By Ahunna Eziakonwa
TOKYO, Japan, Aug 23 2023 (IPS)
At this year’s G7 summit in Japan, global leaders emphasized the importance of unity as the world navigates grave threats to multilateralism. The message was clear – trusted global platforms for dialogue and solutions are extremely crucial in current times.
They are right. More than ever before, effective multilateralism is needed to tackle the polycrisis and to create the world we want: one in which there is prosperity for all.
Thirty years ago, The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), was launched as a multi-stakeholder forum for Japan and Africa to deepen collaboration, with the facilitation of partners like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
UNDP is proud to be associated with TICAD – not least for it unique in its ability to tackle a wide – range of key issues of critical interest to Africa – like investment, skills training and technology transfer.
Since inception, TICAD’s investments in both aid and investment to Africa extend over the $100 billion mark. In the last three years alone, Japan has implemented 69 projects across Africa.
COVID -19 delivered a heavy setback to hard-won development gains, pushing millions back into poverty. Before the pandemic, Africa had seen important progress in human development, with living standards improving for a good part of the population. Six of the ten fastest – growing countries in the world were in Africa.
Today, we see regression – with COVID, growing conflict in some parts of Africa, and a cost-of-living crisis triggered by the impact of the war in Ukraine.
The challenges Africa faces today affect global prospects for attaining the SDGs, and put into sharp focus the criticality of effective partnerships. If we are to rescue the SDGs in Africa, we need to invest in opportunities that are foundational to accelerating Africa’s development.
So what is smart investment in Africa today?
It is all about investing in people. In less than ten years, 42 per cent of the world’s youth will live in Africa – and if the continent invests smartly, its young teeming innovators can create technology – led solutions to drive socioeconomic progress.
To secure a bright and prosperous future in Africa, Japan and UNDP are working together to invest in Africa’s people. This breadth stretches from support for inclusive governance, to ensuring women and youth are empowered, to social sectors like health and education.
In Nigeria, over 1000 young people in the conflict affected regions of the North-East and Middle Belt received an 8-week training on community – driven trade, and cash grants to help them set up new businesses. In Kenya and South Africa, young men and women participated in job skills training for car manufacturing in collaboration with Toyota Motor Corporation.
And in The Central African Republic, income generating activity groups were established, offering training in financial independence across sectors such as retail and animal husbandry. This initiative utilized the 5S-Kaizen methodology through a partnership with JICA. Japan’s support to UNDP’s Liptako Gourma Stabilization Facility has resulted in over 3000 women and youth benefitting from cross-border trade infrastructure and increased incomes for highly vulnerable borderland communities.
Investing in green growth and trade
As the continent continues to chart its development pathway, with a strong vote for industrialization and diversification, the importance of advanced technological expertise is elevated. The new generation of development partnerships with Africa must frontload technology transfer including on a commercial basis – in areas of agriculture, health, education, energy transitions and smart cities.
A prime illustration is Japan’s Green Growth Initiative with Africa, which promotes green economics and support to just energy transitions with African ownership at the core.
Development of local industries and regional value chains will promote Africa’s industrialization – which both COVID 19 and the war in Ukraine have demonstrated – are key tenets of not just effective but also responsible partnerships.
A recent investment report by UNDP identified 157 SDG investment opportunities across 31 industries in Africa with significant financial and impact potential. The industries range from food and beverage to infrastructure, health care, renewable resources and alternative energy.
These investments now have an even larger network of markets – thanks to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – the world’s largest trade zone by number of participating countries and geographical coverage.
The Japan – UNDP partnership has proven its worth in stepping into areas of development acceleration. As Africa stands at a critical inflection point, a vital window of opportunity exists to unlock the continent’s full potential – making Africa’s resources work for its people’s development. Now is the time for to step up the partnership. Now is the time to unlock Africa’s promise.
Read more about UNDP’s Renewed Strategic Offer in Africa ( Africa’s promise) here.
Ahunna Eziakonwa is Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, UNDP