African Leaders Address UN General Assembly, Emphasizing SDGs

The Earth is heating up more quickly, accompanied with war and inflation, poverty, water, and food insecurity, the issues are getting worse by the day.

The scope and expense of humanitarian needs are increasing. Inequality is also getting worse.

It was for these reasons that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda were reviewed by heads of state and government at the UN headquarters in New York recently, providing high-level political guidance on transformative and accelerated actions leading up to the 2030 target year for achieving the SDGs. This article will examine the speeches made by some African leaders in UNGA 2023.

At the UNGA 2023-2024, under the theme, ‘Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all,’ the presidents of Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Kenya made captivating statements expressing their dedication to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa. Their speeches offered insights about the advancement of sustainable development in their respective countries as well as their outlooks for the future.

In the same vein, at the opening of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), highlighting the urgency of progress in achieving the SDGs, particularly in eradicating poverty and ending hunger, the incoming President Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago stressed thus, “There is a need for immediate action on climate change, ecosystem restoration, and waste reduction.” To ensure prosperity “where development is in deficit,” Francis called for enhanced financing, technology, debt sustainability, and capacity building.

78th UNGA: Unlocking Africa’s Potential Amidst Global Challenges – President Tinubu

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu delivered a compelling speech at the 78th United Nations General Assembly, emphasizing the importance of Africa’s development, democratic growth, and combating climate change. He drew parallels between the aftermath of World War II and Africa’s current predicament, emphasizing the need for commitment and partnership to overcome challenges and realize Africa’s potential. Tinubu highlighted the need for African development to be a priority for the international community, addressing skewed economic structures, fostering economic growth, and promoting democratic governance. He also emphasized the need to eliminate extremist groups in Africa and call for the international community to strengthen its commitment to halting arms and violent individuals in West Africa. Tinubu also addressed the issue of securing mineral-rich areas in Africa and preventing exploitation, citing examples of countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffering from resource exploitation. He called for African nations to fight climate change on their own terms, aligning climate initiatives with economic development efforts. In conclusion, Tinubu’s address serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting Africa in its quest to overcome limitations, realize its potential, and contribute significantly to global development.

“We realize that underlying conditions and causes of the economic challenges facing today’s Africa are significantly different from those of post-war Europe.

We are not asking for identical programs and actions. What we seek is an equally firm commitment to partnership. We seek enhanced international cooperation with African nations to achieve the 2030 agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

There are five important points I want to highlight

First, if this year’s theme is to have any impact at all, global institutions, other nations and their private sector actors must see African development as a priority, not just for Africa but in their interests as well.

Due to both longstanding internal and external factors, Nigeria’s and Africa’s economic structures have been skewed to impede development, industrial expansion, job creation, and the equitable distribution of wealth.

If Nigeria is to fulfill its duty to its people and the rest of Africa, we must create jobs and believe in a better future for our people.

We must also lead by example

To foster economic growth and investor confidence in Nigeria, I removed the costly and corrupt fuel subsidy while also discarding a noxious exchange rate system in my first days in office. Other growth and job-oriented reforms are in the wings.

I am mindful of the transient hardship that reform can cause. However, it is necessary to go through this phase in order to establish a foundation for durable growth and investment to build the economy our people deserve.

We welcome partnerships with those who do not mind seeing Nigeria and Africa assume larger roles in the global community.

The question is not whether Nigeria is open for business. The question is how much of the world is truly open to doing business with Nigeria and Africa in an equal, mutually beneficial manner.

Direct investment in critical industries, opening their ports to a wider range and larger quantity of African exports and meaningful debt relief are important aspects of the cooperation we seek.

Second, we must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of the sovereign will and well-being of the people. Military coups are wrong, as is any tilted civilian political arrangement that perpetuates injustice.

The wave crossing parts of Africa does not demonstrate favour towards coups. It is a demand for solutions to perennial problems.

Regarding Niger, we are negotiating with the military leaders. As Chairman of ECOWAS, I seek to help re-establish democratic governance in a manner that addresses the political and economic challenges confronting that nation, including the violent extremists who seek to foment instability in our region. I extend a hand of friendship to all who genuinely support this mission.

This brings me to my third crucial point. Our entire region is locked in protracted battle against violent extremists. In the turmoil, a dark channel of inhumane commerce has formed. Along the route, everything is for sale. Men, women and children are seen as chattel.

Yet, thousands risk the Sahara’s hot sand and the Mediterranean’s cold depths in search of a better life. At the same time, mercenaries and extremists with their lethal weapons and vile ideologies invade our region from the north.

This harmful traffic undermines the peace and stability of an entire region. African nations will improve our economies so that our people do not risk their lives to sweep the floors and streets of other nations. We also shall devote ourselves to disbanding extremist groups on our turf.

Yet, to fully corral this threat, the international community must strengthen its commitment to arrest the flow of arms and violent people into West Africa.

The fourth important aspect of global trust and solidarity is to secure the continent’s mineral rich areas from pilfering and conflict. Many such areas have become catacombs of misery and exploitation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered this for decades, despite the strong UN presence there. The world economy owes the DRC much but gives her very little.

The mayhem visited on resource-rich areas does not respect national boundaries. Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, CAR, the list grows.

The problems also knock on Nigeria’s door

Foreign entities abetted by local criminals who aspire to be petty warlords have drafted thousands of people into servitude to illegally mine gold and other resources. Billions of dollars meant to improve the nation now fuel violent enterprises. If left unchecked, they will threaten peace and place national security at grave risk.

Given the extent of this injustice and the high stakes involved, many Africans are asking whether this phenomenon is by accident or by design.

Member nations must reply by working with us to deter their firms and nationals from this 21st-century pillage of the continent’s riches.

Fifth, climate change severely impacts Nigeria and Africa. Northern Nigeria is hounded by desert encroachment on once-arable land. Our south is pounded by the rising tide of coastal flooding and erosion. In the middle, the rainy season brings floods that kill and displace multitudes,” he read.

Kenya: President Ruto’s Vision for Peace and Security

“Hundreds of millions of people are besieged by anxiety about their present and future security, dignity and prospects of well-being,” Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto disclosed this while stressing the important of peace and security in achieving the SDG goals. “The failure of peace and security systems, inadequate development and limited climate action, amidst technological advancement and enormous wealth, has left a state of paralysis, enduring one of the darkest periods of human existence,” he said.

In youth development and growth, he lamented that, “The tragic spectacle of young people from Africa boarding rickety contraptions to gamble their lives away on dangerous voyages in pursuit of opportunities abroad, as conflict, climate and economic refugees, is a testament of the failures of the global economic system,” adding that each year 30 million young people need jobs and many more need food while half of Africa is in the dark without access to electricity in 2023.

He discussed extensively on Kenya’s achievements in fostering peacemaking, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, digital innovation and increasing internet access, particularly in rural areas. He lamented the unlawful changes to government, saying, “Kenya is proud of the efforts it continues to make in its tireless effort to promote peacemaking, conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and other interventions performed across diverse regions

President Ruto buttressed on the consequence of digital inclusion for possibilities in education, healthcare, economy and the peace initiatives supported by Kenya. “There is no better investment opportunity for capital and technology than the enormous potential of Africa. Such investments will promote green growth, generating employment and prosperity while reducing carbon emissions from global production and consumption, he emphasized, adding that no significant climate action or development can occur in times of economic hardship.

He urged the international community to help African countries build their digital infrastructure and to use technology to hasten the achievement of the SDGs. He mentioned a delegation of six African Heads of State to Moscow and Kyiv with a 10-point peace plan and efforts to start a mediation process between the Russian Federation and Ukraine as only one of the peace measures Kenya supports.

Rwanda: President Kagame’s Call for Inclusive Growth

The pertinence of inclusive growth was emphasized in the opening of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s speech. He emphasized that no one should be left behind by economic progress and reaffirmed Rwanda’s commitment to eradicating poverty and providing everyone with access to high-quality healthcare and education. President Kagame also discussed Rwanda’s creative strategies for achieving these objectives, such as investments in clean energy and technology. “Africa and small island developing States, many of which are represented in the Commonwealth, want to work with partners and be part of the solution,” he stressed, pointing to an important outcome of the recent Africa Climate Summit, held in Nairobi. “However, we must not only cool down on climate; we must also cool down on conflict,” he pointed out, stressing that innocent lives are left alone to carry the burden of this instability.

His speech, which urged nations to cooperate in order to reduce economic inequalities and establish a more equitable society, struck a chord with the world community. “Africa urgently needs to be fully represented in bodies where decisions concerning its future are made. Just as urgently, Africa must be fully prepared to speak with one voice.”

“Rwanda is very happy to be associated with these efforts, which show the United Nations at its best,” he said, drawing attention to the Third United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries, which his country will host in June 2024.

Zimbabwe: President Mnangagwa’s Environmental Commitment

In his speech, Zimbabwean President His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa discussed the importance of environmental sustainability, emphasizing on the terrible effects of climate change on Africa and urged prompt action. Zimbabwe’s measures to tackle climate change, including forestry programs and investments in renewable energy, were described by President Mnangagwa. In order to address the climate catastrophe and safeguard the environment for future generations, he also underlined the necessity of international cooperation.

The Sustainable Development Goals have made unequal progress, while global solidarity has been put to the test and self-interest has trumped cooperation, he said.

He further urged that stepping up investments in people and communities by guaranteeing everyone has access to high-quality education, healthcare, clean water, and sanitation. “We have a duty to reignite our commitment to the principles of the 2030 Agenda and rekindle the spirit of multilateralism,” he said. Following the recently completed 2023 harmonized general elections, he declared, “Zimbabwe continues to entrench democracy, constitutionalism, good governance, and the rule of law.”

Mentioning a programme to sink solar-powered boreholes in each of the country’s 35,000 rural villages and schools, he emphasized: “Alongside each of these water points are commercial nutritional gardens for the empowerment of women and youth.” Stressing the importance of global solidarity, he said that no nation, no matter how powerful, can stand alone to realize sustainable and inclusive development.

Common Themes: A Call for African Unity and Global Collaboration

While each President spoke about various SDGs, a unifying theme emerged: the significance of African unity and international cooperation. They stressed the need of international cooperation to overcome common obstacles and realizing the SDGs. African leaders urged the international community to stick to its pledges to support financially and technically those African nations working to achieve the goals.

At the UN General Assembly, these presidents made exceptional statements which shows a total demonstrated on their commitment to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Their comments expose the significance of environmentally sustainable growth, digital transformation, and inclusive growth in achieving the global agenda for a more wealthy and just society. These leaders made a passionate appeal for cooperation solidarity and partnership, demonstrating how we can all work together to create a sustainable future for Africa.

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