Closing Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, at the South African Naitonal NEPAD Strategy Workshop, Johannesburg, 21 April 2006

Honourable Chairperson;
Directors-General;
Distinguished Delegates;
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Ministry and Department of Foreign Affairs, we would really like to express our gratitude for the work you have done and covered since Wednesday and the progress you have made. It is important work and a great step forward.

Just yesterday, through the bestowal of national orders, our President honoured our heroes and heroines who have made countless sacrifices towards the development of the African continent. I think we should continue to celebrate their stories of conviction and of courageousness.

I have been very closely following the deliberations that have been taking place at this particular workshop in formulating creative strategies towards further advancing the goals and objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

I believe there have been very vibrant debates and discussions amongst delegates have stimulated a concerted effort to ensure that we leave a legacy that every African will be proud of. We have come a long way on our journey to create the conditions necessary for sustained African social and economic development and to be able to say with confidence that we have made concrete advances to the realization of the African Renaissance. And today, in the greater part of the continent a progressive agenda is being advanced and will truly help to develop respective regions, countries and nations.

And since it is at country, regional and continental programme it bodes well now and in the future that so many of Africa's countries have taken the path of democratic political and economic governance and have allowed themselves to be subjected to best practices and to peer review. In the last few years, we have seen democratic elections taking place in many parts; and we have seen the peaceful resolution of a number of conflicts on the continent. The challenge of course is the post conflict reconstruction; and with it a range of social and economic initiatives that will serve to fortify an enduring peace and to ensure the elimination of poverty.

And I think that is it really in this context that NEPAD is located.

Many of you - and I would like to go back - would recall the early beginnings of the NEPAD project. It was in Durban in March 2001 at the 3rd African Renaissance |Festival that President Mbeki addressed the South African public in this regard- and in great detail - on his thinking around the social and economic initiative for the African continent as a whole. This seminal speech also sought to analyse the world economy and to outline what Africans needed to do to ensure an equal place in the sun.

I would like to remind us here of this initial vision, which was contained within the Millennium African Recovery Plan (MAP) and - I wonder if any of you remember - and later became infused into the New African Initiative (which developed as a merger between the OMEGA plan and MAP.

Speaking in Durban five years ago, President Mbeki pointed to the dangers of the continued marginalization of the African continent within the global economy and the resultant difficulties
that included "the generation of significant resources from the Continent itself to reverse this [marginalization] process."

The President also emphasized at that time:

"To bring this human tragedy to its end, it is necessary that the peoples of Africa gain the conviction that they are not, and must not be wards of benevolent guardians, but instruments of their own upliftment.

Critical to this - he said - is the knowledge by these peoples that they have a unique and valuable contribution to make to the advancement of human civilisation, that despite everything we have said, Africa has a strategic place in the global community.

Of relevance to this meeting, which is focused on our country, is that President Mbeki stressed the importance of Africa needing to reorganize herself and that the focus should also be on country specific programmes. All things have been mentioned in the outcomes report.

In as far as governance is concerned, he was confident that

"there exists a system of governance, with the necessary capacity, to ensure that the state is able to discharge its responsibilities with regard to such matters as development, democracy and popular participation, human rights and respect for the rule law and appropriate responses to the process of globalisation."

As we have said, which all of us know - he went on to say - Africa is rich in agricultural, mineral and aquatic raw materials that have been exploited for centuries for the benefit of others. These must be used to develop Africa's economies and peoples."

The President also spoke about the importance of attracting "domestic and foreign investment in the extractive sector of the economy" and for the processing of raw materials as well as facilitating access of the value added products into the markets of the developed countries. He also expressed the need "to make all products from this value chain internationally competitive, whether as consumer products or as intermediate capital goods" with the emphasis being on Africa's resource base being utilized both to develop Africa and to meet the needs of the global economy."

I have quoted from his speech at great length here because I think we also need to ask ourselves as South Africans whether we have been true to this vision and whether indeed we are focusing our attention in a very practical manner to use both our human and natural resources to develop our country and our continent and especially to expedite economic development.

Certainly a lot of what the President said needed to be government-led as indeed our reconstruction processes and initiatives such as ASGISA are focusing on, but the necessary partnership with the private sector and civil society can only enhance these processes.

Thus the question of how far we have come and what needs to be done - which is part of this strategizing - could do with a reminder of the initial thoughts that had helped to forge the Millennium Africa Plan that then combined with OMEGA to become NEPAD as we know it today and how it came to be driven by African leaders.

African leaders together came to an agreement that the future of Africa would be shaped by widespread commitment to a strategy of NEPAD. A key element of that strategy was building the capacity of the African economy, through regional trade, in order to engage more successfully with the global economy.

I believe that Professor [Wiseman] Nkuhlu in his presentation emphasized the core business of NEPAD. It is useful as a further reminder to recall some of the core principles underpinning NEPAD which are:-

  • Good governance as a basic requirement for peace, security and sustainable political and socio-economic development;
  • African ownership and leadership, as well as broad and deep participation by all sectors of society;
  • Anchoring the development of Africa on its resources and resourcefulness of its people;
  • Partnership between and amongst African peoples;
  • Acceleration of regional and continental integration;
  • Building the competitiveness of African countries and the continent;
  • Forging a new international partnership that changes the unequal relationship between Africa and the developed world; and
  • Ensuring that all Partnerships with NEPAD are linked to the Millenium Development Goals and other agreed development goals and targets.

These do not only offer a significant opportunity to scale up the response to Africa's development challenges, but more importantly also imply a new way of doing business.

As was succinctly put by the Minister of Housing, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, we need to acknowledge, recognize and accept that, while development partners have an equally important role to play, we are primarily responsible for the actions and policy measures that are required to realise the objectives of the NEPAD programme. It's all about us.

This message further amplifies sentiments expressed by our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at the South Africa-Africa Union-Carribean Diaspora Conference in Kingston, Jamaica on 16 March 2005 where she said,

"For the African Renaissance to become a reality, we must do what needs to be done ourselves. Nobody will do it for us. Accordingly, we are determined to send a message of hope to the African continent … that through unity in action, our historic mission must and will succeed."

Chairperson and distinguished delegates:

Your presentations and deliberations have given us insight into the real challenges at stake. In particular, you critically reflected on issues such as:

  • the challenge to African countries of tapping exisitng potential,
  • the need to open up space for greater ownership of policies and programmes;
  • the need for a greater focus on how effective aid programmes are in as far as they support and impact on development outcomes;
  • and the need for a concerted and systematic build-up of national capacities to ensure the attainment of such outcomes.

It was for these reasons that the first workshop in Port Elizabeth was held for government entities and to begin the process of crafting a National Implementation Strategy for South Africa (NISSA). The need to extend the work on the Strategy beyond government alone has led to further consultation as evidenced by this workshop.

We believe that the process has to be a consultative one and the participation of the various sectors is vital to ensure a common sense of ownership of the processes involved in the implementation of NEPAD nationally, regionally and of course continentally.

Furthermore, it is imperative that NEPAD should maintain its focus on helping to reach the goals of poverty eradication, sustainable development and economic growth. For NEPAD to be sustainable in the long term, it has to make an impact on the quality of lives of all Africans in the continent. Without meaningful participation by and engagement with all stakeholders in society, the momentum engendered by NEPAD cannot be sustained or take root amongst our people.

The purpose, as has been indicated, is to take forward the process. In this regard, the workshop has sought to finalise the elements of a National Implementation Strategy for South Africa (NISSA) relating to engagement with the NEPAD process at the national, regional, continental and international integration.

Without a framework document guiding the work of all stakeholders, including the provincial and local levels of government, as well as business and civil society, we will continue to act without proper coordination and integration.

Clearly as the reports and presentations at this workshop suggest, things are happening, but we need to consolidate this work to avoid a fragmented approach and a wasteful dispersement of scarce resources. Furthermore, it is vital that the good work that is being done becomes known to the South African people, so that they become full participants in these developmental processes.

The task you were faced with at the beginning of this workshop were no doubt difficult, bearing in mind the divergent roles and responsibilities of the various sectors, as well as the varying levels of knowledge and involvement.

However, I am informed that the presentations and breakaway sessions sparked lively debate and discussion and were instrumental in achieving the objectives of the workshop.

I am further gratified to note that you have made good progress in terms of further developing this Strategy and validating the directions that were outlined in the original conception of the strategy.

Let us remember that skewed accumulation of wealth, power, resources and the unequal distribution of the benefits of globalisation have entrenched gross inequalities.

For instance, we know that 70% of the world's poor are women and therefore the fight against poverty must take into account the feminisation of this poverty. Surely, there cannot be sustained development without the emancipation and participation of women and the empowerment of the girl child in particular. I hope that our new national strategy is going to take these inequalities into account.

I am pleased, that in seeking to address our human resource capacity and skills, higher education institutions have proposed a forum for support of NEPAD projects.

I believe that infrastructure development has also been highlighted as essential in being able to meet our developmental objectives.

I am also encouraged by the efforts to work towards an African trade and development strategy and to a greater focus on exchange programmes.

The further exploration of partnerships between government, civil society and the public sector - so that they result in tangible working public-private partnerships - must be commended.

This workshop should not be seen as an event in isolation, but rather as part of an ongoing process. In this, it is encouraging to witness the commitment of civil society and the private sector to the process.

Following on from this workshop, we will need to ensure sector specific engagements on the strategy - for example, with labour, as we prepare a final draft that goes to Cabinet.

These engagements will also build on the work done in preparing a National Self-Assessment Report and Programme of Action through the African Peer Review Mechanism process of review that many of you have and are participating in.

Once Cabinet has approved this Strategy, we will need to work swiftly to implement the final Plan.

The Plan will provide the specific measures and interventions that will be needed to ensure implementation of the Strategy. An important aspect of this will be the specific projects and programmes that we choose to highlight as the NEPAD flagship projects for our Strategy.

Your work has provided a solid base for defining the specific roles we have achieved, that we expect each stakeholder to play, such as national, provincial, and local government, civil society, business and labour.

As Africans, we are faced with the urgent challenge of ending poverty and underdevelopment on our continent. This is a massive task that will take many, many years to achieve.

Let us continue to find the answers to our questions and the demands and responsibilities that these place on us in our developmental efforts.

Your discussion will indeed make an important contribution in formulating answers in reaching a NEPAD national implementation strategy for South Africa and to realize our national, regional and continental goals of prosperity for Africa's people.

I would like to thank you very much.

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