UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday called for action to make Africa a success.

The world must see Africa for what it is: a land of enormous potential and resources, he told the inaugural meeting of the Global African Business Initiative (GABI). “Guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, we can and must shift the paradigm.”

Working together, governments and the private sector can create the conditions for success. Bold investments and new finance models can put the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of business models, he added.

Every sector of the African economy is growing, from manufacturing to agriculture, from services to finance. The continent’s vibrant, young population represents a dynamic workforce and a massive consumer and business market. And the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement will further accelerate investment and trade opportunities, he noted.

Unfortunately, Africa is facing tremendous headwinds and crises not of its own making, from COVID-19 and climate chaos to the Ukraine crisis; from growing inequalities, a cost-of-living crisis, and the reversal of the SDGs to a global financial system that is rigged against Africa and requires fundamental reform, said Guterres.

“But we are here together because we know the time has come for action based on a new narrative: highlighting the opportunities for new financing models and technologies, recognizing the emergence of Africa’s creative and cultural industries on the global stage, focusing on climate transition and transforming food systems, and ensuring the full participation of women, young people, and the African diaspora,” he said.

For example, Africa has huge potential to move away from fossil fuels. The continent boasts significant solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy sources that could make it a renewable energy leader. The transition to clean energy could create more than 6 million new jobs in Africa by 2050. And yet, it has received just 2 percent of global investment in renewables over the past decade, he said.

“Now is the time for innovation, for new public-private partnerships, for high-value jobs based on renewable technologies. There are opportunities in all sectors — from education and health care to finance and services,” said the UN chief.

“This inaugural Global Africa Business Initiative aims to transform these opportunities into ambitious business practices that benefit people. The United Nations is your steadfast partner in creating conditions for business success in Africa and around the world. And Africa remains our first priority in all what we do,” he added.

Guterres called for efforts to pool the potential of young people in all projects and initiatives and to ensure gender equality.

“Africa’s success is unstoppable, by any measure. The only question is whether the world seizes the opportunity to reap the global benefits of African business. Let’s work together to make it happen,” he said.

The launch of GABI was organized by the UN Global Compact in partnership with the African Union and several other UN agencies in Africa.

The two-day launch event is taking place in New York on the sidelines of the high-level week of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.

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