Speech by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad on the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund Bill in Parliament; 06 October 2000

In the recently held historical UN Millennium Summit President Mbeki said : "The poor of the world stand at the gates of the comfortable mansions occupied by every King and Queen, President, Prime Minister and Minister privileged to attend this unique meeting. The question these billions ask is – what are you doing …. to end the deliberate and savage violence against us that, everyday, sentences many of us to a degrading and unnecessary death! ….."

The fundamental challenge that faces this Millennium Summit is that, credibly, we must demonstrate the will to end poverty and underdevelopment!

The Millennium Summit, took heed of the appeals of the President and other leaders. It’s Declaration stated:


"The central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalisation becomes a positive force for all the worlds people. While globalisation offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed. We realise that the developing countries and countries with economies in transition face special difficulties in responding to this central challenge.

Thus only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future, based on our common humanity in all its diversity, can globalisation be made fully inclusive and equitable."

How do we achieve this "shared future", and ensure that globalisation is "fully inclusive and equitable". Historically, and especially in the post-colonial period, leaders in Africa spoke of Africa’s contributions to the very evolution of life, and also of ancient times when Africa was the leading centre of learning, technology and culture. They were referring to Africa’s primacy in the historical evolution of human kind; they were referring to the magnificent courts of Mali and Timbuktu in the 15th and 16th centuries, to the works of art in South Africa that are thousands of years old, to the artworks of the Nubians and Egyptians; to the sculptured stones of Aksum in Ethiopia; the pyramids of Egypt; the city of Carthage in Tunisia and the ancient universities of Egypt, Morocco and Mali.

Today, according to the 1999 UN Human Development Report, more than 80 countries [many in Africa] have per capita incomes that are lower than they were a decade ago.


Since 1990, 55 countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have had declining per capita incomes.

The income gap between the fifth of the world’s people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest was 74 to 1 in 1997, up from 60 to 1 in 1990.

This richest fifth accounted for 86% of the World’s GDP while the bottom fifth shared 1 %.

Kofi Annan’s Millennium report notes that : "nearly half the world’s population still has to make do on less than 2$ a day. Approximately 1.2 billion people – 500 million in South Asia and 300 million in Africa struggle on less that $1 a day. People living in Africa – south of the Sahara are almost as poor today as they were 20 years ago"

A number of Africa’s poor have grown relentlessly and Africa’s share of the worlds absolute poor increased from 25% to 30% in the 1990’s.

Africa’s share of world trade has plummeted since 1960. It now accounts for less than 2% of world trade. Africa is the only region to see investments and savings decline after 1970. Savings rate in many African countries are the lowest in the world.

Tax revenue declined in poor countries from 18% of the GDP in early 1980’s to 16% in 1990’s.

Diseases such as HIV/Aids, Malaria, and Tuberculosis are causing havoc; electrical power consumption per person is the lowest in the world; Africa has 14 telephone lines per 1000 persons, Tokyo has more telephones than the whole of Africa; less than half of 1% of all Africans have used the internet. SA which accounted for 6% of Africa’s population had 70% of the Internet connections on the Continent.

A key objective of our foreign policy is to tackle this stark reality, and to ensure that

the developmental challenges facing Africa is high on the international agenda.


Our starting point is the basic reality that foreign policy is a reflection of our domestic policy, and that its major objective is to protect our national interests. Whatever we do, either in government or outside of government, must always be premised by the question: Is it serving the interests of our country and our people? Today the most important challenge facing us is the consolidation, deepening and strengthening of our non-racial and non-sexist democracy. To meet our objectives we must ensure that South Africa achieves people-centred sustainable economic development and prosperity.

We seek to achieve these objectives fully concious that South Africa cannot be an island of prosperity and stability in a sea of poverty. Our national interest is therefore inextricably linked to what happens in our sub-region, SADC, and the continent of Africa. Therefore, the African Renaissance is a vision that must underscore our foreign policy activities. We can’t afford the luxury of making the African Renaissance another "industry" for intellectual debate.

The broad objectives of the African Renaissance have already been identified.

Firstly, the African Renaissance means the establishment of democratic political systems in our continent that will ensure the accomplishment of the goal that the people should govern.

Secondly, ensuring that these systems take into account African specifics so that while being truly democratic and protecting human rights they are nevertheless designed in ways which really ensure that political and peaceful means can be used to address the conflicting interests of different social groups in each country.

Thirdly, establishing of institutions and procedures which will enable the continent to deal collectively with questions of democracy, peace and stability.

Fourthly, achieving sustainable economic development that results in the continuous improvement of the standard of living and the quality of life of the masses of the people.

Fifthly, qualitatively changing Africa's place in the world economy so that it is free of the yoke of the international debt burden and no longer a supplier of raw materials and an importer of manufactured goods.

Sixthly, ensuring the emancipation of women of Africa / even, successfully confront the scourge of infectious diseases such as HIV (Aids), Tuberculosis and Malaria and lastly – ensure the protection of our environment.

This is the challenge that our foreign policy has to face in the coming millennium. We must accept that South Africa is not a European outpost on the African continent and that the success of the African Renaissance will also be South Africa’s success.

The African Renaissance is not an event but a process. We have no illusions about the immense difficulties we face in meeting this challenge. We will make progress but we must also be prepared for setbacks. We must also be realistic and while we have long shopping lists on how to achieve the African Renaissance we must identify and tackle priorities.

We must also accept the reality that Africa is not a homogeneous continent, with the same historic and geographic conditions, with the same levels of growth and economic development, with the same levels of democratic systems; with the same levels of commitment of alleviating poverty and fighting corruption; and with the same commitment to oppose dictatorships, military coups and conflicts.

We have to understand the differences in our continent and identify the specific challenges of each country, while not forgetting the overall challenge facing us.

Conflicts are inextricably linked to underdevelopment, therefore, the African developmental Agenda cannot be achieved if there is no peace and stability on our continent.

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said "In intra-state conflicts in Africa, the main aim increasingly, is the destruction not only of armies but of civilians and entire ethnic groups. Preventing such wars is no longer a matter of defending states or protecting allies, it is a matter of defending humanity itself".

He was referring to the tragic reality that from Sierra Leone to Angola, from the streets of the DRC to Sudan, from the killing fields of Ethiopia and Eritrea, to the killing fields of Rwanda and Somalia, violent conflicts have become the scourge of our continent.

Over the past three decades over 8 million Africans have perished in the fires of ethnic and racial hatred, religious intolerance, political ambition and material greed; over 15 million refugees and displaced persons line in terrible conditions. [This is the highest number of refugees anywhere in the world]; landmines are indiscriminately planted, injuring and killing innocent citizens; the infrastructure of many countries is systematically destoyed and their agricultural land laid to waste.

An important contribution to peace, stability and the African Renaissance is the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund Bill which will provide for the establishment of the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund for the purpose of enhancement of international co-operation with and on the African Continent.

The Bill will repeal the existing Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund Act, 1968 (Act No. 68 of 1968), as amended by the Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund Amendment Act, 1986 (Act No. 29 of 1986) and the Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund Amendment Act, 1998 (Act No. 16 of 1998).

The previous Fund can be regarded as a legacy of the past, it was used to "buy friends" during South Africa’s period of isolation.

The new Fund will be multilaterally orientated, and provide for the pro-active involvement in projects and programmes involving organisations and parties other than the governments of countries (although not excluding the governments of countries).

The President, speaking at a conference on the African Renaissance, in September 1998, said:

"The new African world which the African Renaissance seeks to build is one of democracy, peace and stability, sustainable development and a better life for all people, nonracism and nonsexism, equality among nations, and a just and democratic system of international governance."

The establishment of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund will enable the South African government to identify and fund, in a pro-active way:

The promotion of democracy, good governance and the prevention and resolution of conflict;

Socio-economic development and integration;

Humanitarian and disaster relief in Africa and elsewhere in the world;

Technical assistance projects;

Capacity building, specifically in terms of human resource development, management training and student bursaries; and

Projects relating to reaffirmation of South Africa’s commitment to relations with Africa.

Apart from the transfer of the unexpended money currently in the Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund, the new Fund will also appropriate funds from Parliament; money received from repayment of any loan made from the new Fund; interest received on any loan made from the new Fund, including interest derived from any investment of money standing to the credit of the new Fund; and/or money accruing to the new Fund from any other source, such as donor funds.

The Director-General of Foreign Affairs, who, as the accounting officer, will keep records and accounts of all payments into and out of the Fund.

An Advisory Committee will be established to make recommendations to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance on the disbursement of funds as spelt out in the Bill.

The principal financial implication of the Bill will be the repeal and disestablishment of the Economic Co-operation Promotion Loan Fund, once that Fund’s debit balance has been cleared by either changing outstanding loans into grants or writing-off of outstanding debt.

The amounts owed to SA in terms of loans under the previous Fund are Central African Republic (R4.956 million), Comoros (R30.519 million), Gabon (R6.382 million), Lesotho (R4.449 million), Malawi (R14.709 million), Mozambique (R8.369 million), Paraguay (R0.852 million) and Swaziland (R10.119 million). The total amount owed is R80.355 million.

In the light of our campaign to ensure that the world cancels the debts of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries [HIPC], I strongly believe that we should seriously consider the cancellation of these debts.

CONCLUSION

BEN OKRI - AN AFRICAN EULOGY

"We are the miracles that God made to taste the bitter fruit of time. We are precious and one day our suffering will turn into the wonders of the earth".

To make this dream come true what must we do?

President Mbeki at the historical 1st ever Africa-Europe Summit. "The Summit will have meaning only to the extent that all of us without exception, wage the struggle to end human suffering in Africa with the passionate intensity of the humanists who have given dignity to despised human beings, while others were happy to enclose themselves within the little worlds of selective and false fulfilment".

We must through concrete action join the trenches of the humanists. The fund is another concrete manifistation of our commitment to the African renewal.

Africa’s time has come. The 21st Century must be the African Century. This is not only in Africa’s interest but in the interest of all humanity.

Thank you

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