Private sector’s critical role for Africa’s development and SDGs highlighted at TICAD7 during UNDP chief’s visit to Japan

August 30, 2019

TOKYO - The Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) closed today in Yokohama, Japan. The Conference, held between 28 to 30 August and co-organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Government of Japan, the African Union Commission (AUC), the World Bank, and the United Nations, took place under the theme of “Advancing Africa’s development through people, technology and innovation.” UNDP was represented with a strong delegation led by Achim Steiner, Administrator and Ahunna Eziakonwa, Regional Director for Africa.

The private sector plays a critical role in the development of Africa and in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Steiner. “We need business, society and government - all hands-on deck to make the social and economic transformation required for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP is committed to support countries in mobilizing the huge potential of the private sector to invest in SDGs-enabling activities, especially in Africa, which is at the heart of our development work.”

During TICAD7, Steiner engaged in various dialogues with African and Japanese thought leaders of the public and private sectors, international organizations, and civil society. He emphasized the importance of economic transformation through innovation and business, sustainable and resilient society, and peace and stability, in line with the conference theme.

TICAD7 focused on business-based innovative solutions for inclusive and sustainable economic and social transformation in Africa. In developing countries, the private sector constitutes 60 percent of GDPs, 90 percent of jobs and 80 percent of capital flows. The continent also boasts abundant natural resources and a growing population, having seen six out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. Despite progress made on the SDGs, there is a huge funding gap, as it is estimated that Africa needs between 600 billion and 1.2 trillion US dollars per year to implement the SDGs. 

In the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 endorsed at the end of the three-day discussions, UNDP committed to further reinforce human capital development, especially for youth and women, as well as provide support to entrepreneurs to realize economic and social transformation. Steiner stressed the need to harness digital technologies to allow for better access to information and finance so that even those furthest behind can benefit from technological innovations for shared prosperity.

As a concrete measure, UNDP has launched a network of 60 Accelerator Labs serving 78 countries, out of which 36 are in Africa. The labs will be used to test and scale–up new solutions to tackle complex challenges, learn from each other and make faster progress on the SDGs. As an integrator, UNDP is committed to connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life.

“The private sector is a critical development partner. The problem is not lack of money, but rather about connecting it with innovative ideas on the ground. It will require mobilization of public and private expertise, network and all other resources to bring synergy,“ Steiner said.

With the aim of enhancing win-win partnerships between the Japanese and African private sectors and generating business-based solutions for the SDGs, UNDP launched two partnership frameworks for cooperation with Japanese actors during TICAD7. These are: a tripartite partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) focusing on small- and medium-sized enterprises, and a bilateral partnership with Japan Association of Corporate Executives to advocate for engagement of the Japanese business community in Africa. The signing ceremony of the UNDP-JICA-JETRO partnership was attended by JICA President, Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka and JETRO Chairman, Mr. Nobuhiko Sasaki. The UNDP Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa signed the two agreements on behalf of UNDP.

UNDP hosted side events on universal health coverage (UHC), digital economy, and SDGs localization, and a business pitching event for Japanese and African start-ups.

In the event on SDGs localization co-hosted with Kanagawa Prefecture, a prefecture known for leading initiatives on the SDGs, Steiner signed a partnership framework for cooperation with its Governor, Mr. Yuji Kuroiwa to accelerate engagement of local governments in Japan towards the SDGs achievement.

Prior to attending TICAD7, Steiner started his visit to Japan with the first-ever joint event with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on innovative financing and business management towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The event was supported by Japan Business Federation and kicked-off with remarks from the METI State Minister, Mr. Yoshihiro Seki.

Japan is a vital partner for UNDP and the second largest government donor with a total of USD 346 million contribution in 2018. During the visit, Steiner also met with Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, Justice Minister Mr. Takashi Yamashita, and Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy, Mr.Takuya Hirai among others. He congratulated Japan for the successful organization of TICAD7 and thanked the country for its steadfast support on critical issues such as human security, global health, disaster risk reduction, rule of law, and innovation.