Every so often there are moments when you know you are watching history unfold. Events come together that crystallize an important moment of change, and the opportunity to shape those moments has outsize resonance.
Last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Third International Financing for Development conference proved one such moment of landmark importance for development with its emphasis on each country’s responsibilities to define, drive and invest in their own development path.
The resulting Addis Ababa Action Agenda is the right agenda for a world in transition – one where each country owns its own development – and to a new model for development predicated on partnership, results and accountability, local ownership, and harnessing innovation.
Since the first international conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey 13 years ago, we’ve seen the rate of extreme poverty around the world cut in half. Yet a billion people still live in extreme poverty, left behind from the incredible advances in life expectancy, access to education and technology, and good governance that has lifted so many.
To succeed with the ambitious new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must focus increasingly on the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly those in fragile and conflict-affected states where the largest gaps remain in achieving the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals.
The United States continues to lead the world in official development assistance with nearly $33 billion in 2014 alone. But the most transformational moments occur when our resources are targeted and act as catalysts for much larger trends and pools of resources, like domestic revenues and private sector investment.
Nowhere is responding to these challenges more critical than in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite lowering the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty for the first time on record, the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty in Africa has yet to fall.
Before embarking on a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia this week, President Obama said Africa has the potential to become the next great center for economic growth on the planet. Indeed, seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. The commitment at Addis enables the type of partnerships these countries need to spur inclusive growth and end extreme poverty.
In Addis, we launched and built on several partnerships that represent the best of what U.S. leadership can do to help African nations to achieve. The Addis Tax Initiative will help developing countries better mobilize and effectively use their own resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Donors, international organizations and developing countries—including Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tanzania and Namibia—committed to a set of core principles for domestic resource mobilization, and the donor partners committed to double technical assistance for this purpose.
Domestic resource mobilization not only provides countries with a base of consistent domestic funds for development independent of donor nation budgets, but builds a virtuous cycle of accountability wherein the willingness of citizens to pay taxes is predicated on government service delivery and responsiveness.
We also doubled down on Power Africa through a partnership with the European Union, which adds $2.8 billion in resources to enhance Power Africa’s work to expand reliable electricity generation across sub-Saharan Africa.
Like the Addis Tax Initiative, this is a commitment at the ground-floor of development; without sustainable energy sources to power economic growth and everyday life, country-led efforts to meet development objectives can’t get far.
That’s why Power Africa seeks to leverage private sector investment and multilateral and bilateral donor commitments, and builds partnerships with African governments committed to making the tough reforms needed to attract that investment to their energy sectors. These efforts will connect people to the grid and bring off-grid energy solutions to those living beyond the grid, providing energy that can fuel economic growth across the continent.
And because Africa’s power sector will not advance without policy reforms and improved governance, our re-commitment in Addis also marks our guarantee to fill critical skills gaps and engage in diplomatic dialogues that drive reform so that the power sector we help build can be managed and maintained for generations to come.
There are many continuing challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, conflict and fragility chief among them. But with the U.S. and our partners working to put African countries in the driver’s seat on their respective development paths, the promise and potential of the SDGs becomes, as in a rear view mirror, much closer than they appear.