national and global partners on 60 SDGs Accelerator Labs, 36 of which are in Africa, catalysing innovative ideas, rapid iteration and experimentation to address complex development challenges. Through its YouthConnekt initiative, UNDP is supporting youth entrepreneurial skills development in Africa, for jobs creation. Moreover, UNDP has launched a dedicated Finance Sector Hub, working with the rest of the UN System as part of the Task Force on Digital Finance for the SDGs to demonstrate how such innovations can promote sustainable and inclusive growth.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union (AU) 2063 Agenda are ambitious plans of action for people, planet and prosperity. The achievement of these goals could be enhanced by the full implementation of the AU’s 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024), which considers STI as multi-functional tool and enabler for achieving continental development goals. 


For more information, please contact: 

In New York: Praise Nutakor, Communications Specialist, UNDP Africa,  
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