New York, 25 September 2018
Good afternoon. I am happy to be here, and I thank the Concordia Co-Founders for the kind invitation.
General Assembly week is always a good opportunity to see where the global conversation is headed. There are a few cross-cutting issues that keep coming up again and again.
First, jobs for young people. As you may know, the Secretary-General launched the ambitious United Nations Youth Strategy yesterday. Youth employment is a central policy challenge in many developing countries.
In Rwanda, for example, more than 70 per cent of the population is under age 30. We have averaged economic growth of more than 7 per cent per year since 2001, but our labour market must still accommodate a very large number of new, young job-seekers each year.
This youth bulge is an unusual demographic profile that will characterise Africa for a few decades more. It will drive economic growth and urbanisation, so it is a net-plus. But we need to have the right planning and investments in place to take full advantage, while avoiding negative side-effects.
A second major theme is using information and communication technology to close the capability and productivity gaps between economies.
For example, at the most recent meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, which I happen to co-chair with Carlos Slim, we highlighted an important milestone: More than half the world’s people are now accessing the internet. That is why our group’s current focus is advocating for the partnerships and regulatory frameworks needed to make access to high-speed broadband both universal and affordable.
Third: Finding new and better ways for the public and private sectors to collaborate. The two initiatives I mentioned above both have a multi-stakeholder character. Policy-makers, business leaders, and civil society are joining together to search for solutions. No entity can address today’s global challenges alone. The scale of expertise and financing required is simply too large.
Progress depends on the wider ecosystem and enabling environment. Governments have a job to do, and so do companies. But with a bit of coordination, we can reinforce each other’s efforts.
We can see good alignment with Concordia’s three focus areas for its expanded engagement with Africa (youth employment and entrepreneurship; financial inclusion through technology; and expanding trade and investment in Africa). There is therefore good potential for developing new, innovative partnerships.
For example, the Smart Africa Initiative, which has its Secretariat in Kigali, is a natural partner for technology and data analysis collaborations on our continent. There may be some good synergies to explore by bringing these networks together. For youth entrepreneurship and international trade, the African Union Commission is an important interlocutor, in addition to engaging with the respective national institutions.
As you may be aware, the African Continental Free Trade Area, which was signed earlier this year, will make Africa a single trading bloc for the first time. Industrial and infrastructure investments will become more attractive and viable, and the volume of trade is set to increase significantly, both within Africa and with the rest of the world.
Economic and social transformation requires many actors to take consistent action over the long-term. But this cannot be directed, only encouraged and facilitated. Platforms, such as this one, that foster the joint pursuit of shared values and goals are increasingly valuable.
Sustainable, large-scale impact depends not only on what we do, or how much we spend, but also on the ability to shape how others choose to spend their time, resources, and attention. The Concordia network’s growing focus on Africa is therefore most welcome, and we look forward to seeing many of you next year in Rwanda and in our East African region.
May I thank you very much once again, especially for your kind attention.