Africa Urged to Drive Economic Transformation Through Innovation, Technology.

UN General Assembly


Mr Peter Thomson, President, United Nations General Assembly, has urged African leaders to take advantage of innovation and technology to drive sustainable development, infrastructure and industrialisation.

A statement obtained from the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) made this known on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal, venue of the ongoing African Development Week which began on Thursday.

Thomson said that harnessing the potential would require effective leadership to champion the necessary reforms to ensure that the potential of innovation and technology were enjoyed by everyone across Africa.

“The rapid pace of advances in innovation and disruptive technology taking place across our world provides an opportunity for these tools to be harnessed in Africa towards advancing sustainable industrialisation, development and growth.

“Importantly, these advances present opportunities to leapfrog high-carbon models, spur green economic growth and build resilient economies.

“In the volatile global environment in which we live, driving an economic transformation to secure the sustainable growth needed to eradicate poverty, build infrastructure and support industrialisation, requires a smart, innovative and integrated approach.”

He said that with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), serving as a universal master-plan for building a safer, more prosperous and more sustainable future for all, the need for catalytic action could not be clearer.

He said that what was most important was how governments and partners could work together to achieve sustainable development and ensure that the transformative potential of the SDGs reached all people.

According to him, the question of how to achieve sustainable development is made even more difficult when the compounding challenges facing African nations are considered.

“With many African economies largely reliant on natural resource exports, economic prospects are highly susceptible to external shocks, including price volatility and falling global demand.”

He said that broader global challenges added to the economic vulnerability, including peace and security threats, humanitarian crises, rising terrorism and violent extremism.

Thomson said that large-scale movements of people, population growth, expanding inequality, environmental degradation, extreme weather events, and the destructive impacts of climate change also added to the challenge.

In a related development, Takiwaa Manu, Director, Social Development Policy Division at the ECA, said that cities and urban spaces played a critical and leading role in fast-tracking the AIDS response and actions.

He said this at a panel discussion also at the conference in Dakar on ways of ending AIDS in Africa under the theme, “Ending the AIDS epidemic as an economic investment: Creating human resources in cities and most affected regions.”

He said that this would determine national and global success in ending the epidemic by 2030.

“With high population density, cities account for higher proportion of people living with AIDS and other diseases.

“The risk and vulnerability to Tuberculosis and HIV infection, for example, are always higher among urban youth.”

According to the statement, the New Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS was adopted by all member states during the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS in June 2016.

The declaration calls on countries to fast-track the AIDS response towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“There is also the 90-90-90 target, which means that by 2020, 90 per cent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status.

“About 90 per cent of all those diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained anti-retroviral therapy, and 90 per cent of all people receiving it will have viral suppression.’’

Badara Samb, Director of Special Initiatives at the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), explained to participants that achieving the 90-90-90 target was imperative and urgent.

“If we achieve 90-90-90 by 2020, we’ll be able by 2030 to claim the end of the AIDS epidemic, but at the same time if we do not achieve this by 2020, we will be living with the HIV/AIDS epidemic for generations. As of today, we are at 60-77-81”

Samb, however cautioned that this goal might be hampered by the current shortage of health workers in many countries.

Citing World Health Organisation figures, he said that about two million community health workers were needed to meet the 2020 target.


-Folasade Folarin