unctad.org | COMESA Heads of State Summit
Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
COMESA Heads of State Summit
Kinshasa DR Congo
25 Feb 2014


Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2000, United Nations member States agreed to cut world poverty in half, as part of the Millennium Development Goals. Today, I will speak about the legacy of these Goals for Africa, and for COMESA, as we approach their target date in 2015. The next set of development goals, the Sustainable Development Goals, can help end world poverty, including in Africa. But this ambitious task requires your guidance and leadership in crafting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda.

But first, what is the legacy of the Millennium Development Goals for Africa?

Over the past 15 years, the narrative of Africa has changed, and our focus on achieving the MDGs has played a key role. Today, Africa is among the world's fastest growing regions. As a result, there has been a steady progress in the reduction of extreme poverty. Moreover, the goal of cutting child hunger in half by 2015 is close to realization.

But poverty in Africa has not been cut in half, despite increased trade and despite commendable growth. Important targets - such as the health goals - remain unmet, and discrepancies among countries are still a cause of deep concern. We are painfully aware that 34 of the 49 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the world are located in Africa, including 12 of the 19 COMESA countries.

There is no doubt that the MDGs have focused attention on a set of clear and reachable goals, and have galvanized efforts to achieve them. However, the MDG framework focuses largely on mitigating social deprivations, rather than on a sustained process of structural transformation.

By ignoring structural transformation, the MDGs have bumped up against a number of obstacles, particularly in Africa. Let me cite three of these obstacles.

One obstacle is that rapid growth has not created decent jobs - which are key to reducing poverty. The numbers of young people looking for better jobs across the continent are huge - in some cases they are greater than the population of entire countries. If the number of productive and decent jobs which will have to be created each year is not achieved, poverty and international emigration rates will rise. Jobs also promote social stability and prevent ethnic conflict and violence.

Another obstacle is inequality, which hampers the structural transformation of Africa. In COMESA, the export structure is often concentrated in a few sectors. In contrast, the poor and marginalized groups mostly work in non-traded sectors, which are dominated by low-productivity and low-technology activities. As long as the majority of the population lacks the income to buy food - let alone to pay for other consumer products - there is little chance of generating the mass consumption and production that is needed to transform the structure of African economies.

A third obstacle is related to global economic governance, most notably the global trading system. The slow progress with the Doha Development Round negotiations at the World Trade Organization is cause for concern. A supportive multilateral trading system is essential for promoting industries and investment that can build Africa's competitiveness and transform African economies. The package agreed in Bali at the end of last year has some welcome features but it is no substitute for successfully concluding the Round.

On jobs, on inequality, and on a fair global trading system, African leadership is essential. And it is African leadership that must ensure these issues are addressed in the next set of development goals, which follow the MDGs beyond 2015.


Let me now turn to the Sustainable Development Agenda and the opportunities as well as challenges it presents for COMESA, indeed for all Africa, going forward.

The global image of Africa has been changing at lightning speed and in a manner unprecedented in living memory. Africa is no longer viewed as a continent of destitution, deprivation and hopelessness. Increasingly we hear Africa depicted as a "more hopeful continent" since it has become one of the world's fastest growing regions. "Rising Africa"- must sustain these recent gains to translate the current growth into job creation, poverty reduction and structural transformation. The Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda provides the opportunity to move in this direction.

Now, the clock is ticking. The time period set for the MDGs ends next year. The post-2015 Development Agenda will set new Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs that are far more ambitious in scope than the MDGs. In addition to carrying forward the momentum of the MDGs to end extreme poverty, the SDGs will embrace new challenges, such as climate change.

To ensure our approach to these new challenges still addresses the remaining obstacles we face, Excellencies, you may wish to urge your colleagues in other regions about the importance of promoting livelihoods and building productive capacities to ensure structural transformation. These are the economic foundations of sustainable development. Sustainable Development Goals are, first and foremost, Development Goals. Sustainable development with a big S and a small D will not meet the expectations of a majority of humanity, and certainly not of the African continent.

We must recognize the scale of the task we are setting ourselves, and match ambition with action. For example, if we are truly aiming to fully eradicate poverty by 2030, we would need the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa not merely to repeat China's miracle, but to actually do better than China has over the last 20 years. And, we must do so in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Now, I believe this is possible, but the scope and ambition of the SDGs will require a significant scaling-up of investment to generate productive capacities, clean technologies and sustainable infrastructure. Estimates of the total requirements vary, but they are all orders of magnitude beyond what has been achieved to date. The investment needs for sustainable development in Africa alone are huge. The region will require over $70 billion a year in infrastructure investment in pursuit of the SDGs from 2015 through 2030. Currently, less than half that amount is provided for. There is therefore a significant challenge in finding financing.

Given that public sector sources are already stretched, and ODA financing is shrinking, it will be essential to find ways to mobilise the private sector, in partnership with the public sector, to meet the post-2015 challenge.

We should look to new and innovative sources of finance, at home and abroad, to meet our development challenges. The upcoming UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014: Investing in the SDGs will examine some of these issues. We must continue to hold donor countries to account, but we must also build a broader coalition of finance for the SDGs.

Here, COMESA will have an important role to play in defining and facilitating a regional strategy. COMESA can promote an attractive business climate whilst ensuring the gains from investment and trade have the greatest impact on sustainable and inclusive development.

COMESA can also serve as model of regional integration, by embracing what we at UNCTAD call "developmental regionalism." This is a more development-based approach to integration, which pays as much attention to building productive capacities and private sector development as to the elimination of trade barriers. Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa as a whole should refocus their attention on the goal of economic cooperation and integration. Over the past few decades, there was a shift of attention from economic cooperation to conflict prevention, management and resolution. I do appreciate the importance of peace and security issues. Nevertheless, if we want the RECs to produce more concrete results on economic integration we have to find alternative platforms and structures for dealing with peace and security issues, perhaps by making the African Union play a more active role in this area.


I wish to call for COMESA's strong commitment to help design this transformative post-2015 development agenda.

Since I took office in September last year, I launched a series of informal Dialogues among the "Geneva Trade Hub" on these questions of trade and development in the post-2015 Agenda. We have in Geneva much knowledge and expertise that can enrich the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, particularly on how to implement the Agenda through a renewed global partnership and a fair and equitable trading system. We had a first session of our dialogue last November. The next dialogue will be held on 4th April this year. I am counting on the support of your Geneva based delegations for the success of this dialogue.

I am asking for your commitment because I believe the time is now to chart a new narrative and a new transformative vision of the future for the African continent.

But I need not remind you that COMESA's role in the post-2015 Agenda has already begun, and will need to continue, to be strongly felt as we work to finalize what the Sustainable Development Goals will actually look like. Deliberations on what specific goals will drive the Sustainable Development Agenda are already underway across the United Nations system. Many COMESA countries have contributed to the consultations which took place last year, in which over one million voices were heard around the world. 11 out of the 19 COMESA states held consultations and contributed reports to that first leg of the process. And let me assure your countries' voices were heard. But your engagement cannot end there.

Setting the post-2015 Agenda offers the opportunity for Africa and its leaders to craft the Continent's transformative development agenda for decades to come. Instead of policies and strategies being prescribed to the continent from outside, Post-2015 presents Africa the opportunity to define its own priorities and put in place policies and strategies that feed into the global development architecture beyond 2015. A step in the right direction is the African Union Common Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. It envisions African development goals to serve as milestones for tracking and monitoring progress within existing continental frameworks, like Agenda 2063.

The formal negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals will begin in September at the 69th session of the General Assembly session. To prepare for this, an Open Working Group has been debating new goals in New York and an Intergovernmental Committee has been looking at their financing. If the Agenda is to sufficiently represent Africa's development priorities, Africa will have to bring to the table its unique expression of priorities.

I wish to assure you that UNCTAD stands ready as an engaged and eager partner of COMESA countries in this endeavour. Our integrated approach to trade and development issues can help COMESA countries to make a final push on the Millennium Development Goals and to carry the momentum forward through into the post-2015 Agenda. As you work closely together to increase intra-African trade and investment in support of Africa's structural transformation and poverty reduction, know that UNCTAD's integrated expertise is at your disposal to support your efforts.

Thank you!


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