9 July 2013

Africa: UN Report Provides Roadmap to End Poverty

guest column

At this September's meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, governments will discuss elements of the development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015.

Recently, I was proud to serve as a member of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a group convened by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to recommend such a plan.

After engaging with more than 5,000 civil society groups and numerous other stakeholders from around the world to discuss their priorities, we published our report on May 30, outlining how the world can finally eradicate extreme poverty and achieve sustainable development.

How can we achieve such transformations in Africa? I believe that to realize the world that the report envisions, Africans must prioritize six of the panel's recommendations.

First, we must focus on structural economic transformations to make development sustainable. While the approaches of different countries will differ, all must focus on fundamentals such as building the skills base of their workers, supporting small firms, investing in research and development, and finding new ways to innovate. Creating an environment where the private sector produces more good and decent jobs is also critical - especially for our continent's large youth population.

Second, we must achieve inclusive growth by connecting everyone to the modern economy by giving them access to quality infrastructure. Without investing in electricity, irrigation and quality roads and telecommunications, we will neither be able to grow our economies nor manage our energy use and pollution levels.

Third, we must re-orient development discussions to focus on national ownership, by putting national governments at the forefront of the process of transforming our goals into reality. This will allow us to account for country-level conditions, since nations starting in different places cannot be expected to reach the same absolute targets.

Fourth, we must prioritize equity and social inclusion. We cannot measure progress by averages. We must ensure that development benefits all people, regardless of their race, gender, disability, age or other status.

Fifth, the report envisions rights and responsibilities for all people.

It calls for a new global partnership in which citizens, their governments, civil society, the private sector and international institutions come together to think collectively and differently about ending poverty. We must incorporate the outcomes of other African and UN forums, such as Rio+20.

Finally, we must build peace and effective, open and accountable public institutions. As the report clearly states, peace and good governance are at the very core of individual well-being - they are not optional extras.

Africa has been at the forefront of much of the enormous progress made over the past thirteen years on the Millennium Development Goals, in large part because of the involvement of citizens and civil society.

Now, to ensure that every African citizen enjoys economic opportunity and human rights, it is critical for individuals, organizations, the private sector and governments to come together and redouble our efforts to drive the change that we have already proven is possible. The panel's report provides an enormously valuable roadmap to help Africans do so.

Amoussouga Gero is the director of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Economics and Management at the University of Abomey, where he specialises in research on African economic development. He heads the Economic Analysis Unit of the presidency of the Republic of Benin.

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