UNDP Africa Regional Director champions multilateralism, trade and investment during her visit to Uganda

January 31, 2024

H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and delegates at the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) and China Conference (Third South Summit) in Kampala, Uganda.

UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa visited Uganda as part of the UN delegation to attend the Group of Seventy-Seven (G77) and China Conference (Third South Summit), hosted by the Government of Uganda. The G77 and China is the largest intergovernmental group of emerging countries in the United Nations. Established in 1964, its goal is to help developing nations promote their economic interests and to foster cooperation among developing economies in the Global South. The 2023 G77 convened under the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’, focused on enhanced cooperation among the 134 member states in the areas of trade, investment, sustainable development, climate action, poverty eradication, digital transformation and other development priorities.

At the opening of the Summit, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the important role of multilateralism as a tool for global prosperity.

“Currently, the population of the G77 and China represent 80 per cent of the global population,” said H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. “In addition, its GDP accounts for more than 40 per cent of the global GDP. As the G77 and China, we should continue to work collectively to ensure that we achieve an international economic order that is just and equitable.”

“Sixty years ago, recognizing the need for unity and solidarity in the face of common challenges, the G77 was born,” said Mr. António Guterres, who stressed the need for global cooperation to reduce poverty and inequality, support growth, and build resilience in developing countries. “Over the decades, you have been an engine for South-South cooperation and development; lifted millions of people out of poverty; and provided a powerful voice for developing countries on the global stage.”

“Today, you are the largest grouping of the global South, representing 80 percent of the world’s population. And your solidarity and partnership are essential to building a sustainable, peaceful, and just world for all.”     

UNDP, government and university leaders launch the Makerere University Innovation Pod (UniPod)

On the sidelines of the G77 Summit, Ms. Eziakonwa on behalf of UNDP launched the Makerere University Innovation Pod (UniPod) alongside Hon. Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Monica Musenero. The Makerere Unipod is part of the 13 UniPods to be established across the continent under UNDP’s timbuktoo initiative, a new development model that aims to transform Africa’s public universities in to centres of innovation. Through timbuktoo initiative UNDP aims to mobilize and invest US$ 1 billion of catalytic and commercial capital to transform 100 million livelihoods and create 10 million new jobs over the next 10 years. timbuktoo, the UNDP’s pan-African approach to supporting startups focuses on the whole startup ecosystem by connected government policy, universities, corporate institutions, development partners, catalytic partners, and commercial investors.

The Makerere University Innovation Pod (UniPod), which will create a space for young people to leverage their creativity for good, provides a unique opportunity for the exploration of development solutions that are contextualised and responsive to development challenges facing communities in Uganda and Africa at large. Established strategically within Makerere University, the UniPod will seamlessly link with research and knowledge already in place at the institution through its faculty of technical experts and is designed to tap into the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of young people to promote impact-driven entrepreneurship, foster innovation, and influence business solutions to address youth unemployment on the continent. The 200-capacity UniPod is open to all Makerere University students as well as members of the public on request.

“Innovation is a core part of the ecosystem of industrialization. Today, we gather to launch a space for young people to create the future and solutions that will transform Uganda, Africa and the world. This is a vote of confidence – for Africa’s youth, and I have the firm conviction that Uganda is one of those beacons where the ideas that will transform our world will be birthed.” said Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa.

UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa addresses participants at the Women Leaders’ Dialogue

As part of her visit, the Regional Director engaged with Uganda’s leading women entrepreneurs at a dialogue hosted by UNDP to explore how women and women-led enterprises can best utilize opportunities within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and how women’s leadership can help to address development challenges in sectors of strategic interest to Uganda.  

The AfCFTA, established among 55 African Union Member States, offers a unique opportunity to generate employment, unlock market opportunities, capital and financing necessary to expand economic growth opportunities and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 of the African Union. 

Ms. Eziakonwa challenged Ugandan women in business, acknowledging that, ultimately, it will take them to make the AfCFTA a reality. “We should pivot our efforts to actions that ensure that women are utilizing the opportunity presented in the One African Market. Our examples today confirm that there is action on the ground, that things can work, but also that we need much more action – concerted action – to ensure that women can transcend in their success to the next level.” she further emphasized.

UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa meets with young innovators at Uganda’s National ICT Innovation Hub

Africa is teeming with youthful energy and untapped potential, boasting the world’s youngest population. More than 60 percent of the continent’s population is under the age of 25 while Uganda has the second youngest population in the world with 74 percent of the population below the age of 30. 

While in Uganda, Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa visited the National ICT Innovation Hub, where she met young entrepreneurs, innovators, ecosystem builders, thought leaders and students. Conversations with the youth explored the necessities required for youth to influence how Africa creates value, prosperity, economic opportunity and inclusivity for of all in the emerging development opportunities.

In partnership with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, UNDP has refurbished and operationalized the National ICT Hub as a space for Uganda’s youth innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups to ideate, collaborate, create, commercialize and scale up their innovative ideas that have the potential of accelerating Uganda’s digital transformation journey.

UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa meets with UNDP staff in Uganda

UNDP staff in Uganda were also delighted to interact with the Regional Director during her mission. The Uganda team shared how they are championing the UNDP strategic plan and offer for Africa through innovative development solutions that are positively transforming lives while ensuring that no one is left behind. 

Ms. Eziakonwa commended the team noting that “The innovative ideas and inspiring stories of impact shared illustrate a collective sense of agency, relentless efforts and commitment to building resilient and sustainable communities.” 

In Uganda, UNDP’s contribution to the country’s development journey is multifaceted and aligned with national development priorities. It encompasses key areas such as poverty reduction, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, governance, peace and security, environmental sustainability, gender equality, and resilience-building. Through tailored interventions and partnerships, UNDP supports Uganda in harnessing opportunities, addressing challenges, and steering toward sustainable and inclusive development.