UNCTAD’s 60th anniversary pre-event: Maximizing Africa's potential

Statement by Rebeca Grynspan, Secretary-General of UN Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

UNCTAD’s 60th anniversary pre-event: Maximizing Africa's potential

[Video message]
04 June 2024

Leveraging Demand for Critical Minerals to Boost Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development

Your excellency, Mr. Antonio Pedro, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa

Your excellency, Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Thank you for your leadership and supporting this event today.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, dear friends,

It is an honor to address all of you gathered today in Addis Ababa, thanks to the support of our friends at the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

The UN Trade and Development 60th anniversary celebrations are only a few days away.

And the subject of critical minerals and sustainable development could not be more pertinent.

Sixty years ago, the UN Conference on Trade and Development was established to address the global demand for a fairer economic system. Since then, we have been a cornerstone in promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth worldwide. To ensure that globalization benefits all.

And to empower developing nations to draw their own maps towards prosperity

Today, the world struggles with unprecedented challenges.

And UNCTAD's mission remains as vital as ever. Climate change, conflict, economic fragmentation, and low-growth, burdening debt and weak trade and investment, threaten to unravel decades of progress.

These moments of adversity put us to the test.

We must reaffirm our commitment to multilateralism, to cooperation, and to a shared vision of the world.

This is what UNCTAD at 60 is all about: We build on our legacy to face the future head on and generate new answers to the burning questions of our time.

Dear friends,

Africa stands at the forefront of both: challenges and opportunities.

This is true especially when it comes to climate change.

Africa only contributes 4% to global greenhouse gas emissions but bears the heaviest burden of the climate disaster.

Yet, Africa also holds the key to a sustainable energy future.

Powered by the critical minerals beneath its soil.

Cobalt, manganese, graphite, lithium are not just elements on the periodic table.

They can be the building blocks of a new era –powering our homes, driving our vehicles, and connecting our world. Catalyzing a green revolution that can lift millions out of poverty and create a fairer world.

But to realize this vision, we must break free from the past. We must reject the extractive model that has kept resource-rich nations dependent and poor.

Instead, we must embrace a new paradigm that prioritizes domestic value addition, fosters regional integration, and empowers local communities.

The African Continental Free Trade Area, and intra-African supply chains can lay the groundwork for this transformation.

To envision an Africa that not only exports raw cobalt, but also becomes a hub for cutting-edge battery manufacturing.

An Africa that doesn’t just ship manganese but forges steel for resilient infrastructure.

An Africa that transforms phosphate rock into fertilizers to nourish its agricultural potential, ensuring food security and prosperity for generations.

This is an Africa that is economically diversified, structurally resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

This vision of Africa requires addressing the inequities in the resource sector.

We need fair and transparent mining contracts to ensure that Africans benefit from their natural wealth.

These agreements must be environmentally safe and allow economic diversification.

Policies must link large-scale mining with local industries, while strong resource management systems are essential to prevent depletion as technology advances.

Your excellencies,

UN Trade and Development is proud to support Africa. Africa is the top recipient of our technical cooperation programmes, from port customs automatization and informal cross-border trade to debt management, building productive capacities and leveraging the AfCTA and digital economy.

Today’s event highlights our commitment to providing cutting-edge research and technical support on critical minerals, including our active involvement in the UN Secretary-General’s panel on critical energy transition minerals.

As we look ahead, let’s embrace the spirit of innovation, collaboration, and determination that has defined UNCTAD's work for the past 60 years. Let’s build on the lessons learnt, adapt to today’s challenges, and seize new opportunities.

Together, we can ensure Africa's mineral wealth drives transformation, inclusive growth, and a brighter future.

This is our shared vision, common purpose, and pledge to the people of Africa.

Thank you.