Christine Evans-Klock, 20 July 2017, Accra: Remarks at the 2017 SEED West Africa Symposium

I am happy to join you this morning for the opening of the 2017 SEED West Africa Symposium. On behalf of the UN in Ghana, I welcome you to Accra and to this opportunity to share experiences across West Africa.

I appreciate the challenge articulated for this symposium, on how to recognize and replicate proven, successful business models that bring to fruition to the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for economies that are both inclusive and green.

I think that SEED has found ways to recognise such innovations, and I am proud to add my congratulations to the SAG-SEED winners from here in Ghana and neighbouring Burkina Faso.

As it was put at the side event at the High-Level Political Forum last week in New York, we are all looking for these kind of examples of practical, “down-to-earth” approaches for actually delivering sustainability that can be adapted and expanded.  So we must pay attention to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises as a source of innovations that can be replicated in many places – creating new livelihood opportunities for entrepreneurs and their employees and creating creative eco-inclusive solutions for communities and countries.

Here in Ghana, as elsewhere, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises play a critical role in the sustainability process. They offer immense potential to alleviate poverty by generating local income and jobs, and to do so in ways that use local resources more efficiently.  They can see the potential for new products from waste materials and from renewable natural resources that meet people’s genuine needs:  This is a recipe for their own financial success and for their communities’ well-being through sustainable production and consumption.  

As part of our joint ambition to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development it is important for stakeholders at all levels to recognise this potential, and to support the creation and success of such ventures.

Agenda 2030: interconnected, indivisible, inclusive

Agenda 2030 is a political commitment, and it is a Road Map for ending extreme poverty in all its forms, for overcoming uneven progress across regions and within countries, and for leaving no one behind.

It is one unified agenda for social, economic and environmental development, with its five components, known as the Five Ps:

  • to end Poverty,
  • to Protect the Planet,
  • to Promote Prosperity,
  • to ensure Peace for all,
  • and to work together through Partnerships.

Agenda 2030 calls for policy coherence to solve multi-faceted development challenges – like expanding industry and creating more good jobs while at the same time protecting the environment.  It is not one agenda ahead of the other, it is one coherent, mutually dependent agenda.

We are confident that these ambitious goals can be met through alliances of government, civil society, the private sector, and development partners.  The ambitious agenda requires collective action from all partners to support the national strategies set by Government.

Towards a green economy

The structural transformation of the economy is one of the fundamental challenges confronting African countries.  Many countries are actively pursuing structural transformation in favour of agricultural modernisation and industrial diversification, and in favour of inclusive growth for people and sustainable growth for natural resources. 

Ghana is already taking positive steps in the transition to a green economy through national policies, strategies and programmes and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The transition from linear economy to cycle economy calls for sustained political will and good governance.

The SWITCH Africa Green Project – implemented by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with UNDP, UNOPS and regional and national partners, with financial support from the European Union – is supporting Ghana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda, in their transition towards a more inclusive, sustainable, green economy.

It is a strategy to accelerate transition towards an inclusive economy based on sustainable consumption and production patterns, while generating growth, creating decent jobs and reducing poverty. The private sector is a key driver of this change.

In Ghana, SWITCH Africa Green has supported seven organisations including SEED to provide a wide range of technical services to Micro, Small, and Medium-Scale Enterprises in areas ranging from promotion of biogas technologies, to improved institutional cook-stoves for women in agro-processing, tackling the electronic waste challenges, boosting industrial symbiosis and general business management and entrepreneurship. The results have been remarkable.

Learning lessons on efforts elsewhere to green economies, and feeding this into policy is an important way of institutionalising support for SMEs to take the lead and work with other stakeholders to green the economies of Africa.

Seizing the potential for alternative pathways

Africa’s economic growth has not been noted for being inclusive.  Rather, it has typically been characterised by growing inequality – between urban and rural areas, on the basis of education, between social groups and regions.  And a new divisive factor is the greater risk for some people due to changes in climatic conditions and frequency of severe weather events.

In Ghana and elsewhere across the Continent, the structure of growth has been unsustainable, based on the exploitation and export of raw materials with little value addition. This is having serious environmental consequences while failing to provide the quantity of opportunities for decent work needed for growing populations.

Initiatives such as the SAG-SEED project are important to foster learning and sharing of experience about a different pathway to growth, about seizing the potential for alternative pathways to industrialisation and agricultural modernisation and economic diversification. Alternatives that provide more equitable growth – across social groups today and with future populations tomorrow. 

The SEED global partnership recognises the most innovative, environmentally friendly start-ups in developing countries and allows them access business know-how to help them grow and share their experiences.

The 15 winners of SAG-SEED awards 2017 were announced just a few days ago during the High-Level Political Forum in New York, which is the annual event to take stock of the progress countries make across the globe in achieving the SDGs.

This year, 44 countries presented their national voluntary reviews of SDG implementation. And while many good efforts have been documented, in launching the 2017 SDGs report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that the rate of progress in many areas is far slower than what is needed to meet the targets by 2030.

The 15 winning enterprises can play their part in accelerating progress and by acting as role models for other businesses, who can follow their lead in their own areas of expertise and with their own innovations in agriculture, waste management, energy, manufacturing, biodiversity conservation and tourism. The two Ghanaian enterprises – WASHKing and RECFAM – were rightly awarded for their innovative approach in the field of waste and sanitation respectively, with RECFAM’s approach particularly focusing on meeting the needs of women and girls – for better available hygiene products and for livelihood opportunities. I am glad that today we will honour the 2017 SWITCH Africa Green-SEED Award Winners from Ghana and Burkina Faso.

I wish all participants well in the deliberations, and congratulate once more the winners of the SEED awards. As the UN system in Ghana, we look forward to continuing such cross-country, public-private, and multi-sector partnerships to switch Africa green.

Thank you.