Africa is “a dynamic continent of opportunity where winds of change are blowing ever stronger”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday.
Guterres expressed the opinion at the opening of the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), taking place in Yokohama, Japan.
A statement by the UN quoted the Secretary-General as saying that African nations had made ‘significant progress’ in developmental efforts in the last few years.
According to him, the continent has witnessed advancements in areas such as growth sustenance, promotion of gender equality and strengthening of governance since the last conference in 2016.
Guterres said technology had a great potential to work as a catalyst in the continent’s developmental efforts.
“Technology and innovation are central to unleashing Africa’s vast potential for the shared vision of leaving no one behind,” he said, highlighting the theme of this year’s meeting.
“Since its launch 26 years ago, the summit-level meeting has evolved into an open, inclusive and multilateral forum.
“The role of TICAD is critical in drawing international attention and support for the continent.
“TICAD 7 may provide tremendous impetus to help Africa harness the power of technology and innovation for its sustainable development,” he said.
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The UN Chief called for international collaboration in maximising the use of modern tools, according to the statement.
He emphasised the importance of bridging communications gaps to and within African countries in the digital era.
This, he noted, falls under the umbrella of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a milestone treaty which took effect on May 30.
Guterres stated that trade facilitation would reduce the cost of doing business, improve the continent’s competitiveness and overall potential.
To this end, he stressed that priority must also be given to nurturing education.
“A lack of sufficient investment in education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can hold back Africa’s growth and deprive its youth of opportunity,” the Secretary-General said.
Guterres also called for collective efforts to address “the growing climate emergency,” noting that while Africa is minimal in its contributions to the scourge, “it is in the first line of suffering its dramatic consequences.”