A good afternoon to you all and a very warm welcome to Rwanda. I wish to particularly thank President Lungu, Vice President Howard-Taylor, and Chairperson Moussa Faki, together with all the esteemed guests, for finding the time to join us today.

Rwanda is proud to serve as host of the SDG Centre for Africa. This institution is a true global partner, which embodies the commitment and expertise needed to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

I wish to commend Dr Belay and his team for the excellent work they have been doing to make the path forward both clear and actionable. A prime example is the SDG Centre’s new Africa 2030 Three-Year Reality Check, which I now have the honour to officially launch.

As an African, this report makes for sobering reading. On almost every Goal, our continent is not on track to achieve the 2030 targets. Even the best amongst us are lagging behind the rest of the world.

This would not necessarily be discouraging if the rate of change was high. We all know where Africa is coming from and how much catching up we have to do.

However, on too many indicators the pace of progress is stagnant or even declining. The facts cannot be avoided and merit our full attention.

I know you have had a rich discussion earlier this morning, and we have just heard important statements from Dr Songwe, on behalf of the United Nations, and Chairperson Moussa, on behalf of the African Union.

So let me just offer two brief thoughts for your consideration.

First, the positive perspective. The SDGs are universal and ambitious, meaning they set targets that apply to countries at every level of economic development. Achieving the SDGs therefore represents the attainment of a significant level of prosperity and well-being, not merely the elimination of extreme poverty.

In my view, it is preferable for Africa to aim high, even if it takes longer to get there, than to aim low and congratulate ourselves for doing the minimum.

So long as we in Africa understand that it really is within our power to achieve these goals, we are going to be fine.

But it will not happen by accident. We have to do the right things and find the money to pay for it, including investing in strong national statistics agencies.

So, the second point is about the SDG financing gap in Africa, which the report estimates at between 500 billion and 1.2 trillion dollars per year.

Whose problem is this?

On the one hand, the SDGs are a global compact, which is very meaningful. But development assistance is not growing, and it is reasonable to expect that trend to continue. Foreign investment is also flat.

On the other hand, speeding up progress toward the SDGs is first and foremost our problem and responsibility as Africans. We live in an inter-dependent world and we work closely with partners. But the political leadership on this topic has to be heard most strongly from African voices.

This is critical for bringing all stakeholders together and maintaining momentum. And yes, we also have to pay as much of the cost as we can with our own resources, which are, by the way, not inconsiderable.

It is therefore significant to learn in the report that remittances from the African diaspora are now the largest source of external income for our continent. This shows, once again, that we lack for nothing in Africa except a sense of urgency.

The idea to establish dedicated African funds for education, water, and health has a lot of merit. This is an opportunity to work with Africa’s partners in new and better ways to deliver human-scale projects that directly touch the lives of farmers, families, and schoolchildren.

We are already one-quarter of the way to 2030. Africa can definitely make up for lost time, but we need a much faster pace. As we prepare for the SDG review summit later this year in New York, our goal should be to bring new energy and focus to the process. The work of SDG Centre for Africa and the deliberations at this conference are critically important in that regard.

I wish to thank all of you once again for your participation, and I look forward to joining my sisters and brothers in the next session for an interactive conversation. Asanteni sana.