22 November 2017

South Africa: Minister Jeff Radebe - Responsible Business Forum On Sustainable Development

press release

Speech by Jeff Radebe South African Minister in The Presidency: Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development in Singapore

"An African Leadership Perspective on Accelerating SDG Action"

Tony Gourlay, Chief Executive - Global Initiatives

Malcolm Preston, Global Sustainability Leader, PwC

Musdhalifah Machmud, Deputy Minister of Food & Agriculture Coordination, Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairs, Indonesia

Kiatchai Sophastienphong, Vice Minister for Finance, Thailand

Honoured Guests, CEOs, Leaders, Activists and everyone gathered - thank you for inviting me to address the Singapore edition of the "Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development".

The introduction of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 provided a global masterplan for ensuring an equitable, sustainable and prosperous future for all, by 2030. And, in a rather unique quirk of fate, driving and implementing these aspirations, and impacting millions of those living in extreme poverty, for the better, would also serve to celebrate and honour the life of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela. It would give impetus to the expressed wish of one of our global citizens who said: "Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."

Admittedly, the successful implementation of the SDGs will require a bold, integrated and collaborative approach to development, balancing inclusive growth in a rapidly changing world. A world that includes Africa as a frontier of development, growth and opportunity. I can submit with no fear of contradiction that Africa is on the march and making progress with the implementation of the SDGs. There is now a continent-wide momentum evident, driven by both the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the UN SDGs, to ensure that we remain committed to, and build, a prosperous Africa through attaining inclusive growth.

The SDG framework has set the platform for even greater progress, and with the right level of commitment from government, business, trade unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), there is an unprecedented opportunity for all of us to collectively catalyse development and make poverty history, in our lifetime.

Responsible Business Forum

Allow me, just for a moment, to underscore the noteworthy efforts of the Responsible Business Forum in driving the SDG agenda.

In particular, the Africa event held earlier this year, from 31 August to 1 September 2017, which convened more than 400 participants over two days at the Maslow Hotel, in Johannesburg, South Africa was very well received and a great success.

I have had occasion to read your report and so I think it is only appropriate that we thank you sincerely for all your superb efforts. We stand fully behind you as South Africa and Africa in delivering on these efforts.

Accelerating inclusive growth

Accelerating inclusive growth to deliver on the SDGs must be at the centre of all our deliberations and actions in Singapore. This is both critical and urgent: what we think, what we plan, and how we respond with decisive actions to address these almost intractable plights and challenges must be part of the defining features of our deliberations, in Singapore, over the next two days.

The world, just like us here in South Africa and Africa, are looking for sharper answers, for better solutions and for higher-impact outcomes. In Africa, more particularly, the dual commitment to the SDGs and to the implementation of the AU's Agenda 2063 informs the vision and plan to build a more prosperous and sustainable Africa within the next 50 years.

The importance of the AU Agenda 2063 is emphasised within the 2030 SDG Agenda where it is considered as an integral part of achieving its goals. Both these agendas are truly transformational and unifying as it provides us with a blueprint and an action plan for a better world.

Public Private Partnerships

It is my view too, that no single stakeholder, be it government, the private sector, the trade unions or the NGO sector will be able to deliver on the SDGs, on their own. The private sector shares many of the same interests and goals as governments in terms of creating more resilient, prosperous and inclusive societies and markets, since business also needs stable societies in order to thrive.

We must therefore push so much harder to ensure that we activate business to deliver accelerated impacts on the SDGs through areas such as breakthrough innovation, new business models and meaningful partnerships. The private sector possesses the utility and power of innovation and the ability to create many of the solutions needed to address the challenges the world is facing today.

However, we are truly up against a wall. We have less than 5000 days to 2030 to meet and deliver on the SDGs, we need to mobilize businesses to scale up their impacts significantly. We need many more companies to accelerate their investments and business activities to deliver on the global goals. As governments we must commit to do the necessary - to provide the necessary regulatory environment and the requisite policy certainty required over this time. We need to commit to the long term much more prodigiously and consciously.

I am pleased to inform that this year's UN Private Sector Forum did indeed address a key driver for the SDG agenda - financing. New financial instruments and products that combine development aid with public and private investments can indeed eliminate some of the risks associated with private investments with a long-term return.

Public-private partnerships have the capacity to promote and spur innovation and leverage new technologies that can then be scaled up or replicated for wider impact.

We know, for example, that the mobile telecoms sector in Africa has shown some great examples not only of innovation for development through mobile cash transfers and the use of mobile technology to advance health and education, but also of partnerships with governments to widen the scale of these efforts and then replicating these models.

Here is the staggering reality - by 2030, about 60% of people in Africa will be living in cities, with numbers as high as 80% in some countries. This rapid urbanization is an excellent opportunity for public-private partnerships to direct investment towards creating more sustainable cities, new employment opportunities through innovation, entrepreneurship, and improved health and sanitation systems.

We have witnessed public-private partnerships have led to new transportation infrastructure in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Nigeria. This served to link millions of people in cities and providing cleaner and more energy-efficient means of transport. It is about ensuring no-one gets left behind.

How can Africa overcome this?

Let me acknowledge that we need to do more on the continent, particularly in terms of building the capacity of local networks and their ability to meet the ambitious goals set forth in the SDGs and the Agenda 2063.

Sometimes when we start a long journey, it can be hard to see how far we have gone. Towns begin to look the same, and the destination seems as far away as it did when one started. The journey towards achieving the SDGs will feel the same. The destination appears far, and many of us are unsure of the progress we are making. This certainly must improve.

The god news is that more countries are putting SDGS at the heart of our own national development plans. To date, 64 countries have voluntarily reported on their implementation of the SDGs with 43 of them sharing their national experiences at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, in September 2017.

This is also why I feel so exceedingly privileged and pleased to be with you today to evidence, in person, my unreserved commitment, and that of my country, at the highest possible level, and share some thoughts for your consideration.

Financing

Let me also note that as regards financing the SDGs, official development assistance remains important, especially for the poorest nations, but it's not enough to implement the SDGs. I recall, that as part of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the multilateral development banks agreed to a collective mobilization of $400 billion over a 3-year period. This has proven to be quite challenging. We must explore alternatives - the mobilization of domestic resources, the reduction of illicit financial flows, and provision of policy advice to help countries attract private investment. Developing countries could increase domestic resource mobilization anywhere from 2% to 4% of their GDP.

South Africa's progress

In South Africa, we continue to align our lodestar the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 with that of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs. The symmetries are there and we are witnessing significant progress. Our main challenge has to do with rolling back poverty, unemployment and inequality. The NDP, Vision 2030 advocates for the living standards of the poor to be raised to a minimum level, and for this to be achieved, South Africa has to create jobs in order to have the majority of the people in employment, particularly women who are mostly affected by poverty, increase levels of income through productivity growth, a social wage and good-quality public services.

All of these challenges are intertwined. For instance, improved education will lead to higher employment and earnings, while more rapid economic growth will broaden opportunities for all and generate the resources required to improve education.

The NDP, Vision 2030 presents a long-term strategy to increase employment and broaden opportunities through education, vocational training and work experience, public employment programmes, health and nutrition, public transport and access to information. While there are "quick wins" to be achieved in each of these areas, the strategies will take time to have a large-scale effect on poverty.

One of the key issues underpinning both the NDP and the SDGs is the necessity for an integrated approach to development that incorporates all sectors of society and fosters a mind-set and behavioural shift of ownership and agency. Inclusive growth must therefore be a defining collective endeavor involving government, business, labour and civil society recognising their shared destinies.

Conclusion

The UN 2030 Agenda is without doubt our boldest agenda for achieving human progress. This colossal effort is not about what individual people, governments, business and organisations do alone - it is about what we can and must do, together, to better support our efforts in implementing such a boldly transformative agenda.

So, as Nelson Mandela so aptly coined it: "Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."

It falls upon us to reflect on the necessary step change that must be effected. But, change for the better, sooner rather than later, we must. Perhaps, too much of what we have been doing is rooted in the past instead of being linked to the future we want-as stated so definitively in Agenda 2030, Agenda 2063 and the National Development Plan?

Our master plans, including the UN Agenda 2030 charts the pathways and has to be given life as the defining agenda of our time, because it is the pre-eminent integrated platform to respond to the needs of people and governments, across the globe.

As ever, I await a report of your deliberations in Singapore, with eager anticipation, as I wish you all the very best!

Thank you very much.

Issued by: Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation

South Africa

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