Use innovation and technology to drive Africa’s economic transformation – UN General Assembly boss

Africa should take advantage of innovation and technology and use them to drive sustainable development, infrastructure and industrialization, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson said Sunday.

Addressing a high-level meeting on ‘Innovations for Infrastructure Development and Sustainable Industrialization’ during the ECA’s Africa Development Week in Dakar, Senegal, Thomson said harnessing this potential requires effective leadership to champion the necessary reforms to ensure the transformative potential of innovation and technology is enjoyed by everyone across Africa.

“The rapid pace of advances in innovation and disruptive technology taking place across our world provides an opportunity for these tools to be harnessed in Africa towards advancing sustainable industrialization, development, and growth. Importantly these advances present opportunities to leapfrog high-carbon models, spur green economic growth, and build resilient economies,” said Thomson.

“In the volatile global environment, in which we live, driving an economic transformation to secure the sustainable growth needed to eradicate poverty, build infrastructure, and support industrialization, requires a smart, innovative and integrated approach.”

He said the topic of the meeting today was of particular importance for both Africa, and the international community, as governments and partners look to scale-up implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

“With the sustainable development goals serving as a universal masterplan for building a safer, more prosperous, and more sustainable future for all, the need for catalytic action could not be clearer,” said Mr. Thomson.

He said the important question, that is not new however, is how governments and partners can work together to achieve sustainable development, and to ensure that the transformative potential of the SDGs reaches all people.

He said the question of ‘how’ to achieve sustainable development is made even more difficult when the compounding challenges facing African nations are considered.

“With many African economies largely reliant on natural resource exports, economic prospects are highly susceptible to external shocks, including price volatility and falling global demand,” Mr. Thomson told the high-level meeting.

Broader global challenges, he said, add to this economic vulnerability, including peace and security threats, humanitarian crises, rising terrorism and violent extremism, the large-scale movements of people, population growth, expanding inequality, environmental degradation, extreme weather events, and the destructive impacts of climate change.

He said while innovation and technology stand to revolutionise sustainable development, and drive economic growth, capitalising on this opportunity and turning the potential into outcomes requires the creation of enabling environments, at both national and international levels, to mobilise the financing, investment, and innovation needed.

These include sustaining peace as an economic imperative, and pursued as part of integrated efforts to prevent conflict, addressing its root causes, achieve sustainable development, and guard development gains from reversing.

He said policy and regulatory frameworks should be implemented to help build resilient institutions, strengthen governance, promote gender equality, ensure economic inclusivity, increase access to markets, diversify the economy, drive enterprise development, and create the decent jobs needed to ensure that Africa’s demographic dividend benefits the economy.

Strategic partnerships need to be established to bring together key stakeholders from across government at all levels, civil society, the private sector, and grassroots organisations, to drive inclusive and coordinated sustainable development efforts, added Thomson.

“And sustained support is needed from the international community for African-led efforts, including through capacity-building, investment, and technology transfer,” he said, adding efforts to strengthen the partnerships between the UN, the African Union, and sub-regional organizations, were also critical, including the Partnership on Africa’s Integration and Development Agenda, among others.

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