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Peace and security crucial for Africa’s sustainable development, says Vera Songwe

3 February, 2020

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 3, 2019 (ECA) – Africa cannot afford the rising cost of lack of peace and security, Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said Monday.

Speaking at the 35th Gender is my Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) pre-African Union consultative meeting, Ms. Songwe said across the continent, high-pitched volumes of guns consistently continued to silence women’s voices, depriving them of human dignity on unprecedented levels. 

“Women can help improve Africa's economic growth exponentially and that growth can in turn help Africa's women as we seek to close the gender economic gap. Sadly, that will not materialise with figures showing for example that over 200,000 women have been raped since the second Congo War. We need to silence the guns now,” she said.

Ms. Songwe added; “Every time guns go off in Africa it is the girl child who suffers and stops going to school. Women die in their numbers and conflict-related sexual abuses go up. With these numbers we seriously can never deliver on Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and Agenda 2063, the Africa we Want. We know that and our leaders know that too.”

African countries in active conflicts (Somalia, Central African Republic, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi) have alarming figures of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriages and other forms of sexual violence. 

Ms. Songwe said the choice of “Silencing the guns: Creating a conducive environment for Africa’s development” as the theme for the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union is an indication of the continent’s commitment to peace and security as a crucial ingredient to socio economic development. 

To this end, the ECA, together with the UN Office for the African Union, and the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, is supporting the AUC to develop the African Human Security Index - a tool for identifying vulnerability and development of integrated frameworks that could contribute to silencing the guns.

The tool will help monitor progress in the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.

“We also need to engage the private sector in this campaign. Private sector makes and sells the guns so we need to make sure that we bring them into this conversation,” said Ms. Songwe.

She added winning the battle required bold actions to end gender discrimination, providing voice and agency to those who still remain in the margins of decision-making on critical issues of development and on peace and human security. 

Among the speakers was Advocate Vasu Chergui, founder and Executive Director of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), who said Africa was in the race against time.

The continent, he said, with no industries, jobs; rapid urbanization; the global economic slowdown; commodity crisis, climate change; disruptive technologies; end of neo-liberal democracy; rise of populism, nationalism and authoritarianism, was at a very dangerous crossroads.

“Significant parts of Africa are reaching a dangerous tipping point,” said Mr. Chergui, adding transformation to address root causes of conflict on the continent would take between 20-40 years.

He said armed, complex and protracted conflict will sadly characterise large parts of the African landscape in the coming decades if the drivers of conflict were not urgently addressed.

The two-day meeting is being held under the theme; “Recognising and amplifying women and girl’s agency to silence the guns in Africa”.


Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826