Speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, to the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, Bratislava, Slovakia, 12 June 2007

"View of the Republic of South Africa on the Future of the African Continent"

Programme Director
Honourable Slovak MFA State Secretary, Ms Diana Strofova
Honourable Members of SFPA Board of Directors
Honourable Members of Parliament
Representatives of Government and Political Parties
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Slovak Scholars on Africa
Members of the Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs (SFPA)
Journalists and Entrepreneurs
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed a pleasure and privilege to be with you today. I wish to thank the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (SFPA) for inviting me to address its distinguished members on the future of our beloved continent, Africa.

Allow me to thank Minister Kubis for his invitation to visit this beautiful country which due to its rich cultural heritage proudly boasts five United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. I am equally impressed with the beauty and cultural richness of your city, situated at the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers. I trust during my next visit to Slovakia I will see more of your beautiful country.

South Africa's relations with the Republic of Slovakia are good and growing apace. Minister Kubis and I held constructive discussions on a wide range of issues and agreed that we need to further widen and deepen our political and economic ties. We signed a Memorandum of Co-operation between our two Ministries, which provides for enhanced political consultations on a regular basis on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

We also concurred that given the expanding nature of our respective economies, South Africa and Slovakia need to actively explore ways and means to further boost our economic interactions through the Joint Council for Economic Consultations.

Ladies and gentlemen

We meet today at an interesting period in our histories; the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the European Union (EU) and the 50th anniversary of Ghanaian Independence. The establishment of the EU, arguably the most important development in shaping the present Europe was indeed a historic evolution which advanced the integration of the continent by extending a zone of stability and prosperity to more and more members after generations of divisions and conflict.

Fifty years ago, Ghana (then called the Gold Coast) became the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence. The Ghanaian independence inspired Africans to greater heights and opened the floodgates to political liberation throughout Africa.

The first President of Ghana, His Excellency Kwame Nkrumah, proclaimed to the world that the independence of Ghana was meaningless unless it was linked to the total liberation of the African continent.

Indeed this kindled the fire of liberation that swept across the entire continent. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) came into being, premised on unity and solidarity. Its main responsibility was to be the liberation of Africa from colonial rule and the destruction of apartheid.

The end of apartheid in South Africa and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela brought an end to the anti-apartheid and the anti-colonial struggles. The African continent was free at last and was free forever except for Western Sahara still struggling for self-determination.

Speaking at the OAU Summit in Tunis in June 1994, then President Nelson Mandela expressed this position very passionately when he stated that:

"Finally, at this summit meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of apartheid in South Africa.

"Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance. Let it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding of the African city of Carthage.

"One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely, another must commence with its own challenges. Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory.

"If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown.

"There can be no dispute among us that we must bend every effort to rebuild the African economies."

With the end of apartheid, the major challenges facing the continent were no longer the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles.

This generation had to define its own mission according to the new challenges facing Africa in a globalised world. Africa at the time was said to be a hopeless, dark continent. It was totally marginalised, poor and underdeveloped.

It is up to Africans to turn it into a continent of hope, a continent of possibilities, to pull it from the margins of the world and to transform it into a vibrant and prosperous continent.

President Thabo Mbeki, then Deputy President at the adoption of Democratic South Africa's new constitution in 1996, had this to say in his speech entitled "I am an African":

"I am an African.

"I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

"My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope…

"I am an African.

"I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

"The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

"The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

"The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

"This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

"This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

"Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say - nothing can stop us now!"

This sums up the view of South Africa on the future of the African continent. We have declared the 21st Century the African century.

The African Union (AU) was born out of this determination that "whatever the setbacks of the moment", "whatever the difficulties", Africa will be at peace and that, however improbable it may sound to some, Africa will prosper.

In 2002 the African Union was launched in Durban, South African.

The Constitutive Act of the AU states, amongst other things, that this organisation is:

"Inspired by the noble ideals which guided the founding fathers of our Continental Organisation and generations of Pan Africanists in their determination to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion and co-operation among the peoples of Africa and African States

"Recalling the heroic struggles waged by our peoples and our countries for political independence, human dignity and economic emancipation

"Determined to take up the multifaceted challenges that confront our continent and peoples in the light of the social, economic and political changes taking place in the world

"Guided by our common vision of a united and strong Africa and by the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector in order to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among our peoples"

Among its objectives is the

  • acceleration of the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.
  • promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent.
  • promotion of sustainable development at the economic and cultural levels as well as the integration of Africa's economies.
  • promotion of gender equality.

Africa has also taken a decision to strive for gender parity. Women are a central component of our population. Without them being agents for change, Africa will not reach its full potential.

The AU will be five years old in July. It has established its own Peace and Security Council which is continuously in session in Addis Ababa through our permanent representatives. It meets at Ministerial and Summit level as the situation dictates.

We have just established the Council of the Wise which is a body of eminent African personalities not in government. This body has to act in response to the early warning of an evolving problem in our states. This intervention has to be done very early to prevent conflict.

We are in the process of establishing an African Standby Force. This will consist of five Brigades. One Brigade each from the five sub regions of the AU, namely North, West, Central, East and Southern regions. This will then form our rapid response in peace keeping whilst waiting for the ever slow, sluggish response of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to African problems.

The Pan African Parliament which has its seat in the Republic of South Africa has been established. Initially it is a consultative parliament with no legislative powers. It is to develop common values of good governance, respect for human rights, values of peaceful resolution of conflict etc. This will be reviewed after five years.

The judges of the African Human Rights Court were chosen in July last year. Soon this court will be functioning. We are also in the process of establishing a Court of Justice.

Eventually we shall establish the following financial institutions:

  • the African Central Bank
  • the African Monetary Fund
  • the African Investment Fund

The Economic Social and Cultural Council need strengthening. These are the important institutions of the African Union (AU).

Recognising the crucial need for sustainable development, the New Partnership for Africa's Development was developed: Nepad. Nepad identifies some priorities for the African continent in order to deal with poverty and underdevelopment. These are:

  • peace security and stability
  • respect for human rights and good governance
  • infrastructure development
  • transport
  • energy
  • information Communication Technology (ICT)
  • water and sanitation infrastructure
  • agriculture - food security
  • human resource development
  • education, training and skills development
  • health
  • market access
  • expansion of industrial base - value addition
  • gender parity.

The underlying principles of Nepad are:

  • Partnership: While Nepad is foremost a partnership between and amongst Africans, it seeks to accelerate sustainable development in Africa through partnerships with the South, and to forge a new partnership with the developed North that changes the unequal relationship with Africa.
  • Accountability: Nepad recognises the importance of good political, economic and corporate governance in creating the conditions for development, with African governments embracing greater accountability to their constituents. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is not only good for accountability, but for sharing best practice and for strengthening the identified weak areas. To date 26 countries have joined, while Ghana, Rwanda and Kenya have been reviewed. Reviews of South Africa and Algeria are almost completed.
  • Ownership: Nepad is a long-term vision that is African led and owned. Ownership is promoted through broad and deep participation by all sectors of society, and by tapping into indigenous knowledge or expertise to define needs and solutions.

Nepad complements the Constitutive Act by providing a holistic, comprehensive and integrated strategic policy framework and programme of action. According to a 2005 report by the Economic Commission for Africa entitled: "Progress towards Good Governance in Africa", there are four identifiable positive trends on the road to creating capable states in Africa:

  1. Democratic transition: Many African countries have made significant strides, evolving from authoritarian or military regimes to more democratic arrangements.
  2. Political inclusiveness: Many African countries are seeking to ensure that the executive and legislative arms of government reflect the profile of their people in regional, ethnic, racial and religious terms.
  3. Voice and accountability: New avenues are being created across Africa to allow citizens to participate in the political process to express their demands without fear of retribution.
  4. Public financial management and accountability: More countries are running smaller deficits, meeting their targets for revenue mobilisation, managing their tax systems more effectively, improving fiscal transparency and creating institutions and arrangements for better auditing of public funds.

However, the challenges remain immense.

We need to heed the global warnings of scientists examining the effects of climate change. If not considered at the outset, these will hinder our efforts towards sustained development. Scientists have forecast a 2 to 4,5 degrees Celsius warming by 2050 which would cause substantial change in the capacity of humanity to sustain itself and a report of the American United Nations University Millennium Project foresees that this would result in falling grain yields, water tables and expanding desertification on the African continent.

Yet the same report argues that, had local initiatives and self-help projects been tied more closely to government budgets and natural resources management training and planning co-ordinated at a continental level, Africa would have been better able to fortify itself. For instance, despite Africa having one third of the world's major water basins, it is forecast that over the next 20 to 30 years, 25 African countries are expected to experience water scarcity. Proper systems should be put in place to upgrade rain-fed systems and thus making greater use of renewal water resources management.

Another challenge is that Africa's population will continue to grow.

The recent World Population Ageing Report provides a description of global trends 1950 to 2050. This report argues that by 2050 Africa will have the fastest growing population of young people. In 15 countries, mostly in Africa, "persons under 25 years of age are expected to be the majority of the population." At the same time, the oldest population will be mostly in Europe where age groups over 50 years of age will predominate.

If this is a clear sign of things to come, we need to ask as to what does this mean for the future, for Africa's future. Indeed this abundance of human capital should form the base of our own success coupled with an abundance of natural resources.

The young population will be our important resource. We need to invest in that resource. That is why human resource development is so important for our continent. We should be able to turn that young population into a pool of skilled human resource capital that will boost Africa's own development.

The abundance of oil especially in the Gulf of Guinea and in Central Africa, Angola Chad, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe should allow Africa to leapfrog into sustainable development. The abundance of raw materials, especially metals and the constant demand of this and the high price means African Economies can grow. The challenge is to begin to add value and then export steel instead of iron ore, aluminium instead of bauxite, jewellery instead of raw diamonds etc.

The partnerships among African countries are the most important. In the past we have relied too much on the North for development aid and foreign direct investment (FDI). The FDI has not materialised to the extent that it meets our expectations. The development aid has decreased despite the commitments made of 0,7% of Gross Domestic Products (GDP). Other than the few countries that have benefited from debt relief, the official development assistance (ODA) has actually decreased.

Market access has also not been realised. The Doha Development Round is not bringing results. The United States of America and the European Union (EU) have not made enough movement in the matter of agricultural subsidies. Our partnership with the North - useful and essential as it is - has been disappointing. The commitments made in Kananaskis, Canada and subsequent meetings by the G8, have hardly been implemented.

On the other hand, we have been strengthening our South-South co-operation. The co-operation between Africa and China handled properly in a win-win manner, has a lot of potential both for China and Africa. Co-operation between the African Continent and Asia are also being revitalised since the Africa-Asia Summit in Bandung in 2005. This has a lot of potential.

The Africa - South America summit in Nigeria in 2006 ushered in the dawn of a new era of co-operation in Africa - South America relations.

The global African Diaspora Conference due to take place in South Africa next year is going to put the relations between Africa and its diaspora on a different footing and raise levels of co-operation.

The India-Brasil-South Africa Forum, IBSA, is an important contribution to South South relations.

Africa has vast amounts of arable land. We can grow enough to be self-sufficient. The challenge again is whether individually and collectively, we shall be able to develop our agro processing industries and export value-added agricultural goods.

We have to find resources within our own continent to build our infrastructure because none of the above will happen without developed transport infrastructure to move goods and persons. We also need a developed energy infrastructure for industry as well as ICT for communication.

All these are in line with the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad).

The long delayed AU-EU Summit due to take place in December in Portugal is a welcome development. Our view is that it will only be useful if it redefines our relationship from a Donor-recipient relationship to a true partnership. If it entrenches old relations as such, it will be of no use to us.

We believe that our relations with Slovakia can help to strengthen Nepad. Slovakia has experienced high rates of economic growth and has a government focused on all its citizens' upliftment and sharing in the country's economic growth. We believe that there are valuable lessons to be learnt and best practices to be shared between our two countries that could be of mutual benefit.

We also share a common concern as regards security sector reform that could benefit both our work globally and on the African continent in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Africa is endowed with every tourist attraction we can think of. This infrastructure also needs to be developed.

Africa is indeed a continent of hope and possibilities. Its future depends on what we, the Africans, do with it and its possibilities.

South Africa's involvement is informed by our belief that Africa has to be peaceful secure and stable and that this can only be achieved if we the Africans take the lead. Confident that Africa shall prosper, South Africa has become amongst the biggest, if not the biggest investor in Africa.

We are at the forefront of the launch of the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund. It is aimed at "creating a platform for basic infrastructure for accelerating growth for sustainable development in Africa." We hope to launch the Fund during the forthcoming AU Summit in Ghana at the beginning of next month.

The fund will initially focus on infrastructure sectors: transportation (roads, rail, ports, and airports), telecoms, water and energy (gas and electricity). Target size of the fund will be an initial US$1 billion with final fund size to be in the region of US$3 billion and the initial targeted investors are public sector pension funds on the African continent.

This domestic investment coupled with resource mobilisation is an investment in Africa's future.

The writer Frantz Fanon tells us that each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it. South Africa is determined to fulfil its mission of making the 21st century an African century.

The history of suffering, of conflict of oppression and discrimination, of slavery has meant that Africans have had to overcome so much and still have much to overcome, but this means that we can better contribute to the termination of such practices.

I am reminded of the words of the African writer, Ben Okri, when he argues that our task must also be to prepare for an Africa where:

"butterflies and iguanas thrive, while elephants turn into endangered species, and while even lions growl in their dwindling solitude.

"There is no such thing as a powerless people. There are only those who have not seen and have not used their power and will. It would seem a miraculous feat, but it is possible for the unvalued ones to help create a beautiful new era in human history.

"New vision should come from those who suffer most and who love life the most. The marvellous responsibility of the unheard and the unseen resides in this paradox.

"Nature and history are not just about the survival of the fittest, but also about the survival of the wisest, the most adaptive and the most aware."

It is this wisdom and an awareness of what needs to be done that makes us confident that the future is indeed in our hands as we prepare the ground for the Africa of the future and the world of tomorrow.

Part of our responsibility is to ensure that this is a more inclusive world, a world order characterised by peace and dialogue and a mutual understanding of how we bring about development, not simply for the North or for the South, but for all to share the benefits of a common globe.

I thank you.

Issued by: Department of Foreign Affairs
12 June 2007


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