Addis Ababa, 14 September 2022 (ECA) – Staff of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) as well as high-level representatives of African governments, the African Union, UN agencies, and the diplomatic corps in Ethiopia have celebrated the “trailblazing leadership” of outgoing ECA Executive Secretary and UN Under-Secretary-General, Vera Songwe.
During a farewell event organized at the ECA compound in Addis Ababa on 14 September, Acting Executive Secretary, Antonio Pedro, highlighted Ms. Songwe’s historical role as the first – and only – woman to have led the ECA. Mr. Pedro noted Ms. Songwe’s transformative work at the organization stating, “In the five years of Dr. Songwe’s tenure, the Economic Commission for Africa has strengthened its position as Africa’s voice on the global landscape.”
Reflecting on her time at the ECA, the former Executive Secretary herself, underscored the collaborative nature of her work at the organization. She said, “it has been an incredible opportunity and learning experience to work with each one of the staff and each one of the partners to tackle challenges that sometimes seemed incredibly insurmountable.” Ms. Songwe also noted the joy of being a part of an institution that provides “tangible and measurable support” to African Member States.
Ethiopian State Minister for Political and Economic Diplomacy, Tesfaye Yilma, attested to the former Executive Secretary’s reliable and supportive leadership skills stating, “She has exceptionally steered the work of the ECA in the face of economic and health crises brought on by Covid-19 and other global challenges and suggested a way out.” Mr. Yilma also highlighted the crucial support Ms. Songwe and the ECA have provided to Ethiopia's ongoing economic reform, tax reform and green legacy.
The farewell celebrations included video statements from leadership voices across the continent and friends of the ECA, including UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-lweala, IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, US Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy, Dr. John Nkemgasong, and more. They all lauded Ms. Songwe’s leadership and expressed hope that she will continue playing an active role in helping Africa achieve its growth agenda.
Under her leadership, ECA played a key role in promoting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) at national, subregional and continental levels; advocating for adequate resources to finance Africa’s COVID-19 recovery initiatives; fostering public-private partnerships; and promoting local manufacturing to ensure sustainable economic growth and reduce growth volatility in Africa. Ms. Songwe also played a role in negotiating the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal to reintegrate Ukrainian grain, other foodstuffs and fertilizers back into the global markets.
The former UN Under-Secretary-General was also praised by the dean of the diplomatic corps in Ethiopia; the Bureau of the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister; and several private sector leaders who all lauded her collaborative leadership and steadfastness.
ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist, Hanan Morsy, thanked attendees for being present to celebrate a unique African leader and champion. Ms. Morsy underscored the former Executive Secretary’s trailblazing leadership to the ECA and continent, stating “you are a purpose-focused leader, capable of choosing your own path and knowing how to strategically move from vision to execution.”
Ms. Songwe stepped down on 1 September 2022 after five years of dedicated service to the ECA and Africa.
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