Africa holds 'near boundless potential,' but lack of finance is a critical constraint to progress, UN deputy chief says in Rome
29 January 2024
Deputy Secretary-General's Remarks on the Occasion of the Italy-Africa Summit [as prepared for delivery]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you. And I thank Prime Minister Meloni and the Government of Italy for hosting this Summit.
I believe two things unite each of us here today:
A conviction that my continent – Africa – holds near boundless potential.
And a commitment to seeing that potential realized.
Yet here, globally, we are falling behind.
At the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda, progress against the Sustainable Development Goals is falling woefully short.
Only 15 percent of targets are on track to be met by 2030.
With our dynamic and booming youth population,
Our wealth of critical minerals,
And our vast renewable energy prospects,
Africa could become a clean energy powerhouse, a digital service center, and the next great manufacturing hub of the world.
But releasing this immense potential relies on sustainable development – from building resilient, modern infrastructure, to investing in education and skills for young people – and I welcome the African Union making 2024 its year of education.
A lack of finance is the critical constraint to progress.
The SDG finance gap is immense and growing.
Many wealthy-country promises of finance for development and climate action remain unfulfilled – eroding trust and exacerbating root causes on the Continent.
The way forward is clear.
At last year’s SDG Summit, global leaders agreed to get the Goals back on track.
That includes endorsing the Secretary General’s call for an SDG Stimulus of $500 billion a year – which all of us must continue to push forward this year.
And it includes a commitment to focus global efforts on driving progress in critical areas, each of which can spur broader development gains, and drive progress across the Goals.
This approach mirrors the Africa Union’s new 10-year plan for Agenda 2063, as well as efforts to create an African Continental Free Trade Area.
The Italian Government’s focus at this Summit on supporting key pillars – from digitalization, to energy, and food systems – complements this approach.
It stands to benefit Italy, as well as African countries.
And I welcome the focus on genuine, equal partnership, which should be at the core of all development cooperation.
What does that mean in practice?
It means working with Africa’s leading financial institutions, such as the African Development Bank, to build a strong pipeline of projects, and deliver them.
It means committing to long term engagement. Rejecting short-term approaches and building solid foundations for long-term development and sustainability. The model African countries have advocated for at least the past decade, since the adoption of the 2063 Agenda.
And, crucially, it means bold, substantial, and long-term investments, as required to accelerate progress in critical areas, such as reflected in the European Union’s Global Gateway.
I urge the Government of Italy to make such deep, effective, and equal partnerships a reality. And to use its Presidency of the G7 to work with other countries to do likewise.
Accelerating sustainable development across Africa relies on a surge in private investment.
The international financial institutions play a critical role in making that a reality, as does the private sector.
Here the international financial institutions can leverage and de-risk for African Countries.
And here African countries can play a strong role working with the World Bank and its new Vision for people, prosperity and a livable planet and the IMF to further the opportunity of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust and the Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust.
It also means pursuing peace and stability – and I welcome the African Union’s ambition to silence the guns as part of Agenda 2063.
It means creating the policies and regulations needed to attract companies, underpinned by strong, well-run public institutions.
And it means increasing domestic resources through taxation, on which private investment can build.
To support sustainable development across Africa and beyond, our international systems need a refresh, so that they are fit for the 21st Century.
Our international financial institutions largely reflect the world in which they were created, almost 80 years ago.
African countries are not represented appropriately. And the institutions are largely insufficiently responsive to their needs. It is high time to make the change needed.
We also need new frameworks to address new technologies, and to help release their potential to accelerate progress toward the SDGs.
On all these fronts, this year presents a critical opportunity for change: the Summit of the Future in September.
I urge African countries to work together for an outcome that delivers the change we need.
And I urge Italy to join hands and support these efforts. Using its G7 leadership to bring other nations to come on board.
Together, working in equal partnership, we can realize the immense potential of Africa to the benefit of all.
That shared ambition unites us.
And I wish you every success with this important Summit.