THE AFRICAN RENAISSANCE: FROM VISION
TO REALITY ADDRESS BY DEPUTY PRESIDENT ZUMA
LONDON - 23 NOVEMBER 1999
Master of Ceremonies
Director of The Africa Centre, Dr A. Bing
Minister of Finance in Namibia, Mr N. Mbumba
Chairperson of the African Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to begin by thanking all of you for giving
us this opportunity to meet with you and share ideas
on this very important issue, "the reconstruction
and development of Africa". It is now an established
fact that the concept of the African Renaissance is
not only a matter that is so close to our hearts but
is also a matter of life and death without which the
pain and suffering of Africa will continue.
The question that confronts all of us today as we are
about to end the old millennium and enter a new one
is: can Africa as a continent rid itself of this long
period of pain, suffering and dehumanisation in every
respect of its life experience? Can Africa make real
for itself the notion of the African Century? The first
question that we need to answer Ladies and Gentlemen
is: Why has the need arisen for Africa to be reborn
and the call made for an African Renaissance?
I have no doubt that all of you gathered here today
will already have formed some notion of what this African
Renaissance is about. There are indeed many interpretations.
What I hope to do today is to map the path that the
"dehumanisation of the continent of Africa"
has taken over the last century and beyond, where it
is currently and where it is headed. I hope to outline
and make clear in all our minds why the need has arisen
for Africa to be reborn and the form that this rebirth
Ladies and Gentlemen the very notion of rebirth implies
a prior existence that is now being rekindled.
Africa, as we all know was once a very vibrant centre
of civilisation. Many discoveries of ancient sites bear
testimony to this. They give rise to the idea that at
some point in our history there came about a period
of a distribution of all that was progressive in our
The rebirth of Africa as a concept can best be understood
by us as Africans revisiting this history and analysing
the various phenomena that have led to this dark period
in our continent.
The first major event undoubtedly has to be the advent
of slavery. This was to change the course of the African
people's lives irrevocably for generations to come.
The dehumanisation of the people of our continent cannot
be matched by any of the later events in the history
of mankind. From very early in our history the best
of our people were transported to lands hitherto unheard
of to work in the fields of newly discovered lands beyond
Sadly some of our own people co-operated with slave
traders as much as some have and still are co-operating
in the degradation of Africa in the 20th century. These
forces undermined any development that had previously
taken place therefore.
The abolishment of slavery gave rise to a new wave
of degradation in the form of colonisation of African
countries that substituted abduction to foreign lands
with subjection of our people in their own lands. This
further thwarted the development of the continent of
Africa along principles that were in line with the value
systems of its people.
Countries from Europe in a frantic quest to own a piece
of Africa demarcated the continent creating politico-economic
boundaries in places where non existed previously. The
homogeneity of Africa was thus thoroughly undermined
and the continent was cut into small pieces that divided
tribes, clans and at times, even families. These boundaries
totally and deliberately ignored the role played by
social structures in any civil society and ensured their
Highly developed forms of administration were systematically
destroyed, and Africa was administered and owned by
The point of this narrative ladies and gentlemen is
that Africa as a people and as a continent played no
part in its own shaping that turned its people into
subjects of the so called mother countries in far away
Europe. What followed from there was the well documented
destruction of the existing forms of African Societies
and the taking away of the political and economic power
from the hands of the African people.
In my country South Africa, slavery was not as extensive
as it was in countries to the north but the heavy hand
of colonialism was and is still being felt in all spheres
of the lives of our people, particularly the black people.
There are a number of laws that were passed over a long
period of time that served to constitutionalise the
subjection of our people. This marked their total dispossession
of land, of economic, political and social independence.
One of the key tools used by colonisers in their guest
to totally annihilate the people of Africa was religion.
It was misused to carry out the so-called mother countries'
agendas. Missionaries, were made to work hand in hand
with the colonisers, and played a large role in ensuring
that black people did not retain their way of life.
African customs and cultures were attacked and this
led to the destruction of the very core of the moral
fibre and values of the people of our continent. As
a result at the time of decolonisation our true Africanness
had been almost lost.
The irony however is that some of the black people
educated by missionaries and sometimes even sent abroad
to study, came back with a new consciousness and thus
were created the beginnings of the anti-colonialism
struggle. Many of the leaders who led the struggle for
liberation in the early were born of this system.
Ladies and gentlemen it is important to trace this
history so that we may better know what it is exactly
that we need to rid ourselves of.
It is important for us and for our brothers and sisters
who live in other continents to understand this history
so that they may better understand the role that they
are required to play by virtue of the ancestry that
they share with us, in the reshaping of the destiny
of our continent.
We need to understand why, after Africa's struggle
for freedom has been completed, the people of our continent
still number amongst the poorest of the poor and we
are still unable to complete the freedom that we fought
so hard for. We need to understand the bitter truth
that only political power has been returned to the African
Our people are now free to govern their own countries
but the joke is on them because economic and religious
power still eludes them. The so-called mother countries
still retain control over the continent by controlling
the economies of its countries. From the time of liberation
they have resisted relinquishing their hold over the
continent and, in post colonial Africa.
This gave rise to a new phase of coups largely engineered
by those seeking to retain control over Africa often
putting in power people with no leadership skills to
enable them to govern effectively. Often copying from
the colonial rulers they ruled harshly never allowing
opposition to their rule. The current problems in Africa
are partly a continuation of this phenomenon.
In this regard the current towards the marginilisation
of undemocratically elected leaders can only be seen
as a positive development.
The move is a correct one if we are to achieve stability
and democracy in our continent, which are cornerstones
to economic development. Political systems should allow
the economic involvement of Africans in Europe and elsewhere.
There is a need therefore to consider the eventual amalgamation
of all the regional economic blocs of Africa into one.
Existing economic organisations in Africa, such as
ECOWAS in West Africa and SADC in the South to name
a few, can begin to explore the possibility of co-operation
amongst all African countries for the betterment of
To achieve this ideal, the fragmentation that exists
must be addressed as a matter of urgency. At the political
level this has been achieved through the OAU. As result
of the divisions created by foreign forces amongst us,
we have developed negative attitudes to one another.
At times these escalate to war and mass destruction.
Africans in Africa and the Diaspora must now have an
extraordinary consciousness about Africa as a home for
all the people of Africa. They should, through action
rather than sentimental attachment, contribute to the
revival of African pride.
This could take the form of information transfer, intellectual
inputs, patriotic investments, the promotion of Africa
and things that are African.
A revival of Africa requires that its people should
have a longer life span. This is being threatened by
the scourge of AIDS that cuts across the continent.
We need then to actively engage in finding solutions
to the HIV/AIDS problem. To wait for a solution from
others when it is mostly our people who are dying will
mean that we have truly forsaken our own.
We are therefore calling on all business people, particularly
of African origin, to play a bigger role in Africa.
African people conducting businesses all over the world,
should do so with Africa in mind. Wealth accumulated
in Africa often finds its way out of Africa. We are
saying that we need to find ways to ensure that the
wealth accumulated in Africa stays in Africa. We encourage
all Africans to have confidence in, and encourage the
development of a sound banking system that is user-friendly
in Africa that eliminates the need for financial flight.
Ladies and gentlemen, the rebirth of Africa will not
occur overnight. It has to take time. We each have to
work at it in whatever profession we are in. We need
our intelligentsia to re-interpret the story of Africa,
to make Africans to understand how and why they came
to be where they are, to better enable them to contribute
to the African Century. We need our musicians to promote
Africa in their music, poets to sing the praises of
Africa through the outstanding quality of their work.
Writers must write the story of Africa, its plight and
where it is going.
The very notion of the African Renaissance requires
that our writers should analyse and interpret it so
that they can better define it for the ordinary people
of our continent. We need as a continent, to begin to
take more seriously the issues of women and children's
rights, to campaign more vigorously against the unscrupulous
degradation of the environment in Africa and the eradication
of the drug-trafficking trade.
This we need to do ourselves as Africans. Ladies and
gentlemen each and every African has a role to play
in the realisation of this vision.
Those of us in positions of power and those of us who
have the personal ability to do so have a duty to lay
the groundwork in order for it to take hold.
One of the main ingredients, however has to be good
political systems in all African countries that uphold
the principles of democracy at all costs. We therefore
need constitutions to promote good values and promote
the dignity of our people. In the absence of these,
it is easy to thwart development, intellectual thinking
or any other form of forward thinking. It is therefore
obvious that delaying the democratisation of Africa
also delays the African Renaissance.
The decision by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)
to exclude military regimes from the year 2000 is the
first building block towards laying the groundwork for
the realisation of the African Renaissance. Perhaps
we need to consider the exclusion of some democratically
elected leaders who have tended to stray towards undemocratic
methods of governance.
What we need is the capacity to coherently co-ordinate
this rebirth. We therefore call on all Africans in the
Diaspora to return to Africa, to bring back to the continent
their expertise, to use the knowledge and experience
they have gained to rebuild their motherland and know
that they have made the greatest contribution.
This then is the reality of the African Renaissance
- an international movement of all people of African
descent that extends beyond borders, to renew a sense
of pride in being African. It is a movement that seeks
to make Africans to feel that they have a past that
is terrible, that they need to change. It seeks to make
realise that there is a future to look forward to and
that we have the capacity to indeed bring about this
future. Ladies and gentlemen it seeks to conscientise
people in other countries so that they too may hear
the sounds of the rumblings of the African Renaissance
so that, in their own countries they may join with us
in rebuilding our economies through calls for debt relief,
greater investment, skills transfer etc.
In conclusion I would like to thank the people of The
Africa Centre for organising this conference. I would
like to thank all of you for having taken the time to
come here to discuss and attempt to interpret the concept
of the rebirth of the continent of Africa. I believe
that this is an excellent step towards owning it and
thus making it a reality for each and every one of us.
I am saddened that I cannot be with you for the duration
of your conference as I have to attend to other duties
elsewhere. I trust however that we are on the right
track and that this conference will go some way to bringing
the African Renaissance closer to the ordinary people
for it is they at the end of the day who should be the
true custodians of the rebirth of their own continent.
I thank you.