UN Secretary-General’s remarks at the G7 Outreach Session on Innovation and Sustainable Development in Africa

By | 29 May 2017
Taormina, 26-27 May 2017
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,I commend the G7 for focusing on Africa at an opportune moment for the continent – and for putting the spotlight on inclusive, innovation-driven growth and development.


After years as the world’s fastest growing continent, Africa faces a number of economic challenges, including volatile commodity prices and weakened global markets.  The continent recently registered its worst economic slowdown in almost two decades: investment growth fell from nearly 8 per cent in 2014 to 0.6 per cent in 2015, and overall growth declined from 3.4 per cent in 2015 to 2.2 per cent in 2016.Moreover, a number of states are showing continuing signs of fragility, with weak institutions that are unable to provide basic services or gain the public’s trust.

But even in these challenging times, Africa continues to be a continent of resilience and opportunity.

The continent has made impressive strides towards laying the groundwork for strengthened economic development and providing the enabling conditions for investment.

A majority of African countries have improved their competitiveness and business environments.  According to the latest Mo Ibrahim Report, 70 per cent of Africans live in a country that has experienced improvements in governance.

Our shared challenge is to build on these gains and to change the narrative about Africa.  From crisis-based narrative to an opportunities-based narrative.

We know that the full and true story of Africa is that of a continent with enormous potential for success.

As we work to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s ambitious Agenda 2063, harnessing the power and potential of innovation will be critical.

Here are six ways the G7 can help foster inclusive, innovation-driven growth and development in Africa.

First, invest in young people.  The continent has the fastest growing youth population in the world, a dividend we can harness through greater investments in education, especially in science and technology.  But basic education is not enough; people need skills that match the needs of present and future labour markets.

Second, help disseminate new technologies.  Help disseminate new technologies. Because the continent has fewer entrenched technologies, it has been adept at leapfrogging to ones that are more efficient, sustainable and affordable.  The Africa Renewal Energy Initiative, mobile payment systems and electronic commodity exchanges show what is possible in this area.

Third, invest in the continent’s productive sectors.  Innovation-driven investments can galvanize industrialization and diversify economies.  At the same time, we must support innovation to boost productivity in agriculture – to help it become more modern, competitive and sustainable – as well as assist manufacturing or traditional activities to move higher up the global value chain.  This is key to the creation of more decent jobs.

Fourth, support the continent’s aspiration to achieve regional integration, including through the free movement of people and goods.  Investments in infrastructure – and “info-structure” — will be vital.  Innovation is a key instrument for linking regions, countries and communities.  Smart digital platforms, smart grids, smart logistics infrastructure can link urban and rural, and better connect the people of Africa to each other and the world.

Fifth, support Africa’s efforts to empower women and girls.  Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year – 6 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product – a needless loss of inclusive human development and economic growth.

Sixth, we must also be innovative when it comes to leveraging resources and financing for development.   This includes tax reform by African countries themselves – but also international efforts to fight tax evasion, money laundering and the illicit financial flows that have depleted Africa’s resource base.  It means donors upholding their commitments to official development assistance.  And it means helping African countries attract innovative finance and gain greater access to financial markets and private investment.

Dear friends,

The so-called 4TH Industrial Revolution will create huge changes in global labour markets.  Africa could be vulnerable to these changes.  We must do all we can to help Africa adapt.  Doing so requires strengthened investment in technology and relevant education and capacity building across all sectors.

Failing to do so might have dramatic consequences for the well-being of the people of Africa; increase fragility, causing massive displacement and risking to boost unemployment, especially for young people.

And let us remember: high levels of youth unemployment are not only a tragedy for young people themselves, but can also undermine development and generate frustration and alienation that, in turn, can become a threat to global peace and security.

The United Nations and the African Union continue to deepen our partnership.  We will do so taking full profit of the power of innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.  More than just the transfer of technology, we need to maximize the power of innovation for the people of Africa

The potential for cooperation and mutually beneficial support among Africa, the G7 and other development partners is greater than ever.

Thank you.


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