UN General Assembly Debate: 21st Century can be ‘African Century’ for Development

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By Sunny Peter | September 26, 2013 5:46 PM EST

Stressing the importance of international solidarity in setting a new long-term global development agenda, leaders of African nations told the General Assembly that if the development agenda is properly managed, the world could see the 21st century becoming an "African century."

African Union Office (Wikimedia Commons)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, speaking in both his national capacity and as chairperson of the 54 member-State African Union (AU) told the annual General Assembly on the second day that the 21st century could very much be an African century.  

"With its enhanced peace and stability, rapid economic growth, natural resource endowment and a growing middle class, Africa is certainly on the rise and this is attracting a lot of attention from the rest of the world," Prime Minister Dessalegn said.

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Dessalegn (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

"The 21st century will be an African century if indeed we harmonize our efforts to maintain and indeed speed up the rapid economic growth that Africa has been registering for the last decade or so. We have every reason to be optimistic that African renaissance is indeed around the corner."

Africa attaches paramount importance to the post-2015 agenda, the Ethiopian Prime Minister said, stressing the need to galvanize international support to ensure that the successes achieved in implementing the MDGs, despite shortfalls, are sustained and the continent's development priorities beyond 2015 are fully taken on board.

The development priorities range from ensuring continent-wide food security to industrialization to educating youth and upgrading their skills.

Highlighting the multi-dimensional expansion of cooperation between the AU and the UN, Prime Minister Dessalegn added: "A lot remains to be done to further enhance the cooperation and partnership between the African Union and the United Nations in the context of the changing dynamics both within Africa and the world at large."

In his address at the General Assembly, President Macky Sall of Senegal underscored the need for greater investment in education, training and youth employment, modernizing agriculture, making electricity accessible to all, and developing infrastructure to foster trade and investment.

President of Senegal Macky Sall (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

"Despite the progress registered after more than a decade of MDG implementation, the magnitude of the challenges is still overwhelming," he said.

"The daily lives of close to a billion people have barely improved with regard to access to food, housing, education and health care. Women continue to die in childbirth. Inequalities persist within and between countries. The economic crisis is getting worse. We need to take concrete and resolute actions to translate our collective ambition into reality," President Sall said

Noting that socio-economic development is crucial in paving the way to continent-wide peace, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, said the post-2015 agenda "raises in a pertinent fashion the dialectical linkage between development, peace and security."

President of Burkina Faso Blaise Compaoré, (UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)

"We thus have a chance to focus our reflections on a new vision towards global progress based on strong international solidarity for sustainable development," President Compaoré pointed out.

In his address, Transitional President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar  noted that his country, like most African nations, is having difficulty in reaching all the MDGs despite its best efforts.

President of the Transition of Madagascar Andry Nirina Rajoelina (UN Photo/Ryan Brown)

"Faced with this situation I am prompted to ask what contribution we, the nations' highest authorities, can bring individually to this collective search for ways and means to improve the daily lot of the people who have entrusted us with their destinies and afforded us their trust," he asked.

Stressing the vital need for global financial and technical support for sustainable development after 2015, King Mswati III of Swaziland pointed out: "The provision of adequate financial resources, transfer of environmentally sound technologies, and technical assistance to developing countries is critical if we are to achieve our global objectives."

Swaziland Head of State King Mswati III (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

He called on developed countries to honour the pledges they have already made.

"Ensuring food security and good nutrition remains a priority and should feature prominently in the Post-2015 Development Agenda," he added.

He also warned of the serious drawback climate change poses for developing countries.

President Paul Biya of Cameroon, in a statement read by the country's Foreign Minister Moukoko Mbonjo, said the Post-2015 Agenda must emphasize the creation of decent jobs as an engine for economic growth and sustained development.

In his reported address, President Biya emphasised the need to tackle environmental issues and reform "the entire international economic and financial system."

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