The Regional Programme for Africa: 2023 in review

February 2, 2024

As we mark one month into 2024, let’s take a moment to look back at the incredible year we recently bid farewell. Last year was packed with inspiring achievements and pivotal moments that have significantly shaped Africa's journey towards growth and global engagement. From exciting trade expos to groundbreaking leadership programmes, it’s clear that the continent is buzzing with energy and innovation. Enjoy our recap of highlights below, as we reflect on how UNDP continues to play a key role in bringing out the best in various sectors across our continent.

The African Continental Free Trade Area

In 2023, UNDP’s presence at events such as the Ghana Expo in Kenya and the Intra-African Trade Fair in Cairo positioned us as a key player in amplifying the trade potential of Africa’s youth and women, through market expansion, networking and knowledge exchange.

  • Ghana-Kenya Market Entry Expo

The Ghana-Kenya Market Entry Expo took place in May in Nairobi, Kenya, and proved to be a pioneer event for bolstering bilateral trade ties and accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement. The expo was a flurry of innovative products, conversations and opportunities. With over 70 businesses participating, it was a significant milestone for advancing free trade through the AfCFTA. Read the press release and watch the video.

  • Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023)

In November, the halls of the Egypt International Exhibition Center (EIEC) were filled with entrepreneurs from across Africa for the Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023). Nearly 50 entrepreneurs from 17 countries showcased their merchandise at the UNDP Africa pavilion, expressing the richness of the continent’s flavour, style and beauty through environmentally friendly and locally sourced products. In addition to exhibiting goods and services, the participants also presented their ideas, passion for creating and their commitment to achieve a common dream, the One African Market. The fair provided a platform for networking between businesses, while traders and investors could connect to explore opportunities. In this vibrant setting, conversations between entrepreneurs and key stakeholders took place during side events, including with AFREXIM Bank, the Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)[JW1] , the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and others. For more, read our and follow #UNDPatIATF on Twitter. press release and follow #UNDPatIATF on Twitter.

African Young Women Leaders Fellowship programme

On 20 July, the 38 fellows of the second cohort of the African Young Women Leaders (AfYWL) Fellowship Programme successfully graduated. The virtual ceremony was also attended by the fellows’ families, friends, mentors and supervisors, along with graduates from the first cohort. “Our hearts are brimming with so many memories, and our minds with so much knowledge gathered over the past 16 months,” said Tamiwe Kayuni, one of the fellows. The individual experiences of the fellows’ leadership journeys are poignantly captured in their Ubuntu storybook. Also read quotes from UNDP Africa’s Regional director and the Regional Service Centre for Africa director. Watch this video collage to celebrate their journeys.

Inclusive Transitions

Unconstitutional changes of governments (UCG) continue to pose a challenge on the continent. Against this backdrop, we launched our Soldiers and Citizens report, as well as the Africa Facility to Support Inclusive Transitions (AFSIT) in July last year.

  • Eight countries, 8,000 stories 

Our flagship report, Soldiers and Citizens: military coups and the need for democratic renewal in Africa, sheds light on critical issues of preventing UCG and strengthening democracy across the continent. The findings draw on an unprecedented citizen survey, and stand to drive positive change and enhance prospects for inclusive governance in Africa. Watch the movie, read the press release and visit to download the report and learn more.

Newsletter special edition Soldiers and Citizens

  • A collective action to deepen democracy

The launch of AFSIT, an AU-UNDP joint initiative, set the stage for supporting credible and inclusive transition roadmaps towards restoring democracy, stability and constitutional order in African countries. “AFSIT is a practical and pragmatic mechanism that is geared towards boosting the capacity of all actors in the democratic governance space,” said Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, at the official launch. Read the press release.

In September and October, AFSIT and the findings of the Soldiers and Citizens report were presented to key audiences in Africa, UK, the US and Europe. This included AccraNew York, Washington and various European capitals, including LondonStockholmBrussels and Copenhagen. Throughout the roadshow, we rallied support for inclusive ‘stay and deliver’ responses to complex political transitions.

AFSIT Monitor 1 

AFSIT Monitor 2 

  • AFSIT on the road
Regional Leadership Programme

In August last year, the new Regional Leadership Programme was introduced through a pilot Executive Leadership Programme, held in Kigali. Attended by newly elected and reelected governors from Nigeria, the programme cultivated a sharing platform and exchange of success stories between cities to create a cadre of executives equipped with the skills needed to drive impactful change.

Representing 19 states, the governors took inspiration from Rwanda’s transformational journey. Organized in partnership with UNDP and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the retreat, themed ‘Reimagining in a fast-changing world’, was an opportunity to rethink leadership and systems in delivering towards enhanced digital technology, urban planning leadership and socio-economic transformation. The governors concluded the retreat with a candid, private dialogue with His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. Read the press release.

Creative Economy: Centre Stage Africa dialogue

Centre Stage Africa brought together a diverse group of creative professionals from the film, music, fashion and tech industries across Africa. Over two days, experts highlighted challenges and identified strategies to enhance access to capital and markets, fostering growth and innovation. Gathering creative professionals from diverse fields, including music, film and fashion industries, the dialogue allowed for insightful discussions on harnessing the power of arts and culture for socio-economic development. Watch the highlights.

YouthConnekt Africa

Youth are at the centre of development and at the heart of our programming. The 6th edition of the YouthConnekt Africa2023 Summit took place in Nairobi from 8 to 11 December, bringing together youth innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders from across the continent, under the theme ‘Youth Innovating for a Borderless African Renaissance’. Our engagements included:

These engagements allowed us to demonstrate our unflinching commitment to placing youth at the centre of efforts to achieve the Africa We Want and Agenda 2030. Watch key moments.

Addressing the Climate Crisis

The most notable outcome was the adoption of the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action, which marked the conclusion of the summit and the start of a new chapter in socio-economic transformation, characterized by a distinctively African perspective. Watch the recorded live stream and high-level statements on the adoption of this historic declaration.

  • Watch official video highlights
  • Watch and read how Kenya, Somalia and Uganda are making the most out of climate solutions for the continent 
  • Watch: insights from a UNDP climate expert on the role of private sector funding 
  • Watch: analysis on Climate Week discussions

For more, read UNDP Climate newsletter, the Monthly Promise, September issue and use #AfricaClimateWeek hashtag to explore significant moments.

As the year drew to a close, UNDP’s participation at COP28 further emphasized the need to address the climate crisis through collective action.

Focus on the Sahel: Strong partnerships in and for the Sahel

The Sahel region has undergone substantial transformations in recent years, marked by joint efforts to restore peace and ensure sustainable development. In mid-October, UNDP Regional Director for Africa, Ahunna Eziakonwa, undertook a mission to the region, further strengthening UNDP partnerships and leveraging opportunities for sustainable peace, renewable energy, inclusive governance and the empowerment of women and youth.

Read the previous newsletters here:

Wrapping up, 2023 was nothing short of remarkable. It was a year where our projects and efforts across Africa shone, thanks to the teams’ spirit of resilience and dedicated efforts towards sustainable development. From the bustling scenes of the Ghana-Kenya Market Entry Expo to the engaging discussions at the YouthConnekt Africa Summit, each event and initiative added a brick to the foundation of a more inclusive, thriving Africa. Now, as we continue into 2024, we carry with us the insights, connections, and experiences from the past year, fully geared up to embrace new challenges and opportunities. We’re all set to keep making strides towards the future we all believe in. 

Africa Climate Week 2023 was hosted by the Kenyan government in Nairobi from 4 to 8 September, in parallel with the Africa Climate Summit, which took place from 4 to 6 September. The events marked a one-of-a-kind opportunity to shape the first-ever Global Stocktake, culminating at COP28 in the UAE this December. Leaders from across Africa came together to address the climate crisis head on. Dynamic discussions revolved around four essential tracks: energy, cities, land and societies.