6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Harnessing the Private Sector, Trade, and Investment in Africa to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

On February 25, 2016, the Wilson Center Africa Program hosted the third event in the Brown Capital Management Africa Forum series,* a panel discussion on “Harnessing the Private Sector, Trade, and Investment in Africa to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expired in 2015 with mixed results in Africa. Building on the lessons learned from implementation of the MDGs, this event focused on how best to structure local, national, and international partnerships across the public, private, and NGO sectors to achieve the SDGs in Africa. The event featured four distinguished experts—Mr. William Hammink, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Dr. Mima Nedelcovych, and Ms. Karen Newman—who discussed the importance of involving the private sector for achieving the SDGs in Africa.

Keynote speaker Mr. William Hammink, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa at USAID, highlighted 2015 as a pivotal year for development, with the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa and the UN Sustainable Development Goals Summit in New York. In recognizing that the SDGs reflect the aspiration of countries and provide a wealth of development opportunities, he identified the need to leverage the private sector to brings jobs, capital, skills, and innovation, all crucial to addressing development challenges. Mr. Hammink explained the United States’ approach to Africa, which is to “leverage traditional donor resources by fostering local ownership, expanding partnership with public and private sector actors, driving innovation science and technology, and helping governments get the policy environment correct for private investment.” Referencing income inequality and unequal development, he said the challenge is to progress ahead without leaving anyone behind.

Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda at the World Bank, remarked that while Africa did have some success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the continent as a whole was unable to meet notable MDG goals, including those for reducing poverty, child mortality, and maternal mortality. The SDGs lay out a substantially more ambitious development agenda than the MDGs, he said, which were themselves incompletely achieved. Given this ambitious development framework and the many new and persistent development challenges Africa faces, including declining growth rates and low commodity prices and a lack of coordination at the policy level, harnessing the private sector to achieve the SDGs is even more imperative. Dr. Mohieldin’s four recommendations included 1) providing adequate incentives for businesses to get involved in achieving the SDGs, and stopping the “crowding out of the private sector,” which happens when governments do things the private sector could better accomplish; 2) implementing better coordination at four basic levels: subnational, national, regional, and global; 3) encouraging accountability and transparency among all actors involved in the SDGs; and 4) demonstrating strong government leadership in pursuing the SDGs and implementing effective and strong regulations to combat corruption and shady businesses.

Dr. Mima Nedelcovych, President and CEO of the Initiative for Global Development, discussed the importance of aligning interests between the government and the private sector by encouraging mutually beneficial public-private partnerships. Recognizing the maturity of the African business sector today, compared to when the MDGs were first formulated, he stressed the need to take advantage of that maturity and leverage the private sector towards achieving the SDGs. Dr. Nedelcovych’s key recommendations included 1) using government funds to create the right standardized environment and infrastructure for the private sector to thrive and grow; and 2) allowing the private sector to find creative solutions in aiding development projects by aligning the interests of the public and private sectors.

Ms. Karen Newman, Senior Consultant for the Sustainable Development Goals Fund at UNDP, gave a brief background of the Sustainable Development Goals Fund created in 2014, a multi-donor trust fund, and other creative solutions that UNDP plans to implement to achieve the sustainable development goals. Furthermore, Ms. Newman focused on the agency’s unique emphasis on joint programming and co-financing sustainable and local initiatives. Ms. Newman stressed the need to learn from past programs to create dynamic projects that engage the private sector from the very beginning.

*Launched in September 2015, the Brown Capital Management Africa Forum provides a premier platform for substantive and solutions-oriented dialogue on key trade, investment, and development issues in Africa, and in U.S.-Africa relations. Convening business leaders and policymakers, as well as subject matter experts from the United States and Africa, the Brown Capital Management Africa Forum sponsors a series of public events designed to support the development of economic engagement and policy options that advance mutually beneficial economic relations between Africa and the United States. The Brown Capital Management Africa Forum is made possible by the generous support of Brown Capital Management.

Speakers

  • Mr. William Hammink

    Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa, United States Agency for International Development
  • Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin

    Senior Vice President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations, and Partnerships, World Bank
  • Dr. Mima Nedelcovych

    President & CEO, Initiative for Global Development
  • Ms. Karen Newman

    Senior Consultant for the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, United Nations Development Programme