“Build roadmap to deal with our challenges” – Ali urges developing countries

President Dr Irfaan Ali receiving an award from the African Leadership Organization on Thursday in New York

In driving home the need for a ‘balanced approach’ towards development, President Dr Irfaan Ali recently charged African nations as well as other developing countries to change the narrative and come up with solutions to challenges they face.

He made this remark on Thursday while addressing the 9th International Forum on African-Caribbean Leadership in New York, where he was the featured speaker.

At the event, President Ali was presented by the African Leadership Organization with an award for his global advocacy on behalf of the developing world.

According to the Guyanese Leader, leaders in developing countries have to flip the narrative and start speaking about what they are doing, their innovations, their potential, and what they can offer in bringing solutions to the table.

“We have seen the narrative from around the world when they’re speaking about Africa and us in the developing world. There are some things that really get me angry, because sometimes when you listen to the developed world, they believe we have no capacity to manage. They believe we don’t have the capacity to innovate. They believe that we could be lectured on every single day. And this is the type of narrative that has been used to create an environment in which the messaging is ‘your solutions must come from outside’,” Ali stated.

The President outlined that the leadership in developing countries must reposition themselves to ensure they can lead the best examples of democracy; of the rule of law; and lead a new era in a world 2030 and beyond, where they can create a competitive environment that would have sustainable societies that are resilient and strong.

“Let us agree all of us have challenges, but let us agree to say to the world, ‘We are going to confront our challenges… In this flipping of the narrative and in this new era, we’re going to recognise our challenges, we’re going to own our challenges, and we are going to build our roadmap to deal with the challenges we have. And that must be part of the balanced approach – how do we build our own roadmap,” the Head of State posited.

President Ali pointed out that developing countries became uncompetitive in many areas because of the world system, which keeps many nations behind due to inequity. Reversing this, he noted, requires bold steps by developing countries to now catch up with the rest of the world, especially in the area of digitization and artificial intelligence (AI).

According to the Guyanese Leader, this also entails countries tapping into their own human resources.

“Why is it that collectively we cannot find the 100 best scientists within the continent and put them into special fellowship programmes, and all they do for us is innovate, research, innovate and build solutions for us. We have the human capacity, we have the capability, we have the natural resources power [and] we do have the brainpower. We must understand we have the brainpower; we have failed to deploy it. Our problem is not brainpower, our problem is the failure to deploy that brainpower in a collective, coherent manner, and this is what we have to do as we flip that narrative,” he stressed.

The Head of State went on to highlight the disadvantages that many developing countries are faced with when it comes to extracting their petroleum resources to develop their economies.

“Today, the countries that contribute least to climate change are told the story that you have to keep the resources. But we believe that we can find a balanced solution because, guest what, in one country alone in Africa – forests, 300 million hectares of forests. But when will the world start saying in a balanced approach, ‘We’re gonna pay you the true value of that forest – stay standing! So, we have to flip this narrative,” he added.

Ali noted that developing countries have to drive this new conversation about the role of forest-rich countries in a net zero context.

“We all believe in net zero, we have to work towards net zero, but suddenly the conversation on net zero has changed from net zero to ending petroleum production, ending gas production. That is the new conversation. It is no longer about how we’re achieving net zero, but has now become a war against petroleum producers, a war against gas. And we know with the greatest degree of honesty that we do not have the development financing to get to net zero if gas and petroleum (do) not play a part in the balanced approach,” he said.

“Let me tell you (that) when you apply the forest and the contribution of the forest to climate change, we are in the best position to produce [petroleum], because we will produce it in a less carbon-emitting environment… We cannot allow this narrative to get away from us. This is our chance to reshape global dialogue. This is our chance to reshape the global narrative,” the President contended.

On this note, he urged developing countries to head to COP28 later this year and push for that ‘balanced approach’ in achieving net zero through a system that ensures justice and equitable development in the world.