The Arab-African Initiative was launched in 2006 in New York City during a meeting chaired by H.E. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the President of the United Nations 61st General Assembly. The Initiative is intended to be a collaborative effort between the civil societies of the Arab world and Africa, helping forge partnerships and support projects that will bring the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) closer to fruition.
The Initiative’s goals include: crafting a framework for cooperation on sustainable development between Arab and African countries; assisting the UN in its efforts to promote the MDGs in both regions; establishing a Fund to finance private sector and civil society groups as they collaborate on these goals; and motivating the participation of the private sector in contributing to development projects.
The Initiative’s first meeting was held at the UN headquarters on December 18, 2018, and was attended by 26 Ambassadors from African and Arab nations. The meeting laid out for the assembled audience the Initiative’s vision, and proposed an agenda for its development that included working with the attendees to link civil society groups, donors, and the private sector across nations in pursuit of poverty reduction and hunger alleviation. Plans to launch a special purpose Fund in collaboration with the UN were also laid out.
The Initiative received enthusiastic support from three principal officials at UN who were in attendance – the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Africa, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General on South-South Cooperation, and the Special Adviser on South- South Cooperation. Furthermore, the African Union Ambassador to the UN, the Ambassador of Tanzania, the Ambassador of Senegal, and the Ambassador of Guinea also indicated their interest in being actively involved in the Initiative’s development, including being a part of its
Board of Directors.
The next step in the Initiative’s progression will be a meeting on March 15th at the UN, which will feature ambassadors from Africa and the Arab nations, representatives from the business community, and ministerial-level officials. The meeting will be a crucial step in soliciting feedback from the relevant stakeholders and forming the partnerships that will accelerate the Initiative’s efforts to combat poverty and hunger.
The Arab-African Initiative for Sustainable Development in Africa
Despite longstanding efforts to bring economic prosperity to Africa, poverty remains a persistent problem. More than half the world’s extreme poor reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 300 million people experience extreme food insecurity.
To address this problem, a group of leading civil society figures from the Arab world, Africa, and many other countries met in New York on September 17, 2006 to launch the Arab-African Initiative for the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. The initiative was launched under the chairmanship of H.E. Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the President of the United Nations 61st General Assembly.
Attendees included notable political, business, and philanthropic leaders: Tokyo Sexwali, Jennifer Oppenheimer, Patricia De Lille and Taddy Blecher from South Africa; Carly Fiorina, Melanie Brown, and Arline Jackson from the U.S.; Dr. Hussein Al Kholy and Mr. Mohamed Rayn from Egypt, along with several European partners. Ambassador Hamdi Saleh of Egypt coordinated the Initiative’s launch
The Arab-African Initiative is aimed at mobilizing the forces of civil society to accelerate the process of development in Africa in cooperation with other partners worldwide. The extreme poverty and hunger that afflicts this region has stunted the human potential of hundreds of millions of people and left otherwise promising
societies in a state of underdevelopment, instability, and violence. The lack of opportunity and training for youth in the 15 to 24 range, who number over 200 million and represent the future of the continent, is also a significant problem that needs to be overcome.
In working to mitigate poverty, the Initiative hopes to capitalize on the
resourcefulness and talents of the local populations in Africa, providing training and increasing opportunities for people to earn a decent living through their skills and abilities. In order to advance the UN’s Youth2030 strategy to empower youth to achieve their full potential while recognizing their agency, the Initiative plans to place a special focus on youth education and skill development, helping this crucial demographic effectively transition into the job market in Africa’s rapidly changing economies.
Following the launch of the Initiative, the General Assembly held its first
informal thematic debate on development under the rubric of “Partnerships towards
achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Taking stock, moving forward” on 27 November, 2006. The debate aimed to give impetus to the implementation of MDGs, by providing a forum to examine practical measures and strategies that would lead to tangible results. It brought together donor and recipient countries as well as civil society, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, which shared their successful experiences and new ideas.
In order to strengthen our input to the MDGs and the subsequent Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in 2018 we launched the second stage of the initiative, “The Arab-African Initiative for Sustainable Development in Africa.” Its mission is to involve civil society in supporting the effort to achieve a sustainable development process according to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals declared by the UN. The group, with new membership and strong support from several Arab and African leaders, resumed its march, selecting a new coordinator, Mr. Ahmad Al Fadaly of Egypt.
In its 2018 SDG Report, the UN noted that much progress remains to be made on several goals – particularly poverty and hunger – and that an accelerated effort will be necessary if the 2030 deadline is to be met. Due to conflict and climate change, the UN reports that more people went hungry in 2017 than at any time during the past decade – over 820 million in total. Africa has been particularly hard hit,
seeing some of the fastest increases in hunger during this period. According to the report “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” although poverty rates have fallen over time, population growth means that there are more people living in poverty on the continent today than in 1990.
To this end, our meeting will focus on reenergizing civil society in Africa to foster inside-out transformation and help bring the SDGs closer to fulfilment. The organization will hold a meeting in New York on December, 18, 2018. The initiative will pursue two major tracks:
- Global support: Fulfilling the SDGs and successfully reducing
extreme poverty will require help from nations around the world. It is important to
enable leaders both from countries in these two regions and globally to see where
they can contribute to the objective, whether by assisting with institutional
development, providing best practices, or transferring expertise and know-how. The
UN has made it clear that ending poverty requires complex institutions like social protection systems and disaster mitigation measures. Implementing these systems in Africa will be much easier with the support of nations that have already succeeded.
- Financing Mechanism: Successful development will require funding to establish and grow new institutions, develop infrastructure, and acquire or develop new technology to capture natural resource potential. Establishing a mechanism for raising and dispersing funds will be crucial to ensuring that these initiatives gain traction and become more than purely theoretical. Gaining the financial support of business and civic leaders in affected countries will also help raise funding that can be targeted towards local needs.
The conference will act as the first step of the Initiative, bringing together leaders from both regions to map out the process, and help elevate these issues on the agendas of changemakers in politics, business, and the nonprofit community. To broaden the donor network, this meeting will also consider organizing an international conference for financing development in Africa in cooperation with major Developmental Financing Institutions (like the Islamic Developmental Bank, Gulf developmental funds, and International Financial Institutions).
Following the conference, the second step of the Initiative will be to create a
mechanism for fostering collaboration between various civil society groups to address poverty and hunger. This will involve connecting large donor organizations in the Arab world with local or regional partners in Africa, establishing new organizations where necessary, and identifying the areas and projects of most pressing concern, where the Initiative’s work would do the most good. The final step
will involve the creation of a special fund, under the auspices of the UN, to invest in
these projects and also serve as a model for donors or institutions that might want to independently contribute to poverty and hunger alleviation on the continent.
Ultimately, we intend the Initiative to be a mechanism for speeding up long overdue development efforts and building a realistic roadmap to improve conditions for the people of Africa.
FUND FOR ARAB-AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT (FAAD)
JUSTIFICATION. Despite a surge in economic growth in a number of African and Arab countries in the last two to three years, most of the African and less developed Arab nations still suffer from stagnation and/or sluggish economic growth as the region is still experiencing negative per capita income growth, weak investment, a decline in productivity and high unemployment rates. Poverty still weighs heavily
on many African countries due to systemic political, economic and social problems.
After over 70 years of international assistance by the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund and other regional organizations, Africa and many Arab countries, still remain an economic and political challenge. Many of the populations of these countries still suffer poverty, food insecurity, lack of adequate infrastructure and a lack of the most basic human needs such as clean drinking water and electricity. The world can no longer ignore these problems, not only for the obvious moral reasons but also because of economic and political considerations.
Economically, the world needs to create viable trading partners, in those regions, that trade amongst each other and with the outside world peacefully and voluntarily, based on their comparative advantages. This will foster growth and prosperity for all countries in the region and outside. The political reasons became obvious in the last 5 years as waves of migrants washed over the borders of European countries, as
populations from Africa and some Arab countries rushed to escape intolerable living conditions in their countries due to war, famine or simply a search for a brighter future and opportunity in more stable neighboring countries. Many of those European countries and some Arab countries that received those migrants experienced extreme budget and infrastructure constraints, which led to a widespread political backlash against immigrants. Because of all the above- mentioned reasons the world can no longer continue to ignore Africa and the Arab countries.
OBJECTIVE. FAAD’s objective is to be an instrument of growth of the private sector and the civil society in order to achieve sustainable economic development in member countries.
CAPITAL RESOURCES. FAAD’ s equity will be from the pledged capital of its various members. The debt capital of FAAD will originate from financial institutions, capital markets, international and regional organizations.
FAAD will also accept donations from member and non-member countries and organizations in order to apply them to projects and initiatives targeting poverty alleviation and the building of the civil society.
PROJECT SELECTION. FAAD will invest in private sector or public-private
partnership projects in its member countries. These projects can be in any economic activity, with certain restrictions on weapons, firearms, tobacco products and any other activity not deemed acceptable to FAAD’s Board of Directors. The projects could be in any of the following sectors: telecommunications, transportation, farming, fishery, construction, tourism, financial services, health, education, energy,
infrastructure, manufacturing and mining , as well as environmental improvement.
PROJECT ELIGIBILITY AND APPROVAL. FAAD’s Board of Directors will
establish and adopt the eligibility criteria for the projects that would receive support from FAAD. The Board will meet periodically to review and approve projects based on FAAD’s executive staff’s recommendations and pre-established eligibility criteria.
FAAD will also establish lending, soft loans, grants, credit enhancement
or equity participation guidelines, which will include transaction’s size (minimum and maximum), lending rates, credit enhancement instruments, equity participation conditions and exit strategies.
CREATING SEMI-AUTONOMOUS REVOLVING FUNDS IN MEMBER COUNTRIES. FAAD’s Board of Directors may also authorize the creation of semi-
autonomous revolving funds in certain member countries where there is a significant private sector projects’ pipeline as well as the institutional capability of the local financial institutions to evaluate those projects and supervise them through their completion. Those Local Revolving Funds (LRFs) would operate under FAAD’s guidelines and only to fund smaller projects that are below a certain free limit that would be established by FAAD’s Board of Directors.
SUPPORTING GREATER PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN IN ECONOMIC
ACTIVITIES. No society can truly prosper if roughly 50% of its members are non- participants in its economic activities. One of FAAD’s main priorities is emphasizing legislative reform as well as projects and initiatives that empower women and ensure their equal rights under the law and instituting policies and mechanisms that allow greater participation of women in economic activities.
ASSISTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF CIVIL SOCIETY. FAAD shall also
support the development of civil society and non-governmental organizations of a peaceful nature, which are clearly against violence, and have no political aspirations.
CO-FINANCING PROJECTS WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. FAAD
shall pool its resources with such organizations as the IFC and MIGA of the World Bank and bilateral, regional or multilateral organizations that have an interest in participation in specific projects. This will leverage FAAD’s resources and allow for financing larger projects and/or a larger number of projects. MIGA’s participation can be the difference between being able to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into developing countries or not. Also the participation or other organizations can facilitate the flow of FDI into a member country.
OTHER FAAD OBJECTIVES TO BE ADOPTED BY ITS BOARD. One of the
principal objectives of FAAD will be to ensure the existence of a business friendly legislative, regulatory and executive environment that actually encourages the creation and expansion of the private sector in any particular member country.