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Interview: São Tomé and Príncipe prepare for graduation day

WorldAfricaInterview: São Tomé and Príncipe prepare for graduation day

There are currently 46 LDCs listed by the United Nations and countries Graduate Once they have achieved certain development goals.

Eric Overwest, Resident Coordinator for São Tomé and Príncipe

Eric Overwest: São Tomé and Príncipe is doing well in terms of social indicators such as GDP per capita, but is lagging behind in others, such as Economic Vulnerability IndexAnd this is where the UN provides much assistance as it is the health of the economy that will allow the country to move beyond its LDC status.

For example, we’ve helped the country market itself as a place selling organic, high-quality produce. So, instead of exporting only cocoa beans, they are exporting chocolate bars. Organic palm oil, coconut oil and vanilla pepper are also sold.

Finding resources to adapt to the climate crisis is also very important, and we have been supporting the government’s efforts to find more funding to conserve biodiversity and conserve marine resources. The country is moving towards the use of renewable energy; The United Nations supported the country’s first solar park, which opened last year, and solar panels are being installed on schools and health centres.

We are also helping in the development of the private sector; Promote a form of ecotourism that is integrated into the country’s culture and history, and supports small and medium-sized enterprises.

United Nations News: What challenges may hold Sao Tome back even after graduation, and how does the UN plan to address them?

Eric Overwest: I would say it’s a mindset shift, from the idea of ​​being dependent on foreign aid, to a model where you’re generating resources for your economy while making sure you have the money to maintain your social security system. sources of growth for the economy, the social sector to sustain, and to ensure that your country can move rapidly towards the achievement of the United Nations sustainable development goals,

In Sao Tome and Principe, WFP supports some families displaced by climate change

In Sao Tome and Principe, WFP supports some families displaced by climate change

It is about acknowledging your development challenges and looking ahead and seeing what we as a country can do to move forward. Therefore, it puts a lot of pressure on the country to make sure they are ready to graduate.

The migration challenge is linked to that. Many are still looking for opportunities abroad, but the country needs the necessary human resources to support the development process.

A particular challenge for São Tomé and Príncipe and other Small Island Developing States is the islands’ vulnerability to climate crisis, as we have seen floods, storms and hurricanes, which can have very disruptive effects on the economy. In December 2021, about seven per cent of the GDP was lost due to heavy rainfall.

A mother helps her son with his homework in Sao Tome and Principe.

© UNICEF/Vincent Tremeau

A mother helps her son with his homework in Sao Tome and Principe.

United Nations News: What advice would you give to the leaders of the least developed countries to help them achieve economic growth and poverty reduction?

Eric Overwest: Invest more in areas of the economy and growth where you have a competitive advantage, where you can add value, and where you can create more jobs.

You need to analyze your weaknesses and strengths, and develop a national development plan. And it requires commitment at the highest level, political commitment to invest in those economic sectors where you really see the future growth of the country.

I’ve seen it here in São Tomé and Príncipe. There is a real shift towards greater private sector participation and agriculture that is not based solely on the export of raw materials. LDCs need to find their niche and develop it for future growth.

Eric Overwest is the United Nations Resident Coordinator Sao Tome and Principe, He was talking to UN News LDC5A major UN conference to be held in Doha, Qatar from 5-9 March 2023.

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