Speech by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad to the National Council of Provinces on Africa Day Celebrations 22 May 2001


Distinguished members of the Council of Provinces,

Today on the eve of the of the 38th anniversary of the founding of the OAU we must reflect on what one of post-colonial Africa’s founding fathers, Kwane Nkrumah said nearly 50 years ago:

"Thus may we take pride in the name of Africa, not out of romanticism, but as an inspiration for the future. It is right and proper that we should know about our past. For just as the future moves from the present so the present has emerged from the past. Nor need we be ashamed of the past. There was much in it of glory. What our ancestors achieved in the context of their contemporary society gives us confidence that we can create, out of the past, a glorious future, not in terms of war and military pomp, but in terms of social progress and peace, for we repudiate war and violence. Our battles shall be against the old ideas that keep men trammelled in their own greed, against the crass stupidities that breed hatred, fear and inhumanity. The heroes of our future will be those who can lead our people out of the stifling fog of disintegration through serfdom, into the valley of light where purpose, endeavour and determination will create a brotherhood."

The establishment of the OAU on the 25th of June 1963, was the expression of Africa’s strong will and political commitment to follow its collective efforts in facing the many challenges facing the Continent and to do so collectively and individually. The celebration of Africa day each year should therefore be a time for all Africans to reflect on where their individual country is going but more importantly where the Continent is going.

The fact is that despite our early leaders vision and commitment we are faced with the stark reality that despite our enormous riches and potential, the greatest number of least developed countries are found in Africa (33 out of 48).

According to latest UN statistics, of the 5 sub-regions in Africa, only 2 accounting for only 25% of the Continent’s population enjoyed a positive growth performance. Growth decelerated in the remaining 3 sub-regions negatively impacting on 75% of Africa’s population.

Africa has lost half its share of the world markets since 1970 – equal to $70 billion a year.

Many of our countries are saddled with severe debt problems. Outstanding external debts in many African countries exceed entire GNP and debt service requirements exceed 25 per cent of their total export earnings.

Official development assistance has declined by almost a 1/5th in real terms since 1992.

Africa has failed to attract substantive foreign direct investment. Although many African countries have taken measures to create a climate conducive to Foreign Direct Investment, which includes trade liberalisation, the strengthening of the rule of law, improvements in legal and other instruments as well as greater investment in infrastructure development, privatisation, greater accountability and transparency, greater degree of financial and budgetary discipline and the creation and consolidation of multi-party democracies.

The dire consequences is that sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s poorest region; with about half the population living on less that $1 a day. Average income is lower that in 1970. Savings are close to zero. Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/Aids are rampant. Electrical power consumption per person is the lowest in the world; Africa has 14 telephone lines per 100 and less that half of 1 percent of all Africans have used the Internet.

The reasons for this reality are complex and many; they include slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism as well as the Cold War.

As we enter the new millennium, a new African leadership is emerging which has proclaimed "enough is enough" and has committed itself to work for an African renewal.

Callisto Madavo and Jean-Louis Sarib, Vice Presidents, Africa Region of the World Bank wrote in 1997: "Africa is on the move. From Mali to Uganda to South Africa, hope and real success are transforming the continent. A new spirit of social and economic progress has energised much of the region. Gradually the rest of the world is beginning to take notice of Africa."

KY Amoako, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, notes that: "…the vision of an African renaissance is not a mirage. Tangible and encouraging progress has been made by many countries in reforming their economies, and in putting in place the rights policies and structures to ensure equitable growth and reduce poverty".

However, although Africa is on the move and hopes are high for her emergence from decades of stagnation and crisis, the challenges remain vast.

The African rebirth cannot occur just through a statement of intent, it has to be accompanied by commitment, perseverance and hard work. We have to personally own the rebirth of our Continent and work individually and collectively to achieve it.

Given the new international world order, characterised by the end of the Cold War and globalisation, African leaders are responding.

A significant development is the OAU Summit decision (9 September 1999) in Sirte, Libya, to transform the OAU into the African Union, which comes into effect on the 26th of May 2001.

In general, the objectives of the African Union are different and more comprehensive than those of the OAU. It is geared towards addressing the current needs of the Continent in the new millennium.

The objectives are to:

Achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa;
Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States;
Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the Continent;
Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the Continent and its peoples,
Encourage international co-operation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
Promote peace, security, and stability on the Continent;
Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
Promote and protect human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
Establish the necessary conditions which will enable the Continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
Promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
Promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples;
Co-ordinate and harmonise the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union; and
Advance the development of the Continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology.

Through this shift in focus mainly from our liberation from colonialism to our liberation from underdevelopment, poverty, disease and human rights abuses we now have an instrument more suitably geared to address these challenges.

With the coming into effect of the African Union on the 26 of May 2001 we will have put in place Continental building blocs for the socio-economic regeneration of the Continent and an end to Afro-pessimism.

Another important African initiative around which the re-birth of Africa in the new millennium will focus is the Millennium African Recovery Programme or MARP, which the OAU mandated Presidents Boutlefika, Obassanjo and Mbeki to prepare.

The MARP is a declaration of a firm commitment by African leaders to take ownership and responsibility for the sustainable economic development of the Continent. The starting point is a critical examination of Africa's post independence experience and acceptance that things have to be done differently to achieve meaningful socio-economic progress, without which it would not be easy to achieve our historic task of improving the lives of our people.

The MARP contains a vision, perspective and the outlines of a plan for the redevelopment of Africa. It is based on a partnership approach that will include all who wish to become full partners in the development of the continent. It clarifies objectives and approaches to development projects

MARP has developed the outlines of a concrete programme of action that is multi-faceted and priority areas it would cover include:

Creating peace, security and stability, and democratic governance without which it would be impossible to engage in meaningful economic activity;
Investing in Africa's people through a comprehensive human resource strategy;
Harnessing and developing Africa's strategic and comparative advantages in the resource based sectors to lead the development of an industrial strategy;
Increasing investments in the Information and communication technology sector without which we would not be able to bridge the digital divide;
Development of infrastructure including transport and energy; and
Developing financing mechanism.
The objectives we want to achieve through its implementation include the acceleration of efforts to eradicate poverty on the Continent and to significantly increase new investments by mobilising both domestic and especially foreign savings.

The plan envisages both Africa-wide and regional initiatives. Conflict prevention and eradication of infectious diseases are examples of programmes that will be Continental in scope. Economic development initiatives like the development of agriculture and agro-industries, economic infrastructure, promotion of competitiveness and economic integration will be managed at regional or sub-regional levels.

However, MAP can only succeed with the commitment of Africa and the realisation of the rest of the international community that without Africa succeeding they themselves are not succeeding.

For a range of complex reasons African countries (with a few notable exceptions) have weak states. An essential step in the implementation of the MAP would be to strengthen capacity of these states.

The focus of the program is not increased AID but increased investments in viable infrastructure and business opportunities. Targeted aid and technical support to address capacity constraints and urgent human development priorities would also be required.

We are realistic about the challenges faced by our Continent. We realise that while we are celebrating Africa day, our Continent is still bedevilled by the persistence of the scourge of conflicts and underdevelopment. Many people’s lives are being lost on a daily basis due to the failure to resolve our differences peacefully. Valuable heritages are being destroyed by the consistent wars. Millions of our brothers and sisters are living in humiliating conditions as refugees or displaced people. We wrestle on a daily basis with the conflicts in the DRC, Angola, Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Comoros.

The human tragedy taking place in Angola and the DRC is on a scale second to none. I think we were all touched by the recent images on Carte Blanch and CNN of the horror that is Quito. The last breath of a child forever captured on film is the saddest image one can imagine.

Chairperson, As we celebrate Africa day, we can’t ignore the threat of HIV/Aids. Minister Dlamini Zuma last week told the National Assembly that:

"In a few months the United Nations will focus on the most serious health challenge of our time, HIV/Aids. Two weeks ago the leaders of the Continent were also grappling with HIV/Aids, TB, Malaria and other communicable diseases. The struggle for health care as a right must continue. For all these challenges and struggles we need to mobilise the most important and dependable partner – the masses of our people in South Africa, on the Continent and in the world. It has been shown that with their support the struggle for justice, peace and development can be won. The small but significant victory against the pharmaceutical companies is a good example. The struggle for affordable drugs is a just struggle to save lives and humanity".

Chairperson, Africa does not function in a vacuum, it is part of the global economy and needs to take its rightful place therein. As the President stated "account must be taken of institutions like the African Development Bank, the World Bank and UN Commission for Africa". Account will also have to be taken of major development initiatives such as the World Bank’s Strategic Partnership for Africa, the IMF’s Poverty reduction plan and the issue of debt relief as highlighted in the HIPC initiative.

I am happy to note that the world is beginning to listen to the voice of the South. The UN Millennium Declaration which represents the political will and intent of the vast majority of the world’s leaders reflects the growing understanding of the interdependence of the developed and developing countries.

Some of the priorities identified by the Millennium Declaration are:

The urgent need to address poverty and under development
Addressing the special needs of Africa, particularly in the context of the promotion of the broad objectives of the African Renaissance
The challenge of making globalisation a positive force for all
The need for democratisation of multilateral institutions including the Security Council and Bretton Woods institutions.
It is up to all of us as citizens of the global village through concrete actions to ensure that we hold the UN Millennium Declaration programme of Action implemented.

Chairperson, allow me to refer to two extremely important events that will take place in South Africa over the next 15 months, which will impact on our vision of an African renewal.

Firstly, the World Conference Against Racism and secondly, the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. The 2002 World Summit is significant in that it will be held in Africa, the recognition afforded this Continent should be seen as a reflection as to where we are headed at the moment. This World Summit on Sustainable Development will serve as an ideal opportunity to further advance the African Economic Development Strategy globally.

It is most appropriate that South Africa will host the WCAR as our record in the fight against racism speaks for itself. It is also a tribute to our Continent and recognition of the role played by the OAU in this struggle. As a country and as representatives of the people we have to use both events to maximise the programmes as developed in the MAP.

The intrinsic challenge facing us on this Africa day is how to ensure that Nkrumah’s unfulfilled confidence "that we can create out of the past, a glorious future, not in terms of wars and military pomp, but in terms of social progress and peace" becomes a reality.

We face the future with confidence because, as John Reader in his book "Biography of the Continent" writes: "South Africa preserves the flickering hope of transforming dreams into reality … the shift in political power …. affirm the value of integrity and ideals in an era where economic pragmatism is the dominant theme of world affairs …. South Africa offers hope for all humanity – yes, hope from a continent that … seemed to generate nothing but despair".

All South Africans, irrespective of party affiliation, must through their activities ensure that Reader’s "flickering hope of transforming dreams into reality" is realised.

As we celebrate Africa Day we are moved by the fact that Africa is re-awakening and are confident that through our collective efforts we will make this an African Century.

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