Press Conference by the Secretary-General on the occasion of the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres says Africa is essential for sustainable development, poverty reduction and building peace globally. Guterres said this on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, while marking Africa Day, observed on May 25 to commemorate the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity.

He said “Africa’s rich, diverse cultural and natural heritage is important for sustainable development, poverty reduction, building, and maintaining peace. This year’s Africa Day highlights arts, culture and heritage as levers for building the Africa we want.’’

Africa Day marks the 1963 founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU), and provides an annual opportunity to reflect on the challenges and achievements of the governments and people of the continent.

According to the UN chief, COVID-19 has triggered a global recession that has exposed deep-seated inequalities and vulnerabilities, endangering hard-won development gains throughout Africa and beyond.

“The pandemic has also heightened the drivers of conflict by increasing inequalities and revealing the fragility of governance in many nations – particularly in delivering basic services, such as healthcare, education, electricity, water and sanitation.

“The impact of the pandemic has also been exacerbated by the climate crisis, which disproportionately affects developing nations.

“Currently, there is a profound imbalance in vaccine distribution among countries, with the latest figures revealing that African countries have received just two per cent of vaccines,’’ the top UN official said.

To end the pandemic, support economic recovery and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he stressed the need for equitable and universal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

According to him, Africa Day can provide a strong foundation for inclusive economic progress as the continent strives to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said “On this Africa Day, I renew my call to developed nations to stand in solidarity with Africa.’’

Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, a former minister in Nigeria observed that this year’s commemoration came at a difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences with its acute impacts on Africa.

She also noted that Africa had experienced a slow-down in economic growth, which is expected to increase only three per cent in 2021, about half the world’s average.

“While world leaders must continue to support our AU partners, we also call upon African leaders to further their efforts in establishing good governance, fighting corruption and supporting Africa’s youth,” she said.

Other senior UN voices marked the day on Twitter, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi @FilippoGrandi, tweeted, “We celebrate the generous hospitality given in many African communities to refugees.

“We also celebrate the hospitality given in many African communities to refugees and displaced people, and we pledge to support them as they share the limited shelter, food, services and resources with that fleeing war and violence.”

The UN health agency chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus wished a happy Africa Day to his “brothers and sisters across the continent”, with the hope of working “even harder together to make Africa a more prosperous, peaceful, healthier, safer and fairer place for our children.