Helen Clark: Keynote Address at the JICA Symposium on The Tokyo International Conference for African Development

Nov 30, 2012

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Keynote Address at the JICA Symposium on
The Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD)
United Nations University HQ, Tokyo, Japan
30 November 2012, 5pm (local time)

I am very pleased to be able to attend this symposium hosted by JICA, because of the strong partnership between UNDP and Japan, and our shared commitment to development in Africa. This co-operation takes place under the framework of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), and today we reflect on its two decades of support for Africa.

TICAD’s Role in African Development
TICAD has played a critical role in raising global awareness on African development since 1993.  Over that time, it has provided valuable and strategic direction on development assistance to Africa, most notably through the 1998 Tokyo Agenda for Action which proposed concrete human development targets. These later served as building blocks for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Furthermore, the central tenets of TICAD IV, from boosting economic growth to ensuring human security, achieving the MDGs, and addressing environmental issues and climate change, remain essential for inclusive and sustainable development in Africa.

Since its inception, TICAD has promoted the twin principles of “ownership” and “partnership” as fundamental to African development. The inclusion of the African Union as a co-organizer for TICAD V is the latest reflection of the ownership by Africa of TICAD’s approach.

The TICAD process has also consistently encouraged the active engagement of a wide range of development partners, including Asian nations, Africa’s traditional bilateral partners, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society, and it has emphasised South-South and triangular co-operation.

In response to the evolving global context and to Africa’s needs, TICAD has transformed itself from being a forum for dialogue into becoming more action-oriented.  The establishment of the TICAD Follow-Up Mechanism at TICAD IV, including the annual Ministerial Follow-up Meeting and Progress Reports, helps ensure more effective implementation, transparency, and accountability in support of development efforts in Africa.

Africa’s Development: Trends & Drivers
Today’s symposium provides us with an opportunity to assess critically some of the imperatives which will shape Africa’s development and which should be taken into account in the lead up to TICAD V.

Sustaining Africa’s economic growth.
It is important to note that Africa has turned its back on the economic stagnation of the 1980s and 1990s, and has been experiencing more rapid economic growth. Between 2003 and 2011, sub-Saharan Africa’s real GDP grew at an average rate of 5.2 per cent, notwithstanding the slowdown caused by the global crisis in 2008.

The medium-term prospects remain very good for Africa, with sixteen of the 29 projected fastest growing economies in the world between 2012 and 2014 being in the region.

Economic growth in Africa has not only come from resource-rich economies and middle-income countries, but also from low-income countries which are not natural-resource-rich. As sources of growth diversify, the prospects for continued growth in Africa improve. There are still risks, however, including the prospect of worsening economic conditions in developed economies and inflationary pressures. Continued attention needs to be given to mitigating the impact of such risks on the most vulnerable people.

Making the benefits of growth more broadly shared.  While economic growth rates need to remain high, the benefits of growth need to be more broadly shared.  In many African countries, high and increasing inequality and the composition of growth across economic sectors hamper the effectiveness of growth in reducing poverty. Limited distribution of the benefits of growth is visible across the continent through continuing high poverty levels (around half the total population), illiteracy, prevalence of avoidable diseases, and high maternal mortality rates.  

Slow productivity growth in the rural sectors – where the majority of the labour force in the region is engaged – is a key factor in the limited impact of growth on poverty. The region still faces the challenges of underdeveloped infrastructure, low fertilizer use, degraded soils, and overall lower public investment in agriculture compared to other regions. For growth to contribute to human development, it needs to be broadly‐based and labour‐intensive, and to take place in sectors where the largest proportion of the poor are involved. 

Reducing vulnerability and building resilience. Political and social instability remain a threat to economic prosperity and development on the continent. The effects are particularly devastating where instability deteriorates into conflict. The consequences of that are also felt by neighbouring countries, with effects ranging from refugee flows to disruption of production and trade. This calls for continuing attention being given to addressing the drivers of instability and conflict.

Greater resilience also needs to be built to shocks, not least those caused by extreme climate events. Poor households in Africa often lack access to sufficient credit, insurance, and other income-smoothing mechanisms, and are frequently unable to maintain the consumption levels which can support human development during times of adversity.

Putting social protection policies in place builds resilience. It is also an investment in future development, because it helps preserve gains already made. To the extent that social protection nurtures social capital and cohesion, it can also mitigate some of the sources of instability and conflict.

 Embracing the sustainability agenda. Sustainable development approaches are critical for advancing the well-being of current and future generations. African countries face the challenge of achieving much-needed advances in human development without replicating the unsustainable practices of others. Development co-operation needs to focus on how to support strategies and plans for building low carbon, climate resilient nations.

Promoting youth employment. Africa has a very young population. Those aged under fifteen made up 42.5 per cent of the continent’s population in 2009 - twice the share in East Asia and Pacific, and almost three times the share in the European Union.

Depending on how African countries invest in their youth, the continent’s young population could be either a blessing or a challenge in the future. If youth cannot become productive members of society and thus feel marginalized, this will have negative consequences for political and socio-economic stability. Africa can realize a substantial demographic dividend if it invests in the potential of its young people and creates opportunities for them.

Unleashing the transformative power of women. Women are key actors in Africa’s economies, but their full potential is as yet unrealized. Measures need to be taken to grant women in rural and urban settings equal rights in every respect to ensure their economic, social, and political empowerment. The multiplier effects of investment in women and girls are very significant for development.

Addressing food insecurity. More than one in four Africans is undernourished and food insecure. In 2008, almost 240 million people in Africa were undernourished – around twenty million more than five years before. The extent of food insecurity in Africa is a paradox, given that over the last decade most African economies improved their economic performance and overall human development ratings. As a matter of urgency from now until 2015, enhancing food security must be at the top of the policy agenda.

Food security is about having the means to access food – whether by purchase or production. Without gains in agricultural productivity, however, the virtuous cycle of more affordable food and higher rural incomes cannot be fully unleashed. The most dramatic development and poverty reduction gains in history have gone hand-in-hand with sharp increases in agricultural productivity.

 Making a final push towards meeting the MDGs. Economic growth needs to be accompanied by targeted pro-poor policies which address both poverty and hunger. Such policies should include investments in expanding economic opportunities, strengthening legal rights, and enhancing the participation of women.  Inclusive and pro-poor growth also requires an increase in targeted investments in basic social services like schools, hospitals, and rural health centres, and in human resource development across Africa. It requires education and health policies which enhance access to services for all, and especially now for women and girls. The evidence is clear that empowering women improves progress across the MDGs.  

Defining an ambitious post-2015 agenda. Africa’s voice must be heard in the process of defining the post-2015 global development agenda. A characteristic of the MDGs was that while they focused on poverty reduction and other social outcomes, they were silent on how those outcomes could be achieved. In the post-2015 agenda, the drivers of development need to be well understood and nurtured.

TICAD Partnership with Africa: Current & Future Support
The TICAD process should continue to evolve and respond to the shifting priorities, needs, and drivers of change across the region.

UNDP looks forward to building on successful initiatives in critical areas, such as:

  • MDG acceleration and defining the post 2015 global development agenda. The credibility of the post-2015 global development agenda will be enhanced by accelerating action now on the current generation of MDGs. There is more to do. The MDG Acceleration Framework backed by the UN development system is being successfully applied in more than forty countries. Support from the TICAD partners will help ensure that more countries achieve more goals and targets.
  • Consolidating peace. Under TICAD IV, UNDP and Japan worked together to implement integrated human security programmes in eight African countries. These programmes aim to empower people in vulnerable communities to reconcile their differences in peaceful ways.

In northern Ghana, for example, UNDP works with five sister agencies and national partners to strengthen local capacities for peaceful conflict resolution, including by training opinion leaders and young people. The UN Trust Fund for Human Security principally funded by Japan makes most of this work possible. The need for such work will remain high during TICAD V.

  • Consolidating democracy. Japan has supported UNDP’s work on elections in at least eleven African countries over the past four years. In Liberia, and elsewhere, support has been given to presidential and parliamentary election processes because of their importance for consolidating peace and democracy.

Going forward, TICAD V could usefully expand on these efforts by taking an holistic electoral cycle approach. Such support helps strengthen the underlying capacity of countries to manage their own electoral processes at each stage, and ultimately improves their capacity to hold credible, nationally owned, and peaceful elections. Such efforts can include enabling electoral management bodies to work independently and effectively; expanding voter education and registration to excluded groups; and improving systems for planning, monitoring, and budgeting for the conduct of elections.

  • Coping with the impact of climate change. UNDP is working with Japan to develop the capacities of African countries to cope with the impact of climate change through the Africa Adaptation Programme. All twenty priority countries have developed adaptation plans, and started their implementation. An example of an initiative in this area is Nigeria’s Automated Weather Service (AWS), which has been introduced to support community-based co-operative farmers’ associations to enhance their rice production. The need for support for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change is greater than ever, and will need on-going support during the time frame of TICAD V.



In defining TICAD V, we need to build on and learn from what is working in African development.  Our partnership should promote sustainable development, inclusive and resilient societies, and the promotion of peace, stability, and human security. The three strands of sustainable development – economic, environmental, and social – must be acted upon simultaneously – an approach which UNDP has labelled as “triple wins for development”. 

South-South and triangular co-operation will be increasingly important drivers of these efforts, and the contributions of the private sector and civil society are growing fast too.  The role of TICAD as a catalyst for action-oriented international co-operation and partnership is more important than ever.

Over the years, UNDP has been privileged to be a TICAD co-organizer with Japan. UNDP’s human development efforts closely mirror Japan’s and TICAD’s priorities, and reflect a broad and ambitious approach for and support to the continent. We look forward to working closely with Japan and other partners for the continued success of the TICAD process and its contribution to Africa’s development.

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