UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with former presidents H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and H.E. John Kufuor of Ghana

UNDP Administrator Discusses Africa’s Renaissance and the Rise of the South

26 May 2013

"Africa’s renaissance is a reality, and the world is recognizing that,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator and Chair of the UN Development Group, Helen Clark told participants at a high level panel discussion on “African Renaissance in the Context of ‘the Rise of the South”.

UNDP Administrator also underlined that the challenge facing Africa was how “to leverage from the talent of the continent’s people and the abundance of its natural resources to drive transformational change."

Other panelists at the event included former presidents His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria) and His Excellency, John Kufuor (Ghana); Mr. Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto, the undersecretary general for Political Affairs (Brazil); Mr. Anthony Mothae Maruping, the Economic Affairs Commissioner (African Union Commission) and Mr. Maxwell M. Mkwezalamba, the former commissioner of economic affairs (African Union Commission).

The event drew on the theme of the AU Heads of State Summit ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’ and the 2013 Human Development Report theme ‘The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World’ to inspire deeper reflection by the high level panelists and almost two hundred participants across Africa to discuss Africa’s contemporary development challenges and prospects within the context of the emerging global economic order. 

"Managing demographic change must also be a key policy priority," Ms. Clark told participants, adding that, "For Africa, the opportunity exists now to reap a huge demographic dividend from the youthful and vibrant population entering the workforce. But, to maximize that, significant investments are needed in youth potential – in health, education, and in skills, including in entrepreneurship. In time, provision will also need to be made for ageing populations."

This prompted the panelists to further discuss the importance of structuring development. Former Nigerian President Obasanjo cautioned that Africa needs to be vigilant when celebrating the rise of the South since there is still plenty of poverty, democratic deficiencies, and conflicts and instability in Africa. He also pointed out that the global financial situation is impacting the continent and its economies. Mr Maruping echoed these words by noting that, “Inclusiveness is critical. Only with inclusive business can we ensure that people also at the end of the pyramid benefit from the growth of the economy.” The importance of giving voice all citizens and the opportunity participate in decision-making was also underlined during the discussion.

Former Ghanaian President Kufuor called upon strong, shared leadership to drive the development of Africa and said, “If we do not work on good leadership, we will not achieve good governance, we will not be able to cope with the fast population growth and the large number of youths looking for jobs. We need to keep on educating people not only in classrooms but on all arenas. And who should do this? It is the leadership and I believe it should be shared.”

The panelists agreed that it was vital to ensure that Africa looks into innovative ways of mobilising resources and obtaining financing to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth and development. They also considered the role of the BRICS bank and its part in further promoting South-South cooperation.

“We want to work with Africa,” said Undersecretary General for Political Affairs for Brazil Mr Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto, adding that, “Working with a healthy and thriving mother, will make her children proud – and we are a child of Africa.” He continued to explain how former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, ran a political platform to give all Brazilians three meals a day and said this commitment was said to have helped to lead to improvements in areas such as social security and health care. “We want to share our experiences and not give aid. We want to cooperate,” he concluded.

In addition to strengthening the South-South cooperation, Africa could also benefit more from regional integration. “Promoting regional integration and trade can enhance the progress of individual countries on the continent,” emphasized former Economic Commissioner for the AUC Mr Maxwell M. Mkwezalamba.

Mr Tegegnework Gettu, UNDP Director of Regional Bureau for Africa, said that being cautious and yet optimist about the rise of the South, learning from the BRICS, looking into ways of building democratic governments, and innovatively structuring and financing development can help to ensure a pathway for sustainable and inclusive development for the upcoming years.

The Administrator was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 25-28 May 2013 and attended the 50th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity/African Union (AU), and inaugurated the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Africa, which had moved to Addis from its former offices in Johannesburg and Dakar.

Highlights of the High Level Panel

(moderated by Belinda Obura from Kenya's K24 TV)

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