I would like to share with you some impressions from New York, where I went to represent the NEPAD Agency at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. This week was rich in events and exchanges. My meeting with Rodger Voorhies, Executive Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provided an opportunity to discuss the programme for accelerating agricultural growth in Africa, led by the NEPAD Agency, and to reflect on partnership opportunities around the AATS project (Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard – the “evaluation sheets for agricultural transformation in Africa”). The meeting with Dr Andrew Steer, President of the World Resource Institute, which is collaborating with the NEPAD Agency on the AFR100 programme to restore 111 million hectares of arable land in Africa by 2030, provided an opportunity to review the progress of this strategic partnership. Finally, the deepening of the dialogue between the NEPAD Agency and the UNDP Regional Bureau in Africa was at the heart of my warm exchanges with the institution’s new Executive Director, Ahunna Eziakonwa.
Our continent, Africa, received a special tribute in New York. This 73rd session of the General Assembly was dedicated to the memory of our most inspiring leader, Nelson Mandela, whose centenary we were celebrating. After the African Union, which honoured “Madiba” at the Nouakchott summit on 1 and 2 July, it was therefore the United Nations’ turn to invoke the legacy of the father of the South African nation: the General Assembly proclaimed the decade 2019-2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade for Peace. Mandela has become a universal symbol, transcending borders, continents and times. This is obviously a source of pride for all Africans.
We can and must set an example: against a pessimistic discourse that tends to present our continent as one of crises, how can we not point out that one of the best recent news for peace has come from Africa: the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have decided to overcome their territorial disputes to put an end to a 20-year-old conflict. This news opens up prospects for the relaunch of regional integration, which has been boosted by the creation of the ZLEC, the Continental Free Trade Area. The ZLEC will be a long process, but it is already emerging as a tangible manifestation of the pan-African ideal. The President of Rwanda and current Chairman of the African Union, Paul Kagame, rightly recalled this in his speech to the UN tribune….
But African integration will require infrastructure and, in this regard, a crucial meeting on their financing was organized at the initiative of NEPAD on 25 September in New York’s Nasdaq. Our agency coordinates the participation of the private sector in the major structuring projects of PIDA (Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa). This meeting made it possible to raise awareness and mobilize the African and international financial sectors. We encourage African pension funds to spend at least 5% of their investment portfolio (which amounts to $1.1 trillion) on infrastructure, including through PPPs. We must be exemplary if we want to be supported by our international partners!
The NEPAD Agency is also fully engaged in the fight against tuberculosis, which killed 2.6 million Africans in 2016. The high-level meeting “United to Stop Tuberculosis: A Continental Response”, which we organized on 25 September, enabled African governments, their partners and major donors to renew their commitment to combat this scourge through multilateral cooperation. We are convinced that only a continental and multidimensional response, closely involving all actors, public and private, and populations, is relevant to finding a solution to this tragedy.
But it is also necessary to be able to respond to emergencies and health crises that transcend borders. This was the subject of the second humanitarian dialogue organized under the aegis of the NEPAD Agency on 28 September in New York, as part of its Move Africa initiative, which aims to establish corridors to accelerate and facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations.
All these initiatives reflect the will of the African Union and the NEPAD Agency to take the most concrete action possible to create the foundations for a better future for our continent. We will come back to this later.