Rebirth of the African Continent, 25
Deputy Minister of DACST
Members of the diplomatic corps
Once more we gather to commemorate Africa Day.
As we gather tonight we are conscious of the fact that
the technological revolution and information super-highway
has ensured that you, in your living rooms and bedrooms
are constantly subjected to instant and sensational
images of African conflicts, horrifying brutality, and
harrowing pictures of dying children with begging bowls.
This has, not surprisingly, given rise to a resurgence
The false pre-colonial and colonial characterisations
of Africans as either "child-like noble savages",
or worse, as "sub-human, barbaric, dirty, stinking
savages", can once again be seen as a reality.
The article on Africa in a most recent edition of the
"Economist" magazine is a shocking reminder
of such prejudices.
"Africa was weak before the Europeans touched
its coasts. This may be the birthplace of mankind, but
it is hardly surprising that humans sought other continents
to live in.
The few humans who survived in Africa live in small,
hardy, Iron-Age communities in a huge variety of social
organisations speaking thousands of languages. Most
were small kingdoms, deeply conservative; they were
geared to survival in Africas fickle climate,
not to development. When nature allowed, they tended
to celebrate rather than plan for a tomorrow that might
never happen. Today, still, Africans strongest
qualities are fortitude to the point of fatalism, close
family and communal ties, tolerance and an ability to
enjoy life. But their societies are also distrustful
and bad at organisation. Most African businesses are
one-man-bands that rarely survive the death of their
We can not indulge in the luxury of scepticism and
despondency, but we must constructively and critically
examine the challenges facing Africa.
Historically and especially in the post colonial period
African leaders spoke of Africa's contributions to the
very evolution of human life and also of ancient times
when Africa was the leading centre of learning, technology
and culture. They were referring to the increasing discovery
of evidence which points to Africa's primacy in the
historical evolution of humankind; to the magnificent
royal courts of Mali and Timbukto in the 15th and 16th
centuries; to the works of art in South Africa that
are thousands of years old; to the artistic works of
the Nubians and the 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. Those leaders called for
an African reawakening to restore this legacy. The vision
was there, the time was not right.
Today, as we prepare to enter the new millennium, there
is a renewed spirit of confidence and self-assertiveness
on our continent. Once again our leaders have taken
up the mantle of revolutionaries for the African rebirth.
They are outstanding examples of what President, Thabo
Mbeki, was referring to when he said that "there
exists within our continent a generation which has been
victim to all things which created the negative past;
this generation remains African and carries with it
a historic pride which compels it to seek a place for
Africans equal to all other peoples of our common universe
... I believe that the new African generations have
learned and are learning from the experiences of the
past. I further believe that they are unwilling to continue
to repeat the wrongs that have occurred".
Today, Africans are again asking questions, inter alia
why, despite our enormous riches and potential, are
the greatest number of the least developed countries
found in Africa (33 out of 48), why has sub-Saharan
Africa's slice of the world trade fallen to three percent
in the mid 1950's and to one percent in 1995; why have
African exports fallen by 50% from 1985 to 1995.
Why do the majority of Africans live in countries where
progress performed badly or declined ?
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.
Why has the world not effectively dealt with Africas
In 1980 the total debt stock of the highly indebted
countries, the overwhelming majority of whom are African
stood at about $59 billion by 1997 it had increased
to $201 billion. Outstanding external debts in many
African countries exceed entire GNP and debt service
requirements exceed 25 per cent of their total export
earnings. In the same period, the debt service paid
had increased from $5.9 billion to about $8.7 billion.
Why has official development assistance declined by
almost a 1/5th in real terms since 1992?
A report issued last month found that the USA Administrations
$10.7 bn foreign aid request for the financial year
2001- which Congress is expected to cut is a
post-second World War low in the percentage of federal
funds going to foreign aid.
This compelled the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan,
to recently state:
"It is particularly shameful that the US, the
most prosperous and most successful country in the world,
should be one of the least generous in terms of the
share of its Gross Domestic Product it devotes to helping
the worlds poor."
Why, has Africa failed to attract substantive foreign
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.
Since 1990 the profit levels of foreign companies in
Africa has averaged 29%, higher than any other region
in the world. Sadly this has not led to sufficient Foreign
Direct Investment. Africa, which has the highest number
of least developed countries, continues to grapple with
the fact that its share of FDI flowing to developing
countries, declined from more than 11% in the period
1976-1980 to 4% in 1996-1997.
The dire consequences of our failure to answer these
questions is that the largest percentage of people in
the world living on less than one dollar a day are to
be found in sub-Saharan Africa; growth per capita income
which averaged 1,3 per cent in the sixties, was reduced
to 0,8 per cent in the seventies and further reduced
to minus 1.2 per cent in the eighties; today per capita
income is as low as $500 per annum; electrical power
consumption per person is the lowest in the world; Africa
has 14 telephone lines per 1,00 and less than half of
1 percent of all Africans have used the internet.
We seek to answer these questions in a New World order
that has changed dramatically in the last few years.
Not only do we have to deal with the legacies of the
past but now we are confronted with the phenomenon of
globalisation, liberalisation, deregulation and the
We believe, that the biggest challenge that humanity
faces today, is to ensure that Globalisation benefits
all - big and small, the rich and the poor. In our global
village, there cannot be islands of development-security
and prosperity in a sea of abject poverty and increasing
Statistics from the United Nations Development Programme,
show that in 1999 more than 80 countries had lower per
capita incomes than a decade ago.
In addition, the richest 20% of the worlds people
accounted for 86% of the worlds Gross Domestic
Product while the bottom 20% shared just 1%.
The top three billionaires had assets totalling more
than the combined GDP of all the least developed countries
and their 600 million people.
The Managing Director of the IMF, Michael Camdessus,
called for "A new kind of civilisation to be created
... by making global solidarity more than just and adjunct
of national policies". He went on to say that "
the global solidarity required, does not simply mean
offering something superfluous. It means dealing with
vested interests, certain lifestyles and models of consumption,
and entrenched power structures in countries".
This demands that the developed countries must have
the political will to inter alia address key issues
The cancellation of the Debt-burden of the Highly Indebted
The taking of extraordinary measures to ensure substantial
increase in foreign direct investments in Africa, eg
the Marshall Aid Plan in Europe after the Second World
Rather than continuing the reduction of ODA, steps
need to be taken to increase the ODA and meet the UN
What creative steps can be taken to give greater market
access for African exports, including agricultural products
What steps can be taken to ensure greater and affordable
technology to Africa.
The 5 members of the Security Council must show greater
commitment, seriousness and urgency when dealing with
the issues of conflict prevention and peace-keeping
Increasingly our experience forces us to ask the question:
Are double standards applied to conflict situations
in Africa as opposed to elsewhere.
As we seek partnerships to meet our challenges we are
acutely aware of our own responsibilities. We cannot
ignore the 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 conflict has become the
scourge of the African continent. Over the past three
decades more than 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 live in terrible conditions,
landmines are indiscriminately planted, the infrastructure
is systematically destroyed and our agricultural land
laid to waste.
Any call for the re-awakening of the continent will
flounder in the presence of such persistent conflict.
We must all honestly and constructively accept the
reality that we will fail the African people by not
addressing the root causes of conflict and by not taking
sufficient action to prevent conflicts. The African
rebirth demands that we identify the root causes of
African problems and take measures to tackle them.
The causes of African problems are very diverse and
complex. However there are a number of common themes
and experiences. Let me elaborate on some.
1. The slave trade
2. This was followed by colonialism. Can we ignore
the consequences of the fact that at the Congress of
Berlin in 1885, African kingdoms, states and communities
were ruthlessly and artificially divided and unrelated
areas and peoples were just as arbitrarily forced together.
3. To add to our misery, during the Cold War period
the activities of the super-powers in the name of democracy,
rabid "anti-communism" and "socialist
revolutions" fuelled many of Africa's conflicts
and under development. Africa was sacrificed on the
altar of the cold war. At the end of the cold war "democratic
anti-communist" or "socialist" states
were simply deserted. Without the external political,
military and economical support some African states
could not sustain the undemocratic, neo-colonial system,
and their political hold on economic and political power.
Chairperson, while we cannot ignore the past, we must
go beyond it to also critically look at present internal
causes of underdevelopment and conflicts. Today some
leaders see political power as a means of exclusively
obtaining wealth, resources, patronage and other benefits
Secondly, in conditions of lack of democracy, and respect
for human rights, lack of transparency, lack of proper
checks and balances, lack of good governance the stakes
become increasingly high. And
when, as is the case of some countries, political parties
are usually regionally or ethnically based and are the
major source of employment, the problems are exacerbated.
That is "ethnicity is politicised" and groups
begin to believe that they have to capture state power,
democratically or undemocratically, to survive not as
a nation but as a group. Another element fuelling conflicts
is the international competition for and the exploitation
of Africa's resources.
Our problems are also compounded by the fact that "war
is profitable". People who are making money out
of war, have a financial interest to ensure that conflict
continues. Such phenomena are not unique to Africa.
Conflict prevention and resolution and people centred
development therefore demands a striving for good governance,
inter alia, respect for human rights and rule of law,
promotion of transparency and accountability in government
and enhancing of administrative and institutional capacity.
Today, freed from the shackles of Cold War analysis,
it is not dangerous to proclaim that economic, social
and cultural rights, i.e. the right to sustainable development
that benefits the people, the right to life, the right
to work, education and health is as important as political
and civil rights.
The Vienna Conference on Human Rights also affirmed
that the existence of widespread extreme poverty prevents
the full and effective enjoyment of human rights.
Despots and dictators flourish in an environment of
abject poverty, a sad reality for the vast majority
of Africans. We have to therefore tackle the issue of
poverty if we want to ensure that democracy, good governance
and the rule of law is not only achieved but sustained.
Chairperson, Kofi Annan recently noted: "The time
is long past when anyone could claim ignorance about
what was happening in Africa, or what was needed to
achieve progress. The time is also past when the responsibilities
for producing change could be shifted on to our shoulders.
It is a responsibility we must all face".
It is clear from all that I have said, that our vision
of the African Renaissance deriving from our experiences,
covering the entire period from slavery to date, includes:
the establishment of democratic political systems to
ensure the accomplishment of the goal that "the
people shall govern";
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 therefore,
peaceful means can be used to address the competing
interests of different social groups in each country;
establishing the institutions and procedures which
would enable the continent collectively to deal with
questions of democracy, peace and stability;
achieving sustainable economic development that results
in the continuous improvement of the standards of living
and the quality of life of the masses of the people;
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 supplier of raw materials
and an importer of manufactured goods;
ensuring the emancipation of women of Africa;
successfully confronting the scourge of HIV/AIDS;
the rediscovery of Africa's creative past to recapture
the peoples' cultures, encourage artistic creativity
and restore popular involvement in both accessing and
advancing science and technology;
strengthening the genuine independence of African countries
and continent in their relations with major powers and
enhancing their role in the determination of the global
system of governance in all fields, including politics,
the economy, security, information and intellectual
property, the environment and science and technology.
(President Thabo Mbeki)
We know that these objectives will not be achieved
overnight. It is a process that will take decades. We
have no illusions about the difficult path we have to
traverse. We know that, while we make progress, we will
also have many setbacks. However, we are moved by a
commitment and determination to make this the African
How has Africa responded to this challenge? Since its
inception, the OAU guided by its Charter has been seized
with the objectives of peace and sustainable development.
In 1990 the OAU adopted the African Charter for Popular
Participation in Development and the landmark Declaration
on the Political and Economic Situation in Africa and
the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World. In
1993 an OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management
and Resolution was established and in 1999 the OAU adopted
a Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism,
which re-enforced the OAU Convention on the Elimination
of Mercenaries in 1985.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (1981)
and the 1998 Protocol on the Establishment of the African
Court on Human and Peoples Rights provided important
instruments to ensure that the observance of human rights
is an integral part of our objectives of durable peace
and sustainable development.
The signing of the Treaty in 1991 of the African Economic
Union which came into force in 1994; the Cairo Agenda
for Re-launching the Economic and Social Development
of Africa were fundamental decisions to ensure that
we achieve socio-economic cooperation and development
on the continent.
With a new sense of confidence and belief that Africans
must become determinants of our own destinies and that
Africa's problems must be solved by Africans, albeit
with the support of the International Community, the
OAU Heads of State and Government meeting in Algiers,
July 1999 proclaimed the year 2000 as the year of peace,
security and solidarity in Africa. It called on all
countries to intensify their efforts to end all conflicts
by the end of that year.
It further "expressed its grave concern about
the resurgence of coup d'etat in Africa," and decided
that member states whose governments came to power through
unconstitutional means after the Harare Summit 1997
(which took a decision that the organisation should
no longer tolerate accede to power by unconstitutional
means) should restore constitutional legality before
the next summit, or face sanctions and non-recognition,
and requested the Secretary General to assist in programmes
intended to return such countries to constitutional
and democratic governments.
The first African Ministerial Conference on Security,
Stability, Development and Cooperation was held in Abuja,
Nigeria from 8 9 May 2000. The historical Conference
concluded that peace could be promoted through effective
institutions of conflict prevention, management and
resolution. Also that respect for democratic values,
human rights and fundamental liberties are vital prerequisites
for the achievement of security, stability, development
At the first ever historic Africa-Europe summit recently
held in Cairo, President Mbeki said:
"Cairo 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, when others were happy to enclose themselves
within their little worlds of selective and false fulfilment."
I am confident that this audience will be in the trenches
of the humanists. We must mobilise millions of people
in government and civil society to join us in this trench.
The strong foundations we together laid during the struggles
of the Vietnamese peoples, the struggles for a just
peace in the middle East and the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid
struggles in Southern Africa, provides us with an excellent
foundation on which to build.
Africa's time has come, let us through action make
our rebirth and renewal a reality. This is in the interest
of all humanity and not just Africans.