From 3 to 5 March 2022, the eighth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, was held in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme of “Building forward better: a green, inclusive and resilient Africa poised to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Agenda 2063.” The ARFSD is an annual multi-stakeholder platform organized jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) and the Host Government in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, and other entities of the United Nations System. It brings together Ministers, senior officials, experts, and practitioners from UN member States, the private sector, civil society, academia, and UN organisations. Accordingly, the 2022 Forum was organized jointly by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Government of the Republic of Rwanda in collaboration with partners outlined above. President Paul Kagame opened the high-level meeting.
Among the several appeals, the outcome document of the conference, codenamed the Kigali Declaration, focused on several elements of sustainable development financing for Africa. These included calls for:
- “The adoption of reforms to the international financial architecture that integrate innovative financing mechanisms that are initiated and led by African countries to ensure African debt sustainability and to support the development of nature-based solutions and a green and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic;”
- “Renewed vigour on the part of African Governments, the entities of the United Nations system and development partners in the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, including with regard to strengthening opportunities to improve domestic resource mobilization through sustainable budgeting principles that are aligned with the 2030 Agenda, Agenda 2063 and the Paris Agreement, and for renewed global solidarity in respect of public investment in the implementation of these agendas, on the basis of the principle of leaving no one behind;” and
- “The entities of the United Nations system, the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank and other partners to strengthen the capacity of African countries to leverage the Liquidity and Sustainability Facility and other innovative financing mechanisms, including green and blue bonds and debt swaps for biodiversity and sustainable development;”
The current world’s system of financing public goods and common challenges, unfortunately, isn’t working. From climate change to vaccines inequity, we find Africa bearing the brunt of a global system which it is unable to influence. With the Covid crisis spurring desire for a significant transformation in how we fund our global objectives, and with the climate crisis in full swing, it is time for us to insist on a better way of doing things. A new approach known as Global Public Investment (GPI) could change all that. Instead of “us and them”, GPI calls for a system based on the principle of: All Contribute, All Decide, All Benefit.
The current development finance architecture is based on an outdated narrative setting up rich countries in the Global North as “donors” to the poor Global South. But the COVID-19 pandemic has finally put paid to that: The African CDC has been at the core of Africa’s coordinated and decisive response to COVID-19, keeping cases and deaths consistently at under 5% compared to the rest of the world. Not only this, Development Reimagined has calculated that African governments spent over US$130 billion to address COVID-19 impacts, reaching over 200 million people. Nevertheless, despite these efforts, the World Bank estimates the pandemic pushed an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty in 2021.
A new approach
Multilateral fora can’t be effective unless supplemented by a new way of thinking and doing. Many influential voices and groups have begun calling for a paradigm shift in the way we finance our global public needs: from IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to the G20 High Level Independent Panel on financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response to the Finance in Common summit of public development banks and recent calls for a new Pandemic Treaty. But many of these calls – albeit not all – are for tweaks to the existing system, not major shifts.
Global Public Investment moves us beyond a system where we pay for global commons via limited, fragmented, and often bilateral (even private), assistance, to a system based upon sustained co-responsibility. Rich and poor countries would work together via intermittent, high-level priority-setting meetings and more regular technical follow up. All countries would contribute on a fractional, fair and ongoing basis, with all having a say in how those monies were allocated. Some of the monies would be allocated to local investments with a wider (global) public return, others would flow into regional and multilateral initiatives.
For African countries, this means being at the table making decisions on what global issues the world needs to focus on and how money is spent to address them. GPI offers African countries the opportunity to address national and cross-border priorities, and greater ownership of solutions pertinent to the continent, its countries, and its people.
A fairer development finance system: The current global system is based on the legacy of slavery and colonialism, and continued external interference, undermining the aspirations of Agenda 2063 to build African unity and solidarity. GPI allows for a fairer financial system that recognizes the unique challenges the region faces – providing support without forced or implicit conditions.
More money: GPI seeks to make more money easily accessible to countries that need to solve critical global and regional issues, such as climate change and disaster impacts as well as public health crises. GPI can raise fresh money that remains in the Continent addressing our priorities.
Better money: Addressing a challenge of this scale requires a well thought through and cooperatively pursued crisis response architecture. We need a more reliable and accountable framework to ensure that money raised is spent fairly and efficiently using benefiting countries’ own systems.
Increased ownership and voice: GPI creates a global financial space that gives all members equal voice and ownership of how funds are utilised. This is a very different model to the current international aid architecture, where African agency is all too often structurally held back in decision-making, from the G20 to the World Bank.
Accountability: One of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 is to improve Africa’s place in global governance systems, including financial institutions and global commons. GPI provides access to more public money dedicated to solving global issues, like the COVID-19 pandemic and disaster risk management regionally.
The onus now is on the African leaders to both capitalize and clarify the ambition and growing support for change from government agencies, multilateral organisations, and civil society organisations. In particular, this means leaders agreeing upon a comprehensive list of feasible steps towards implementing GPI and considering how the principles of GPI can already be used practically to address urgent needs, particularly the need to secure sufficient vaccines globally to tackle Covid-19 and the climate change crisis.
Hannah Ryder, Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Anton Kerr, and Bernard Sabiti, contributed to this article.