UNGA 2019 Recap

Categories: Featured , IGD In the News , Member News


The Initiative for Global Development (IGD) hosted a number of African leaders in two prominent events during the UN General Assembly Week in New York. To view pictures of the events, please visit the IGD Flickr page.

Ending Sickle Cell Disease Event, Westin Hotel at Times Square, NY – Sept 24.

On September 24, 2019 IGD hosted three African First Ladies, H.E. Antoinette Nguesso, First Lady of Congo-Brazzaville; H.E. Aminata Maiga, First Lady of Mali; and H.E. Denise Tshisekedi, First Lady of the Democratic Republic of Congo in an event on Ending Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in Africa attended by more than 100 people. The Keynote Speaker at the event, which was sponsored by Pfizer Inc., was the Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dr. (ADM) Brett Giroir. Other prominent speakers included Prof. James Taylor, Director of the Center for Sickle Cell Disease at Howard University; Dr. Kevin Williams, Chief Medical Officer for Rare Diseases at Pfizer; and Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, the Board Chair and CEO of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa.

The First Ladies outlined special projects that each was involved in to minimize the negative impacts of SCD in their countries. Terming it a “hidden disease,” they appealed for a special fund to be established by the donor community and country government, similar to the Global HIV/AIDS Fund, to tackle the ravages of this disease. Dr. Giroir shared about the momentum being generated around SCD in the U.S. and other parts of the world to help raise the profile of SCD as a public health priority and draw attention to the work going on to create programs that positively impact patients. He said there is a substantial amount of research work, including in gene therapies and pain management that is likely to prolong and better the lives of people with SCD.

Making her opening remarks, IGD President and CEO, Leila Ndiaye, outlined her organization’s new priorities and invited the guests and experts present to take on the challenges paused by SCD in Africa, where the bulk of cases are found. SCD is a genetic disorder found mainly among people of African descent. Ndiaye introduced one of IGD’s newest members, PocketMD, which offered to donate a pilot digital platform for a patient information system to one African country. The service and capacity building assistance altogether is valued at about $10 million. Also in attendance was USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health Dr. Monique Wubbenhorst; Bert Bruce, Pfizer’s Vice-President for Rare Diseases; H.E. Seydou Kabore, Ambassador of Burkina Faso to the United States and many other key dignitaries from the US, Africa and around the world. IGD is committed to promoting a public-private partnership that will find sustainable solutions to people suffering from and living with SCD.  

Forum on Empowering Women in Conflict Zones in Africa, Grand Hyatt Hotel, NY – Sept 26. 

IGD hosted more than 150 people in a dynamic program focused on identifying and discussing the means of strengthening women and communities in Africa that constantly face challenges from conflicts created by war, weather or political tensions. The event was attended by key public, private and institutional leaders from the US, Africa and around the world.

Gracing the event that morning, H.E. Roch Kabore, President of the Republic of Burkina Faso, said Africa has come a long way to creating enabling conditions that empower women to offer productive service to their communities but a lot more is needed. He called for African governments to make strategic decisions and unlock the potential of women owning their businesses, serving in public offices and becoming executives in the private sector. He was accompanied to the event by Hon. Hélène Ilboudo Marchal​, Minister of Women Affairs, National Solidarity, Family and Humanitarian Action of Burkina Faso. Sharing her own experience, Hon. Ilboudo Marchal said she always wanted to be a positive influence in her life, and now finds herself fulfilling the same desires to her community, especially to women and the youth, that she wished for while she was young. Such opportunities, she said, ought to be available to all girls and women, and that Burkina Faso has a lot of experience in this regard that can be shared with other countries.

Making his keynote remarks, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Dr. Akinwumi Adesina said there is no better time to invest more on women and girls, and that the Bank is taking the lead by investing more and leveraging its partners to make more resources available for empowering women entrepreneurs across Africa. Highlighting one of the Bank’s flagship programs, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), the President said the intention was to dramatically enhance access to finance for women in business in Africa.  Access to finance has been a significant barrier to progress on the continent, and more so for women who would benefit considerably if this was solved. He challenged people in Africa to rise above set social, cultural and political bias to offer women and girls a stronger platform in which to excel, saying that the benefits would be felt across families, communities and countries.

In a lively discussion that was moderated by former French Minister for Human Rights and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, Ambassador Rama Yade, the President of the Africa Export and Import Bank, H.E. (Prof.) Benedict Oramah, through his representative Dr. Hippolyte Fofack – the Chief Economist and Director of Research and International Cooperation at Afreximbank – said this was the right moment to unleash the full strength of women entrepreneurs in the marketplace. He said that the new Continental Free Trade Agreement gives African countries an opportunity to extend its market horizons and facilitate goods and services exchange, including finance, across borders.  Such enhanced trade and mitigation of factors that keep women stuck in informal trade –where they cannot access productive resources – will help countries take advantage of these newly found opportunities. But countries and businesses must proactively engage to remove all barriers to trade and investment if growth is to occur.

On her part, H.E. Denise Tshisekedi, the First Lady of the Democratic Republic of Congo, appealed to all governments and the private sector to consider special programs and provisions that will yield the intended results of making women progress beyond their traditional roles in the family. Saying girls and women have shown great potential when offered a chance, the intention is to encourage investments that holistically help families and communities overcome challenges that they face on a daily basis. Women entrepreneurs can lift up communities and supplement current efforts by leaders in government or the private sector.

Joining the First Lady of DRC in her panel was Oulimata Sarr, the Regional Director for West and Central Africa at the UN Women, who shared compelling evidence of the positive change and impact attained by several African countries, including Rwanda and Ethiopia, when they legislated policy and increased women representation in elective and public offices. She, however, decried the slow progress made over the past 25 years since the Beijing Women Summit, and said it should not take much effort to agree to, and implement, what is clearly vital for countries’ and community development. Ambassador Makila James, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, commended the progress already achieved in many African countries but said there was still more room for much more to be done. The Executive Director of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Andrew Wilson, shared lessons learned from many CIPE programs for strengthening youth and women communities, in countries facing conflicts, and how public and private programs could help enhance access to finance, build business skills and leverage public-private partnerships for community development. The Panel was ably moderated and managed by Vanessa Moungar, the Director of Women, Gender and Civil Society at the AfDB, who affirmed her commitment through AFAWA, the program she leads, to prioritize women economic empowerment and capacity strengthening.

During the event, Leila Ndiaye, the President of IGD formally recognized the First Lady Denise Tshisekedi, the First Lady Antoinette Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville, the First Lady Fatima Bio of Sierra Leone, Vanessa Moungar, Amb. Rama Yade and Sarr Oulimata, for their leadership and role in women empowerment in their countries and across Africa.