IFRC Secretary General Keynote speech at the 10th Pan African Conference in Nairobi


Keynote speech of the IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain, at the 10th Pan African Conference in Nairobi, Monday 18th September 2023.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends,

I’m so pleased to be here in vibrant Nairobi.

You have always extended such warmth and enthusiasm every time I visit Africa.

Thank you for your unmatched hospitality.

I am grateful to Kenya Red Cross for hosting Pan African conference of the IFRC.

IFRC Vice President Elder Bolaji Akpan Anani, Chair of the PAC.
Governor Korir of the Kenya Red Cross.
Governing Board members,
Commission and Committee chairs of the IFRC, of the Standing Commission, Africa governance group,
Vice President of ICRC (continuing our proud history to invite ICRC to IFRC statutory meetings because we can be successful when we work together as a Movement),
National Society and youth leaders, staff and volunteers and the entire IFRC secretariat team. I want to particularly recognize the Africa team led by our Regional Director Mohammed Mukhier for working tirelessly to support the organization of the conference.

I pay tribute to all of you for your immense contributions to the IFRC network, today and always.

Your dedication to the communities we serve is unparalleled, especially through the recent growing complex crises across Africa. Let me join in solidarity with Morocco and Libya as they work hard to recover from two terrible disasters.

As we gather here today, I am struck by the rich tapestry of Africa’s history, cultures, and the extraordinary resilience and spirit of its people.

Yet, this comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges.

A continent of immense beauty and diversity, Africa presents us with a complex humanitarian landscape.

Africa is a place of paradoxes, where soaring aspirations uncomfortably co-exist with profound inequalities.

Humanitarian needs are growing each day, stretching the bounds of lives, livelihoods, and human dignity. Poverty, inequality, and political instability compound these humanitarian needs.

Economic challenges including high unemployment rates, limited industrialization, and a heavy reliance on primary commodities for export make many African nations vulnerable to fluctuations in global markets.

We continue to witness alarming hunger levels across the continent, with 167 million facing acute food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, a 14% increase from 2022.

The impact of El Niño in 2023/2024, forecasts a 90% probability of flooding in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, alongside reduced rainfall in Southern Africa.

We know this will further exacerbate food insecurity in the coming years, as African food systems are very vulnerable to climate extremes and shifts in weather patterns.

Disease and epidemics are on the rise as a result.

Last year, 96 disease outbreaks were officially reported in 36 countries, with cholera, measles, and yellow fever being the most common.

As climate disasters worsen, 7.5 million people were displaced in Africa, the highest annual figure ever reported for the region.

And with the cascading effects of political instability in a number of countries, the number of people on the move have begun to climb as well, with 9 million people torn from their homes in 2022.

We cannot forget that behind these distressing statistics are actual people –women, men, and children with increasing needs and less resilience to cope.

These are the challenges that exist in a continent which is full of young and dynamic population full of unparalleled vibrancy and dynamism. It also has many beautiful tourist destinations.

This is a continent full of natural resources - minerals, oil and gas, timber, agricultural land, fisheries, renewable energy, gemstones, water resources, forestry products. Almost everything you can think of.

It makes me wonder how come a continent so full of resources is also facing so many challenges.

How can we contribute to addressing these humanitarian gaps?

Please allow me to share just three fundamental approaches that could help us to make a meaningful contribution to the people and communities in Africa.

First is Solidarity – Working together in partnerships:

We are bound together in our journey in search of a brighter future.

The expanding humanitarian needs push us to the brink, but our unwavering solidarity pulls us back and drives us forward.

Solidarity and commitment to our Strategy 2030 and Agenda for Renewal allows us to respond to multiple crises and disasters, build community resilience and strengthen localization in this region.

Just last month, I visited Gambia and Egypt to better understand the migration situation.

My conversations with volunteers, National Society and government leaders were eye opening.

When it comes to migration, Africa is a continent on the move.

This comes with positive benefits too—In Gambia migrants contribute to 20% of the country’s GDP.

To the rest of the world, the migration of Africans is often framed around their movement beyond Africa’s borders.

Yet the story of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people being hosted within Africa, which is more than 85%, is not acknowledged.

Through the IFRC’s Global Route-based Migration programme and humanitarian service points we witness how Africans are overwhelmingly supporting fellow Africans on the move.

Africans standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow Africans, is a testament to our capacity to overcome adversity.

As we address urgent crises before us, it's our combined strength that forms our bedrock of hope.

Internal solidarity sometimes can be challenging. Let us not doubt ourselves in our commitment to solidarity. Let us foster trust and belief among ourselves.

Second is Solutions to scale- think big, act big:

Across Africa much progress has been made and the vast opportunities lie ahead.

34 countries, representing approximately 72% of Africa’s population, have demonstrated significant progress in governance over the last two decades, especially in the areas of rule of law, the protection of rights, and growth of civil society.

Africa’s great untapped potential is more visible than ever, with economic growth and investment in public services contributing to the improvement of millions of lives and transformation of societies.

The theme of this 10th Pan African Conference is renewing investment in Africa. I suggest that we make this investment people centric. You may want to consider calling it "renewing people-centric investment in Africa".

I encourage every one of us to consider how investments in National Societies, and especially in their young volunteers, can harness Africa’s agility and innovation that empowers people to address the needs when they come and continue to work to reduce humanitarian needs by building long term resilience in the communities.

For this, our Agenda for Renewal guides the IFRC to work for and with National Societies in everything we do.

We have invested in scaling up digitalization, risk management, new funding models for greater agility, accountability, and impact to reach the communities.

We foster learning and strengthen National Society capacities, so that we become leaders in the humanitarian field, not just in response but in resilience building, data, influence, collaboration, and innovation.

In 2020-2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, African National Societies came together with the IFRC secretariat to reach 450 million people with humanitarian services.

The REACH initiative between Africa CDC, the African Union and the IFRC comes with an ambition to scale up the community health workforce by two million and strengthening National Society capacity across the continent to address health needs.

These are solutions that are tailored to African communities, that reflect African needs and that can be measured by the outcomes we achieve for the people.

Let’s not play small. Let’s think big, let’s act big. Because that’s what it is needed now.

Third is Leadership – listen, learn and lead.

Our humanitarian action must make a positive difference in people’s lives.

In this era of fast paced change and shifting political divides, our leadership has never been more crucial.

Leadership to partner with others along equal and mutually reinforcing terms,

Leadership to position our National Societies as unparalleled community partner, with unmatched local intelligence and reach,

Leadership to engage in internal transformation,

Leadership to embody our Fundamental Principles,

Leadership to invest in young people--Africa’s most abundant and greatest resource--harness their skills, give them opportunities to lead us to a more just and equitable future.

Leadership to build trust, internally and externally, to be bold at communicating good news as well as challenges, to bring about collective energy and hope.

Leadership that doesn’t accept business as usual.

Leadership that strives for excellence in everything we do.

There will be ups and downs, but we will persist. This is what leadership is all about.

In our pursuit of a brighter future for Africa, let us hold ourselves to lead with accountability, not just to the challenges of today but also to the aspirations of tomorrow.

Let every action we take, every initiative we launch, and every partnership we forge be a testament to our unwavering commitment to the people.

I wish you a very productive Pan-African Conference.

And please allow me to conclude by sharing a quote from Nelson Mandela – « one of the things I learned when I was negotiating that until I changed myself, I couldn’t change others ».

Let this conference give us the inspiration to be the real agent of change for the people of Africa.

Thank you.

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