Closing ceremony of the Ninth African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development
Remarks by the Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist of the Economic Commission for Africa,
Thursday 2nd March 2023
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It could not be more timely or appropriate to have held the 9th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development here in Niamey.
At the mid-point in our quest to implement the SDGs, we need to deliver a new paradigm. We need to accelerate action. And we need to deliver a green and inclusive recovery from the persistent impacts of the multiple crises which have beset the world.
African countries have borne the brunt of food and fuel crisis associated with the war in Ukraine, while our economies have proven ill-equipped to bounce back quickly from the lingering impact of the pandemic.
In the Sahel, we are all conscious of how much of a brake on development climate change is. ECA analysis has shown that 2 degrees of warming translates to over 15% of loss of GDP and we are currently on a course of in excess of 2.7 degrees of warming. And these vulnerable regions have the least capacity to respond. An ECA assessment undertaken last year has shown that Africa will need around 438 billion of adaptation funding by 2030.
We are also acutely conscious of how ongoing security threats in this region and across our continent undermine efforts to make lasting progress.
To tackle these issues, we have considered 5 SDGs in depth, while recognising that all SDGs are interconnected and indivisible.
Firstly, at this forum, we have committed to a new era of partnership. In addressing SDG17, we need a renewed sense of solidarity, and an understanding that we will have a faster global recovery, if we are willing to invest in those regions where the most potential gains can be made.
The spirit of an SDG Stimulus, announced by the UN Secretary-General, is based on the principle of investing in a common good. We need large-scale public investment which goes beyond borders.
A clear message that has emerged from this forum, is that we need to break the risk aversion associated with investing in Africa. We need to be able to crowd in the private sector, to deliver on our goals, and we need to have access to more blended finance tools to do so. These tools already exist- but they need to be deployed at massive scale in regions which need them the most.
We also need to support African countries in enhancing their domestic resources mobilisation. ECA will continue its work to explore the opportunity for African countries to be able to monetise their natural capital, recognising that 30% of the world’s sequestration needs could be met by African nature-based carbon removal alone. This is why we supported countries of the Congo Basin to establish a registry for carbon credits launched at COP27, and will continue to support capacity development in this field.
In relation to SDG6 in Africa, achieving universal coverage of basic water delivery requires a four-fold increase in investment while fully tackling the range of needs for safe water delivery means we need to multiply our current investment rates by 12.
The effort must start through governments adopting comprehensive water access and safety strategies, coupled with ambitious sanitation programmes. We must also reinforce water cooperation, and we welcome the call to revitalise UN water in Africa.
We must also recognise the need to better manage our natural resources, and use nature-based solutions to build long-term resilience.
Regarding SDG7- our forum has emphasised the urgency of providing access to the almost 600 million Africans who still do not have access to reliable forms of electricity, and addressing the need for clean cooking for almost 900 million.
African countries need support to map their energy transformation strategies which allow them to harness the benefits of more affordable renewable resources and also address the full extent of their needs in terms of energy infrastructure including transmission, distribution and storage. These strategies need to address the appropriate energy mix that allows the fastest transformation of our economies, avoids the risk of stranded assets, and builds an energy value chain within the continent, including by for example developing the battery value chain with the majority of the world’s resources for these batteries present on the African continent.
Access to affordable and reliable finance has once again been flagged as one of the main barriers, with less than 2% of global investment in renewables over the last decade being made in Africa.
Africa’s energy platform is a critical building block to allow us to deliver sustainable and inclusive industrialisation in line with SDG9. It is estimated that the annual cost to achieve basic infrastructure needs in Africa is between $137 billion–$177 billion and the financing gap at $59 billion–$96 billion.
African heads of state underlined at the AU Summit on industrialisation and economic diversification held here in Niger last year, that Africa needs to boost investment in sustainable value chains to truly be able to transform our economies.
The AfCTA is the most effective lever to allow us to deliver on this promise. We need to accelerate its implementation in line with the AU theme for 2023. And we need to align its implementation with green and inclusive principles.
As we have gathered here in Niamey, we have also considered in detail, the challenges of an increasingly urbanised continent, and how we can truly support the development of inclusive and sustainable cities in line with SDG11 to meet the needs of growing populations, and with increased migration expected from rural to urban areas due to conflict, climate change and other demographic factors.
Providing safe, affordable housing tops priorities for Africa’s growing cities, and in our forum we have also underlined the opportunity to invest in transformative transportation systems which can improve productivity and also enhance the living environment.
Perhaps most critically, the future development of cities must be done in an inclusive manner to ensure the participation and engagement of all.
Our forum has also featured the Science, technology and innovation forum- where we have underlined the need for African countries to truly harness the accelerative effect of transformative technologies. Investing at least 1% of GDP in Research and Development remains a priority for governments, while networks such as the Alliance of entrepreneurial universities launched in Kigali last year, can help in re-purposing existing education networks to be more aligned with the needs and expectations of the business community in the aftermath of the pandemic.
ECA has been proud to work with UNESCO, ITU and UN women to deliver a girls coding camp with over 100 in-person participants and over 4,500 virtual participants- all from Niger. We also launched a climate solutions hackathon, seeking to use emerging technologies such as AI to tackle climate change, and we have also had over 100 young students engaged in an innovation bootcamp to learn basic skills in robotics, 3D printing and other associated technologies.
The forum also featured the Africa Climate Talks, in collaboration with the Université Abdou Moumouni and the African Centre for Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) which was set up by ECA and is based here in Niamey.
These talks play a key role in bringing academia, civil society and policy leaders to address key issues ahead of COP28, including the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage facility, ensuring a credible global stock take on implementation of Paris commitments and a new quantified global goal.
The success of our SDG summit in September will be built also on credible African-owned climate solutions and we are in this context also working to prepare and support the African Climate Action Summit in Nairobi in the first week of September.
As usual, the forum has also allowed us to progress on delivering voluntary national reviews for the 7 countries who are presenting this year, while we have also shared positive experiences of voluntary local reviews.
I also take the opportunity to express our appreciation for the contribution of major groups to our forum. The role of civil society could not be more critical to ensure accelerated implementation of the SDGs. We also look forward to continue working closely with our youth partners, notably the African Youth SDG Summit, and the Pan African Youth Union.
I have also noted the centrality of messaging on the right to development, and on ensuring that a rights-based approach is integral to successfully implementing the SDGs. We welcome the opportunities to improve inclusion of participation in our forums by also ensuring that the needs of persons with disabilities are fully recognised and integrated into our strategies.
To conclude, I would like to express once again our immense appreciation to the government and people of Niger. To H.E President Mohamed Bazoum, we salute his leadership and commitment in setting us on a path for sustainable industrialisation. We warmly thank our chair, H.E Ms. Garama Saratou Rabiou Inoussa, for her exemplary leadership and coordination to make this forum happen. We also congratulate the newly elected bureau members Morocco, Namibia, Ethiopia and Chad and express our appreciation to the outgoing members Rwanda, Cabo Verde and Congo.
I thank you for your attention and we look forward to implementing the Niamey declaration to deliver accelerated implementation of the SDGs!