Two top officials underlined the UN’s commitment to Africa’s development during a dialogue with representatives from NGOs, civil society, academic institutions and the private sector, held at UN Headquarters in New York on Friday.
The discussions centered around a UN report that offers recommendations to bolster collaboration towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa, specifically those on financing for development and affordable green energy.
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The report reveals that almost 600 million people on the continent still do not have access to sustainable energy due to two main challenges: insufficient energy infrastructure on the one hand, and poor regulatory frameworks coupled with limited planning processes on the other.
Solidarity with Africa
In his opening remarks, UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi called for “unshakable solidarity with Africa”, both from within the continent and from the international community.
“Solidarity based on the understanding that the prosperity of our world, and the security on our globe can never be complete without sustainability in Africa,” he said.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted that despite international agreements, commitment to financing for development has been limited due to internal and external factors.
Inefficiency and unfairness
“From the point of view of internal factors, the lack of efficient and transparent mechanisms to support revenue administrations and public financial management results in hundreds of billions lost every year in illicit financial flows and inefficiencies,” she said.
“From the external perspective, internal factors are compounded by an unfair international financial architecture that keeps African countries in a marginal position, making them more vulnerable to debt distress,” she added.
She highlighted how challenges in resource mobilization limit African countries from being able to undertake the massive investments needed in energy access and other critical areas.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, energy is an essential component for achieving resilience. And resilience is indispensable to ensure the sustainability of development efforts,” she said.
“Without resilience, the next global crisis will revert all the progress we make in the coming years, in the same way that the pandemic undid in just one year development gains obtained through decades of hard work.”
Reverse the trend
Ms. Mohammed outlined five steps to help revert the current negative trend, starting with strengthening institutions, including through the digitalization of domestic resource mobilization systems.
She cited the example of Angola, where customs revenue increase by 44 per cent just one year after digitalizing the customs process through support from UN trade agency, UNCTAD.
Governments must also increase efforts to build reliable policy and regulatory frameworks, while support for data-based energy planning exercises in all African countries is also needed.
Meanwhile, technological transfers and technical cooperation must be increased, together with Official Development Assistance (ODA) from governments for institution-building.
Finally, the international financial architecture must be reformed to provide African countries with “breathing space in the short-term”, she said, through measures such as the UN’s call for an SDG stimulus plan.