Mahe — The second annual retreat of the African Permanent Representatives and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) ended in Mahe, Seychelles, late Tuesday following two days of intense dialogue on key development priorities that can lead to accelerated development in Africa.
Debate on climate change took centre stage as Ambassadors and ECA experts discussed how the continent, in particular small island developing States (SIDS), can leverage new technologies and research to mitigate the impact and vulnerabilities they face due to their remoteness, frontline exposure and levels of development.
Africa has six SIDS namely Cabo Verde, the Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and Seychelles, all highly dependent on the coastal and marine sectors. Whilst their economies are faced with exacerbating climate threats, significant potential also exists to develop through the Blue Economy.
The retreat, which brought together representatives from 44 member States, discussed a number of important topics including appropriate response to climate issues, the next phase on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), how to stem illicit financial flows (IFFs) and the accelerated actions needed if Africa is to deliver the sustainable development goals by 2030.
All this as COP 25 is coming to an end in Madrid, Spain, where the international community is gathered to define concrete actions to use in facing the impact of climate change on peace, security and development.
The dialogue between the Ambassadors and the ECA at the retreat also follows the Climate Summit convened in September by the UN Secretary General António Guterres to raise ambition and increase climate action as the world races to limit climate change; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit and the UN Decade of Action.
The Ambassadors agreed in discussions that urgent action has to be taken now to help the continent build resilience.
They charged the ECA to continue working with member States and present them with viable actions to take to mitigate and adapt climate resilient strategies.
The retreat, which sought to deepen the consultative role of the Permanent Representatives and enhance their engagement with the ECA, also provided the ECA with an opportunity to engage member States on the work of the think tank and how to consolidate progress made over the past two days in supporting the drive for accelerated action on continental priorities.
In his closing remarks, Seychelles Health Minister, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, said climate change was a shared challenge that required collective responses from the continent and its leaders.
"We should continue to share experiences and innovative ways through which we can limit climate change," he said, adding he was grateful to the ECA and the continent for the solidarity they continue to show in supporting Africa's SIDS deal with climate impacts.
ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said the ECA was there to serve the continent and will continue to engage member States so they can work together more closely in coming up with solutions to addresses imminent challenges facing Africa.
"We at the ECA wake up every morning to serve you and the continent," she told the Ambassadors. "If we do better then you also do better for our continent. We will strive to do better as we seek to foster better collaboration in promoting consensus on Africa's policy responses to the challenges we face."
For his part, Morocco's Permanent Representative to the African Union and the ECA, Mr. Mohammed Arrouchi, Chair of the 52nd Session of the ECA's Conference of Ministers, said he was happy that the retreat had focused on climate change in recognition to its effects on the continent, particularly in the SIDS.
"We all now appreciate the urgent need to build climate resilience across the SIDS in particular," he said, adding urgency was of essence to address these vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Representatives and ECA colleagues observed a minute of silence for the late Tanzanian businessman, mentor and philanthropist, Ali Mufuruki who died Saturday in South Africa after a short illness.
"We have lost one of the ECA's greatest friends in Ali Mufuriki. He was a passionate advocate for Africa, the AfCFTA, the private sector and what it can do for the continent. Above all, he was a great mentor. He will be sadly missed," said Ms. Songwe.
Mr. Mufuruki was the founder of Infotech Investment Group, ALI East Africa, board chairman of Vodacom Tanzania and Wananchi Group Holdings, a trustee of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies, and co-author of the book Tanzania's Industrialisation Journey, 2016-2056.