In spring 2019, the University of Turku and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 9 on creating a sustainable industry, innovations, and infrastructures. The collaboration was launched with a two-day seminar on Monday, 26 August.
The partnership between the University of Turku and the UN Economic Commission for Africa – the Finland-Africa Platform for Sustainable Development Goal 9 – will significantly increase Finland's role in achieving the UN's sustainable development goals, especially in innovations. The seminar presentations conveyed that Finnish actors and organisations have already many collaborative projects in Africa and are beginning to understand the potential of the continent.
Mayor of Turku Minna Arve and Rector of the University of Turku Jukka Kola opened the seminar. In his opening speech, Kola described Africa as the continent of the future.
– We all need to consider what the future will bring, and Finland is planning to promote African matters in European decision-making during its presidency of the Council of the European Union. As a small country, we need to collaborate more efficiently within Finland and bring in different actors so we can make an impact on a global scale, said Rector Kola.
According to Professor of Geography Jussi Jauhiainen, four of the ten fastest growing economies in the world situated are in Africa. Professor Jauhiainen also shared some eye-opening figures about Finland in the African context.
– Finland is a small country both geographically and in population size in the African context. However, Finland’s GDP corresponds to approximately 12 percent of the entire African economy. When we consider investments in research and development, Finland’s share is even bigger. The entire investments in RDI correspond to about a half of the sum that is allocated to similar activities in Africa, Professor Jauhiainen noted.
Finnish Ambassador for Innovation Jarmo Sareva stated that the utilisation of natural resources and competence in Africa requires significant investments.
– Innovation activities in developing countries should be boosted further. Finland can support the development in many ways and, for example, decreasing digital inequality is one of the most central goals. Finland is committed to collaboration and wants to act ethically in the development work, said Mr Sareva.
Minister Andersson: Education and Knowledge Can Offer Solutions to Global Challenges
The representative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa was Mr Oliver Chinganya, who is the Director of African Center for Statistics and Acting Director of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management at UNECA. Mr Chinganya stressed Africa’s role in world economy by saying that if the economic growth stops in Africa, the whole world is in trouble.
– It’s important to understand that Africa needs more than just financial support. We need to change our mindset and realise that money alone doesn’t solve all the problems. Innovations and infrastructure that enable those innovations are prerequisites for success and we need more expertise above all else, stated Mr Chinganya.
Postdoctoral Researcher in Geography Pascal Doh, who was responsible for organising the seminar, discussed the challenges of the collaboration in his presentation.
– Functional synergy between Finnish and African actors is very important. The roles and activities of both Finland and UNECA should be clear, not forgetting the local operators.
The first day of the seminar was concluded with a presentation from Minister of Education Li Andersson.
– I’m very happy to see how actively our universities are working towards advancing the goals of sustainable development. The United Nations’ sustainable development goals should be part of all our activities. Education and knowledge can offer solutions to the great challenges of our time, said Andersson.
The University of Turku and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa signed a MoU in spring 2019 to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 9. The seminar also included several other presentations, panel discussions and workshops. More information in the seminar programme
Seminar organisers and speakers. In the front from the left: Jarmo Sareva, Oliver Chinganya, Li Andersson, Jussi Jauhiainen and Pascal Doh.
Text: Heikki Kettunen
Translation: Mari Ratia
Photos: Hanna Oksanen