Towards 2030: A Roadmap for Africa's Promise - A Vision for the Continent

In pursuit of Africa's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a dynamic dialogue unfolded at the University of Tokyo. The UNDP and IFI partnered to explore challenges, triumphs, and a transformative blueprint for a brighter Africa.

September 10, 2023

Dr. Raymond Gilpin (left) discussing with student panelists at the University of Tokyo

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa

The continent has witnessed remarkable progress in economic growth and human development. However, the persistent inequality gap remains a troubling concern, exacerbated by the compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adverse impacts of climate change, and the war in Ukraine. These factors have set back many of the gains achieved thus far. Consequently, an increasing number of African countries are encountering difficulties in their pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Rather than seeing these challenges as insurmountable obstacles, they were perceived as catalysts for transformation—opportunities for innovation, cooperation, and solidarity. They served as the crucible in which Africa's resilience was tested and refined. Amidst these challenges, a symphony of triumphs emerged—a recognition of Africa's remarkable achievements. Democracy had firmly taken root, economies had flourished, markets had expanded, and the continent had begun to reduce its historical reliance on foreign aid.

In terms of a blueprint for progress, the UNDP's unwavering commitment to structural economic transformation, natural resource governance, a just transition to sustainable energy, and the empowerment of women and youth stood as the foundation for a sustainable future. These commitments were not mere words on paper; they were a clarion call to action—an actionable roadmap for nations and a guiding compass leading towards a brighter tomorrow.

Building on UNDP's collaboration with the University of Tokyo since 2018 and the upcoming TICAD 9 scheduled for 2025, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Institute of Future Initiatives (IFI) at the University of Tokyo, hosted a student lecture at the University of Tokyo. The aim was to provide Japanese youth with an opportunity to learn and exchange ideas regarding medium- and long-term strategies and visions for African development within the context of the evolving global landscape. 

The event included four student panelists from the University of Tokyo, engaging in a discussion with Dr. Raymond Gilpin, the Chief Economist and Head of the Strategy, Analysis, and Research Team at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, and attracted approximately 40 participants, primarily comprising students from various academic levels.

"We've seen the transformative changes in the world over the past five years, including the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on poverty eradication, the Ukraine conflict's geopolitical consequences, and the persistent challenges of climate change. The University of Tokyo's commitment to diversity and dialogue through the "UTokyo compass" and its evolving role in addressing global challenges. The university is actively seeking collaborations with Global South countries, with a focus on Africa, to make tangible contributions to the global community." said Dr. Aya Suzuki, Professor of the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo. 

Mr. Toshiyuki Sassa, a third-year undergraduate student majoring in International Relations in the College of Arts and Sciences, initiated the conversation by asking how marginalized groups like women, children, and people with disabilities can actively participate based on the principle of 'nothing about us without us,' rather than being passive beneficiaries in the context of African economic development. "Gender inclusion in Africa isn't just about human rights; it's also an essential economic reality. There are strong economic benefits to women's involvement and inclusion. UNDP works on special projects and offices dedicated to women and gender to promote these goals," answered Gilpin. 

Sassa's second question was about youth involvement in Japan. Gilpin stressed the importance of engaging the global youth generation in policy discussions related to African development, given the challenges of long-term investment and short-term financing opportunities in the region.

Ms. Tapang Relindis, doctoral students majoring in International Cooperation Studies at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, raised questions concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically focusing on lessons and strategies for African countries to enhance self-reliance during global shocks. Gilpin emphasized the pandemic's role as a wake-up call for Africa to strengthen its healthcare sector and advocated for better regional collaboration and resilient economic management.

Ms. Yuna Tamamura, doctoral students majoring in International Cooperation Studies at the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences also raised questions regarding the Involvement of local citizens with difficulties to voice out and safeguarding methods in UNDP's projects and ways economists and researchers can build respectful relationships with them. "The vital role of safe spaces for local citizens in driving societal change. UNDP's multi-sectoral teams prioritize societal aspects in their projects to ensure inclusivity," answered Gilpin. 

Tamamura's second question revolved around how UNDP conducts its projects considering the diversity of stakeholders and their power-balance in consultation process, which hinder the most vulnerable people to voice out. Gilpin pointed out a distinctive feature of UNDP: its country offices staffed by locals, enabling effective communication, culturally aligned events, and a deep understanding of community dynamics.

Lastly, Mr. Naohiro Takahashi, a second-year graduate student enrolled in the Graduate School of Public Policy, posed questions about Gilpin's expectations for African private sectors and startups, as well as Japan's contributions to African development. Gilpin advised African startups to understand their continent's economic ecosystem better to increase their chances of success. Regarding Japan's collaboration with Africa, he acknowledged the achievements of the long-standing partnership between the two but expressed hope for a more synergistic relationship in the future.


Group photo: left to right – Dr. Aya Suzuki, Mr. Naohiro Takahashi, Ms. Yuna Tamamura, Ms. Hideko Hadzialic, Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Ms. Tapang Relindis, Mr. Toshiyuki Sassa

Photo: UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa