Delivering as One, a UN in China conversation presented by Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee: Episode 12 with Stephen Kargbo, UNIDO Representative to China
A podcast series that brings you the stories behind the representatives of the UN family in China.
In the twelfth episode of the UN in China podcast, UN Resident Coordinator in China Siddharth Chatterjee sits down with Stephen Kargbo, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Representative to China.
Mr. Kargbo, a Sierra Leonean national, was born and raised in a rural part of the country along with his family of six siblings. Although growing up in what he describes as humble beginnings, he went on to complete his undergraduate studies in 1988, and then started his working life as a teacher for several years. This was followed by his work in various positions, notably with development agencies in the country and the U.S. Peace Corps. He then went abroad to take up postgraduate studies in Germany and completed a Master of Science in Rural Development and a PhD in Agricultural Economics from the University of Göttingen.
Mr. Kargbo notes that after taking up several teaching and research roles during his time in Germany, he returned to his home country in 2006 to serve as part of the United Nations Development Programme. Following this period, he then went on to join UNIDO in 2008. In 2013, he served in UNIDO’s Regional Office in Ethiopia and was later assigned as their Representative to Tanzania, Mauritius, and the Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC). Upon the request of UNIDO’s Director-General, he was reassigned to assume his current role and subsequently join the UN family in China in 2021.
"There is not a single country in this universe that has come to human progress without the pathway of industrialization,"
In this episode, Mr. Kargbo explains the unique role of UNIDO, as a Specialized Agency of the UN, mandated to promote inclusive and sustainable industrial development. He raises the history of UNIDO in China, which established its presence as part of the UN family in 1979 at the onset of opening-up and reform. In the past, UNIDO worked closely with relevant government counterparts in the development of industrial parks, such as those found in what are today bustling metropolises, including Shenzhen. Nowadays, UNIDO in China works to support China as both a recipient and exporter of technical support while ensuring that through the continued industrial development of China, there is cognisance of the value of the environment and of economic growth that benefits the whole of society.
During the conversation, Mr. Kargbo highlights UNIDO’s work in China to offer its policy advice and best practices at various levels, including with key figures in industry and relevant government entities. He highlights the activities of its related bodies, including the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Offices in Beijing and Shanghai, the Centre for South-South Industrial Cooperation, and the UNIDO-supported International Centre on Small Hydro Power. He mentions the need for China to enhance the competitiveness of its industries as it continues to transition from traditional manufacturing to innovation-led growth, while placing particular emphasis on more efforts in the areas of energy and transportation, the circular economy, decarbonization, and emerging technologies, including new energy vehicles.
Together with the Resident Coordinator, the two discuss other challenges and opportunities in the years ahead, particularly in the areas of the green energy revolution and the net-zero transition, as well as UNIDO’s work in China to leave no one behind and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as part of the UN system in China.
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Mr. Stephen Bainous Kargbo is the Representative and Head of the Regional Office of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in the People’s Republic of China, and also covers Mongolia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Mr. Kargbo brings with him an accumulated national and international work experience of over thirty (30) years in teaching/research, organizational management and development cooperation. He has held various positions in NGOs, Academia and the UN system (UNDP and UNIDO).
Before his reassignment to China, he was UNIDO Representative to Tanzania, Mauritius and the Secretariat of the East African Community (EAC). He also previously served in UNIDO’s Regional Office in Ethiopia, leading programmes and operations in Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, as well as activities and engagements with the African Union Commission.
Mr. Kargbo holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an M.Sc. in Rural Development, both from the Georg-August University of Goettingen in Germany. He obtained his B.Sc. in Agricultural Education from the University of Sierra Leone in 1988.
Siddharth Chatterjee took office as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China on 16 January 2021 and is the designated representative of - and reports to - the UN Secretary-General. He presented his letter of credence to the President of China on 14 April 2021.
Mr. Chatterjee has more than 25 years of experience in international cooperation, sustainable development, humanitarian coordination and peace and security in the United Nations and the Red Cross movement. He has served in many fragile and war-torn countries all over the world.
A 3 times TEDx speaker, he is a regular opinion contributor on humanitarian and development issues for a range of journals which includes Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Huffington Post, Forbes, CNN, Al Jazeera, the Guardian and as of late has also published in mainstream Chinese journals.
Mr. Chatterjee holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University in the United States of America.