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Africa to reap the economic benefits of its youthful population - Kenyatta

Kenyatta urged the United Nations, African Union, and regional organizations to take bold action to renew Africa's "security architecture."
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Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Thursday that Africa is at a crossroads, poised on the one hand to reap the economic benefits of its young population and economic reforms, but also facing the spread of terrorism and insurgency, which are posing challenges to almost all 54 nations on the continent.

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo cited multiple threats to the territorial integrity of some African countries, numerous civilians facing serious threats, and instability in some nations exacerbated by the interests of various actors not only within conflict zones but also from outside the continent.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated "poverty, inequalities, and all the drivers of conflict," according to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Their briefings to a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council on cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union shed light on the continent's challenges and conflicts, where less than 5% of the population has been immunized against COVID-19.

Kenyatta, whose country holds the council presidency this month and chaired the meeting, stated that the aftermath of the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that toppled longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and split the country into rival governments, the rise of al-Qaida and Islamic State extremist groups, and the emergence of domestic terror groups funded by international actors pose grave socio-economic challenges for Africa.

This has been exacerbated by a recent surge in coups "that we thought we had left behind," he said, as well as the pandemic, which has reversed economic gains and plunged a large number of Africans back into poverty that they had escaped from following the last two decades of economic growth.

Climate change is also causing "increasing social and economic fragility, and escalating resource conflicts," he said.

Kenyatta stated that, similar to the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, "the vacuums" created by these negative events "have precipitated new external actors intervening, which has often further deepened the crisis and drawn in geopolitical rivals."

"And these rivalries are unfortunately at the cost of African lives and our stability," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

Ghana's Akufo-Addo cited what's happening in the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, and parts of east, north, and central Africa, saying that
"where ongoing conflicts, the destabilizing activities of terrorists and extremists, the profiteering activities of purveyors of conflict, and the devastating effects of climate change and COVID-19 have resulted in a deadly cocktail with dire consequences for our socio-economic, political and security situation."

He cited the overthrow of constitutional governments in Mali, Chad, Guinea, and now Sudan as "notable culprits" in recent months in some parts of Africa.

Guterres cited a number of troubling developments, including coups, the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, the impact of COVID-19 on "a proliferation of militias," and the ongoing threats of terrorism and violent extremism from al-Qaida, the Islamic State, and Boko Haram.

Despite these negative trends, the UN Secretary-General highlighted a number of encouraging developments in Africa, including a peaceful and inclusive election in Burkina Faso and peaceful power transfers in Niger and Zambia following presidential elections.

Guterres praised the African people in his briefing, which was read by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, saying they are "determined to work relentlessly for a more prosperous, sustainable, and peaceful continent."

He cited the United Nations' work with the African Union and others to support the cease-fire agreement in Libya and prepare for the December elections, as well as its support for AU-led negotiations on the contentious issue of the dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River's main tributary, which Egypt and Sudan say will cut critical water supplies.

He added that UN missions and country teams in Africa, including Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan, support peace initiatives and political transitions.

Kenya's Kenyatta and Ghana's Akufo-Addo both stated that the African Union has taken steps to prevent conflict, promote peace, and combat terrorist groups. The African Union's "Silence The Guns" campaign to end conflict on the continent has been pushed back from 2020 to 2030.

“What has been lacking, however, is global solidarity and burden sharing,” the Ghanaian president said.

He called for increased UN-AU consultations, including addressing the root causes of conflicts, such as a lack of jobs for young people and the exclusion of women, and promoting the AU's use of preventive diplomacy.

Akufo-Addo stated that "while prevention is less celebrated, $1 spent in preventing a conflict is worth a little over 10 times its value in resolving a conflict once it’s broken out."

Kenyatta urged the United Nations, African Union, and regional organizations to take bold action to renew Africa's "security architecture."

“Together, we can enable African states and regions to overcome insecurity in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, central Africa, and in countries dealing with dangerous insurgent and terrorist groups,” he said.

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