Nigerian finance minister, in Liberia as part of UN development panel, wants innovation, infrastructure and jobs for Africa. Better infrastructure, more jobs and innovative ways to pay for both are needed to ensure Africa's development, the Nigerian finance minister said on Friday.
Improving access to electricity, building rural roads, and providing water and sanitation, particularly in increasingly crowded urban areas, "matter so much" to Africans, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the Guardian. "How do you transform the economy? You've got to provide the basic infrastructure for people to transform their own lives," she said. "You're killing many birds with one stone.
If people have power, the welder in a rural area can make money, a woman can make money, children can read, health centres can have cold storage facilities." However, the minister, in Liberia this week as one of the 27 members of the UN high-level panel (HLP) discussing a new development framework for when the millennium development goals expire in 2015, acknowledged the challenge of finding money to pay for it all. She said Africa needs $93bn-120bn (£59bn-76bn) a year to improve the continent's infrastructure significantly. She estimates a funding gap of almost $50bn. Given the economic climate and the lack of enthusiasm among donors to meet their pledge to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid, where will this money come from? "That's what we need to discuss. We've started initial discussions about how we finance whatever goals we put in place.
The inclusion on the HLP of the chief executive of Unilever, Paul Polman, and Betty Maina, chief executive of Kenya's Association of Manufacturers, is perhaps telling. Alongside the HLP is the open working group, set up as a result of Rio+20 last year.
The group, which will create sustainable development goals, is due to hold its first meeting next month. There seems near consensus among the HLP that there needs to be one post-2015 process. However, integrating the themes of the HLP with those of the working group, which has a clear mandate to ensure environmental issues are not forgotten, could prove challenging.