Towards An African Identity Characterized by Peace, Democracy And Development Through Partnerships by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Durban, 23 May 2007

Programme Director, Dr KB Mbanjwa
Chairperson, MEC M Mthimkhulu
Premier Sibusiso Ndebele
MECs Present
Reverend Dr James Orange, affectionately known as brother leader, not to be mistaken for another brother leader
Delegations from the USA
Delegations from Africa

It is a pleasure and honour to speak at the 9th KwaZulu-Natal African Renaissance Summit.

This summit prioritises the special needs of Africa which must be recognised by all as the most urgent global priority confronting humanity in this century.

We cannot speak about its present challenges without being mindful of the impact of its history of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the Cold War.

I am reminded of the words of William Cowper, an anti slavery activist who wrote, I quote

I own I am shocked at the purchase of the slaves,
And fear those who buy them and them are knaves;
What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and groans,
Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.

I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
Especially sugar, so needful we see,
What? give up our desserts, our coffee and tea!"

This conference must make the bold assertion that it refuses to be mum and that we are prepared to give up our "desserts, our coffee and tea" as we collectively confront the historic challenge of the day.

As we seek to meet these challenges we acutely conscious that the world has fundamentally changed since the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks against the USA on the 9th of September 2001. Today, the international paradigm is characterised interlia by:

  • The dominance of one major power and the absence of a balance of power in the global system;
  • The continuing move to unilateralism and the weakening of the multilateral system;
  • The stark failure of attempts at UN reforms;
  • Failure to challenge the hegemony of neo-liberalism and the Washington consensus;
  • The failure to develop a response to globalisation, which will ensure that it benefits all.
  • The failure of WTO talks and why Kofi Anan was forced to reflect.

The events of the last ten years have not resolved but sharpened the challenges of our unjust world economy, world order and contempt for human rights and the rule of law.
It is a world at which right is right and not right is might.
This really is unsustainable and has to be changed if we want a better Africa and a better world.

2007 marks the 50th Anniversary of Ghana's independence, the 6th anniversary of the establishment of the African Union and 40th anniversary of the death of Chief Albert Luthuli, a outstanding South African, an outstanding African, an outstanding internationalist. Next year is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

This is the 9th African Renaissance Festival and it is timely for us to ask what have we achieved with respect to the African Renaissance. In 1998 then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said "The time has come that we say enough and no more, and by acting to banish the shame, remake ourselves as the midwives of the African Renaissance" (Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, 1998). At a Conference on the African Renaissance His Excellency Hage G. Geingob, former Prime Minister of Namibia asked:

"But, what is this vision we call African Renaissance? How should the vision itself be articulated? For now, when we talk about African Renaissance, we are talking about renaissance with a lowercase 'r'. By definition, renaissance means rebirth, reawakening, revival, reconstruction, renewal, resurrection, etc. We want renaissance to mean it all and more. That still doesn't tell me what African Renaissance is. May I therefore be so presumptuous as to suggest a vision statement of what I see African renaissance to be as follows:

African Renaissance is our vision for Africa that, by the year 2025, it becomes a continent in harmony with itself and with the world, where every person has an opportunity to achieve his potential to the fullest in an environment of peace and security, where every citizen of every country is guaranteed human rights, and is assured of basic means of survival, self-respect and fulfilment".

The questions we pose today are (i) what have we, whom President Thabo Mbeki calls the midwives of the African Renaissance done to realize the vision of the African Renaissance as articulated by His Excellency, HG Geingob?; and (ii) What is the relationship between the African Renaissance and African identity and citizenship?

To answer these questions we must become like the ancient God Janus. In Roman mythology, Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings, and endings. Janus is usually depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, was frequently used to symbolize change and transitions from the past through the present into the future. He also represented time because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. He was representative of the middle ground between barbarity and civilization, rural country and urban cities, and youth and adulthood.

In this the interregnum between the past and the future in Africa we must become like Janus and look both forwards and backwards at the same time so as to enable us to pursue with vigour the realisation of the African Renaissance.

Certainly we can all agree that the vision of the African Renaissance is an all-embracing vision that draws its inspiration from the rich and diverse history and cultures of Africa. It acknowledges Africa as the cradle of humanity, whilst providing a framework for the modern Africa to re-emerge as a significant partner in a world characterised by co-operation not conflict, sharing not greed, multi-lateralism not unilateralism, democracy and good governance not autocracy, equality and social justice not inequality, respect for fundamental human rights not the violation of rights and freedoms and the creation of non-sexist, non-racial and prosperous societies free from discrimination. This vision therefore touches all areas of human endeavour - the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and cultural.

In 1999, President Thabo Mbeki raised and answered the question of "why now". Why will the call for the African Renaissance succeed now? And his answer is as relevant today was it was eight years ago:
"Accordingly, what is new about it today is that the conditions exist for the process to be enhanced, throughout the continent, leading to the transformation of the idea from a dream dreamt by visionaries to a practical programme of action for revolutionaries. What, then, are these conditions! These are:

  • the completion of the continental process of the liquidation of the colonial system in Africa, attained as a result of the liberation of South Africa;
  • the recognition of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism by the masses of the people throughout the continent, including the majority of the middle strata;
  • the weakening of the struggle among the major powers for spheres of influence on our continent, as a consequence of the end of the Cold War; and,
  • the acceleration of the process of globilisation.
    President Mbeki was urging us to seize the moment, to take advantage of these changed circumstances, and to move to give birth to the African Renaissance. Eight years on we know that the success of the African Renaissance depends first and foremost on our ability to deal decisively the critical challenges which face our continent today, including:
  • Poverty and underdevelopment;
  • Strengthening democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency;
  • Social exclusion, social injustice and inequality;
  • Abuses of fundamental human rights, including abrogation of the rights of women and children;
  • Conflict prevention and resolution;
  • Reclaiming our natural resources and ensuring that the wealth of our continent can be used to create prosperity for all on our Continent;
  • Promoting socio-economic development and regional and continental integration; and
  • Addressing the continued marginalisation of huge segments of Africa's economy and society from the process of globalisation and addressing the negative effects of globalisation.

This is the historic project that the African Renaissance must be centrally engaged with. But the realisation of the African Renaissance requires both political will and commitment and active engagement by all sectors of African society, women, youth, people with disabilities, the African intelligentsia, the workers and peasants the business community and the NGO sector. This multi-sectoral approach to the realisation of the African Renaissance must also be centrally engaged with the issue of African identity and citizenship.

President Mbeki reiterating his view that the time is now says "The conviction therefore that our past tells us that the time for Africa's Renaissance has come, is fundamental to the very conceptualization of this Renaissance and the answer to the question: Whence this confidence? Unless we are able to answer the question "Who were we?" we will not be able to answer the question "What shall we be?" This complex exercise, which can be stated in simple terms, links the past to the future and speaks to the interconnection between an empowering process of restoration and the consequences or the response to the acquisition of that newly restored power to create something new". (Deputy President 1998).

Being Janus like, we understand that identity formation and social cohesion of Africans in the contemporary era is a complex response to many factors. The African identity is richly textured and layered and has been forged over three distinct epochs - the pre-colonial period, the colonial period and the post colonial, neo-colonial period. The pre-colonial period was one where even as Europe was entering its Renaissance, Africa had unrivalled societies and centres of excellence in Mali, Ethopia, Egypt, West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa.

These civilisations with their centres of learning and culture have contributed enormously to the African Identity and to global knowledge and culture. But their impact has been blunted and muted by the primacy of the colonial and neo-colonial periods in shaping the African identity. In these two historical eras identity formation was a result of struggle against colonialism and then against neo-colonial engendered corruption, dictatorship, national and regional conflicts. But it was also a result of grass roots initiatives directed at poverty alleviation and sustainable development, improving the well being of millions, overcoming underdevelopment and creating inclusive and cohesive communities, societies and regions.

Certainly, the recognition of the substantial inequality and absence of social inclusion, coupled with the reality of colonialism, exclusion and discrimination prompted among Africans a reflexive or what Castells calls a "defensive" assertion of identity (Castells, 1997). The assertion of an identity against colonial oppression, discrimination and exclusion lays the basis for the emergence of a politics of inclusion and social cohesion that is rooted in the African Renaissance.

This politics of inclusion linked to the African Renaissance is essentially a politics that cuts across inter group and intra group identity and builds a movement of solidarity fully capable of challenging both the negative impact of colonialism on the African identity and of challenging Afro-pessimism. This is similar to Giddens' notion of "dialogic democracy" based on a mutual respect, a shared understanding of the pre-colonial past, the effects of exclusion and marginalization and the emergence of solidarity: "Dialogic democracy…concerns furthering of cultural cosmopolitanism and is a prime building block of that connection of autonomy and solidarity…dialogic democracy encourages the democratization of democracy within the sphere of the liberal-democratic polity." (Giddens, 1994: 112).

The growth of the African identity therefore is producing the conditions for the strengthening of the African Renaissance rooted in what David Held calls a "cosmopolitan democracy" (Held, 1995: 226-231) that recognizes differences, respects differences and that argues for African unity out of immense diversity. The definition of an African identity as a response to colonialism, discrimination, oppression and exclusion starkly poses the question of equality in contemporary period. This is where excluded groups contest their exclusion in a number of arenas - employment, service and governance. So an African Renaissance discourse that does not simultaneously address these critical manifestations of exclusions in the midst of globalisation cannot succeed.

What the above suggests is that the African Renaissance is as much about rebirth as it is about redress and it is about a shift onto the terrain of civil and political equality and social justice.

It is this dualism one rooted in the many different pasts and one forward looking that continually shapes the African identity. And it is in this dualism that we find the seeds of the African Renaissance. For, unless the African Renaissance is people centred, as a historic project it will not succeed.

So the contemporary African identity must be intimately linked to the African Renaissance, it must be forged out of a quest for peace and social justice, the eradication of poverty and unemployment, it must be linked to an infinite improvement in the social condition of the vast majority of poverty stricken African people.

At its core, African Renaissance is an economic and social development agenda for Africa. It is a comprehensive and far-reaching global plan of action to tackle poverty and the developmental needs of Africa in an era of globalisation.

The rebirth, revival and renewal of Africa are encapsulated in the vision of an African Renaissance and in the belief that this will truly be the African Century. This concept of an African Renaissance is highly compelling because it goes beyond the language of oppression and enables the dispossessed, the poor and the marginalized to give voice and expression to the way in which they have experienced colonialism and neo-colonialism, they way they experience globalization, the way in which they experience market forces and the way in which they experience the totality of their socio-political and economic existence.

The vision of the African Renaissance resonates with many including those who (i) are denied access to the valued goods and services in society because of their race, gender, religion, disability etc; (ii) lack adequate resources to be effective, contributing members of society; and (iii) are not recognized as full and equal participants in society. The roots of the African Renaissance are deep, historical and must be continually reproduced in both old and new ways in contemporary society.

Without undertaking an analysis of the complexity of the African identity and how the African Renaissance can redefine the African identity, we will languish in a world where we only look backwards. The contemporary discourse on the African Renaissance must not be narrowly focused on poverty and integration into the paid labour market, it must be linked to an alternate discourse that speaks of inclusion, power and empowerment, equality and access, prosperity for all and ecological sustainability, values and ethics.

The value of African Renaissance is that it fully capable of meeting the greatest challenges posed by diversity in Africa - to build on the traditions of equality and to move to the incorporation of the ideals of anti-racism, anti-sexism and anti-discrimination as core ideals exemplifying African Renaissance values. The African Renaissance is capable of this because it is about respect for differences and it is about the removal of barriers to effective and equitable participation in all spheres of public life.

The politics of the African Renaissance is about an inclusive democracy that places issues of social justice at the heart of the historic Renaissance project. Democracy and an inclusive polity are the locus of citizenship and it is essential to recognize that the very definition of Renaissance in the public sphere and inclusive African citizenship on a continental scale are still contested notions. There is no single public sphere, no single acceptable notion of citizenship and no single notion of social cohesion. There are instead multiple spheres and spaces in which historically marginalized groups develop their own sense of cohesion to contest oppression, discrimination and exclusion - where they posit a different understanding of space, citizenship and social cohesion. In positing this different and alternate understanding, they are challenging us, the midwives of the African Renaissance, to put issues of inequality and social justice at the heart of a reclaimed African Renaissance. When historically marginalized groups contest notions of rights and conceptions of citizenship they are simultaneously seeking an alternative. And the alternative is about inclusion as valued participants in an Africa that is committed to the eradication of poverty, the vestiges of colonialism and the colonial mentality, violence and conflict and disadvantage in all its forms and manifestations.

In the narrow sense citizenship is exclusionary. It is about who is a citizen of a nation state and what bundle of rights that citizen can exercise and it is about what that citizen is entitled to as a member of the nation state. In the realm of formal equality the laws, the constitutions, the human rights codes proclaim the equality of all citizens. In this realm, it is just that citizens should be equally entitled to certain rights typically associated with a democracy - the right to vote, to freedom of association, freedom of religion etc.

As a discourse within a broader rights and equality discourse, African Renaissance forces us to think beyond the realm of formal equality and into the realm of substantive equality. African Renaissance begins from the premise that it is democratic citizenship that is at risk when we on our continent fail to develop the talents and capacities of all our citizens. The African Renaissance is undermined when the rights of our people are not respected and accommodated and they lose respect for the institutions of governance.

For the African Renaissance to succeed there can be no contradiction between democratic citizenship and differentiated citizenship (where people can hold dual and even multiple loyalties). The African Renaissance is about valued participation, valued recognition and belonging. At a minimum, it is characterized by:

  • All the political rights associated with formal equality;
  • A right to equality and a right to equal access to valued goods and services;
  • An intimate relationship between the individual and the community;
  • Reciprocal relationship of rights and obligations;
  • A commitment on the part of the state to ensure that all members of society have equal access to developing their talents and capacities; and
  • Providing all members of society with the resources to exercise democratic citizenship.
  • The eradication of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment; and
  • Pro-poor sustainable development.

The realisation of the African Renaissance has a number of important elements to it. There can be no African Renaissance without peace and security. The January 2007 AU Summit in Addis Ababa recalled that "the maintenance of international peace and security is the primary responsibility of the United Nations Security Council and called upon the United Nations to examine, within the context of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, the possibility of funding, through assessed contributions, peacekeeping operations undertaken by African Union or under its authority and with the consent of the United Nations".

There can be no African Renaissance without African solutions to the intractable conflicts on our soil, including the conflicts in Sudan/Darfur, the Horn of Africa, and Cote d'Ivoire.

There can be no African Renaissance without intense and immense support to the fragile peace achieved in Burundi and the DRC.

There can be no African Renaissance unless we deal with socio-economic inequalities and realise the Millennium Development Goals to which we have all committed ourselves. In 2000, in the historic Millennium Summit Declaration, world leaders pledged their commitment not only to their own citizens, but also to all people in the world. They proclaimed as follows:

"We believe that the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people. For while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed. We recognize that 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 upon our common humanity in all its diversity, can globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable. These efforts must include policies and measures, at the global level, which correspond to the needs of developing countries and economies in transition, and are formulated and implemented with their effective participation."

Five years later, in 2005, the World Summit Outcome Document, in reviewing progress achieved in the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, world leaders proclaimed:

"We strongly reiterate our determination to ensure the timely and full realization of the development goals and objectives agreed at the major United Nations conferences and summits, including those agreed at the Millennium Summit that are described as the Millennium Development Goals, which have helped to galvanize efforts towards poverty eradication."

Progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been exceptionally slow, most notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. This slow progress can primarily be attributed to the fact that current international efforts to assist developing countries in their efforts are inadequate to meet the need. The ongoing initiatives to identify and utilise various innovative new sources of financing for development are therefore critical to overcoming the financing constraints that limit progress towards the achievement of international development objectives. The global imbalance between developed and developing countries continues to widen, however. This situation must be urgently addressed if the world as a whole is to prosper into the 21st century.

There can be no African Renaissance unless we provide education and health care, eradicate highly preventable diseases, deal with malnutrition and hunger and ensure that no child and no adult in Africa goes to bed hungry. For why would our people be interested in the lofty ideals of the African Renaissance when they cannot feed themselves and their families?

There can be no African Renaissance without good governance. And in an effort to enhance the quality of governance in Africa, the Sixth Summit of the African Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) held in Abuja, Nigeria, in March 2003, adopted the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It is an instrument voluntarily acceded to by member states of the African Union (AU) as a self-monitoring mechanism.

The mandate of the APRM is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating states conform to the agreed political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards contained in the Declaration on Democratic, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance adopted at the AU Summit in 2002. The primary purpose of the APRM is to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices that will lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration through the sharing of experiences and the reinforcement of successful best practices, including identifying deficiencies and assessing the needs of capacity building.

The APRM is open to all members of the AU and so far twenty six member countries have acceded to it. Since its inception in 2003 the APR Panel has launched reviews in 13 countries and peer reviews have been finalised in three of these countries namely Ghana, Kenya and Rwanda. South Africa welcomes the Report by the APR Panel. The Report including South Africa's comprehensive Programme of Action will be presented to the Heads of State and Heads of Government of the African Peer Review Forum in July of this year.

There can be no African Renaissance without a developmental state committed to development and sustainable economic growth, sharing the fruits of prosperity and redistribution to close wealth and asset gaps between rich and poor. President Thabo Mbeki noted that "The time has come that we call a halt to the seemingly socially approved deification of the acquisition of material wealth and the abuse of state power to impoverish the people and deny our Continent the possibility to achieve sustainable economic development".

The most recent Economic Report on Africa, published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in February 2007, illustrates the relationship between development, peace and security. In their report, the ECA states that, during 2006, growth in Africa has increased but it is still not enough. The report states that African economies continue to sustain the growth momentum of previous years, recording an overall real GDP growth rate of 5.7% in 2006 compared to 5.3% in 2005 and 5.2% in 2004. As many as 28 countries recorded improvements in growth in 2006, relative to 2005. Only Zimbabwe recorded a negative growth rate in 2006.

There can be no African Renaissance without regional and continental integration. Regional integration and the creation of an African common market has been the vision of African leaders since the early years of independence. The regional process of economic integration must be viewed within the context of the continental efforts towards economic and political integration. It will be recalled that the AU Heads of State and Government at their meeting held in Sirte, Libya in July 2005, reaffirmed that the ultimate goal of the African Union is to realise a full political and economic integration leading to the United States of Africa. The Union Government was envisaged to have identifiable goals based on a set of clear, shared values and common interests. In order to effectively drive the African integration agenda, South Africa must ensure that the regional and continental processes are complementary and mutually supportive. A hallmark event in determining the next phase of the African century will be the July Summit of AU Heads of State and Government which will be devoted to the "grand debate" to consider the process of economic and political integration of the continent.

These renewed efforts at integrating economies and expediting economic growth confirm that Africa remains determined to pursue the African Renaissance objectives of accelerating socio-economic development and ensuring that the continent assumes its rightful place in the international community.

There can be no African Renaissance without South-North partnership on the basis of equality, recognition of the need for reform and democratisation of multi-lateral institutions of governance and to ensure peace, security and development in the South.

There can be no African Renaissance without a sustained and informed South-South dialogue. South Africa actively advances the African agenda and that of the South through engagement with like-minded countries in regional and sub-regional groupings in the South e.g. Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G77 and China, IBSA, NAASP and the China-Africa Forum, as mentioned above. These groups provide platforms for countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic and development issues. South Africa is fully committed to the following up on the outcomes of the Second South Summit held in Doha, Qatar in June 2005 aimed at enhancing technical cooperation among developing countries and strengthening interdependence amongst these countries in various areas such as poverty eradication, health, education, population, women and children.

South-South Dialogue is instrumental in realising the objectives of the African century and countries such as India, Brazil, China and the countries in the Middle East are being mobilised to partner with Africa to implement its programmes, particularly NEPAD.

President Thabo Mbeki definitely challenges us when he says:
And again we come back to the point that we, who are our own liberators from imperial domination, cannot but be confident that our project to ensure the restoration not of empires, but the other conditions in the 16th century described by Leo Africanus: of peace, stability, prosperity, and intellectual creativity, will and must succeed! The simple phrase "We are our own liberators!" is the epitaph on the gravestone of every African who dared to carry the vision in his or her heart of Africa reborn.

So we understand, both as our own liberators and as the midwives of the African Renaissance, that this historic project includes all spheres of the economy, society and the polity. Its realisations requires a very high degree of inter state co-operation and co-ordination.

Interestingly, it can well be argued that the preconditions for the realisation of the African Renaissance are in many respects also its goals and objectives. For poverty eradication, peace and security, sustainable and shared growth are all preconditions for the realisation of the African Renaissance. And in a very real and tangible sense in order to achieve the social and economic regeneration and development of the Continent we need a Renaissance.
What makes a discourse on African Renaissance most compelling is that it:

  • Is the political response to centuries of oppression, colonialism and neo-colonialism;

  • Is proactive. It is about demandings that nation states and the institutions of nation states be proactive in advancing an inclusive vision of Africa;

  • Promotes solidarity. Africans from diverse backgrounds can come together on the basis of common purpose and can engage in an inclusionary politics that is directed at the creation of inclusive communities, cities and an inclusive continent;

  • By virtue of vision can make governments and institutions transparent and accountable for their policies.

  • Is about transformation. It is about the political struggle and the political will to transform the colonial and post colonial mindset and further a vision of inclusion and cohesion that binds its proponents and adherents to action.

  • Is embracing. It posits a notion of an African identity rooted in democratic citizenship as opposed to formal citizenship - an identity rooted in a commitment to peace, security, social justice and improving the well being of all and especially of the most marginalised and excluded on our continent.

African Renaissance, therefore is about social cohesion and inclusion plus, it is about citizenship plus, it is about rights and responsibilities plus, it is about accommodation of differences plus, it is about unity in diversity plus, it is about democracy plus, and it is about a new way of thinking about solutions to the critical challenges facing Africa. It is the combination of the various pluses that make the discourse on the African Renaissance so incredibly exciting. Let us be seized by the possibilities of building an Africa that is cohesive and united in its diversity, an Africa that takes its rightful place in the 21st century as a continent in the midst of a Renaissance. As President Mbeki oft repeats, there has never been a better time to embrace the vision of an African Renaissance than now. And if we agree that Africa will be a much stronger, peaceful and prosperous continent if we embrace the African Renaissance as a transformative tool and as a normative ideal, then the question that remains is how will this conference and how will participants at this conference further the aims and ideals of the African Renaissance?

African Intellectual Obenga, has noted:
"Any renaissance must correspond to a period of strong emotions, intensive creativity and flames illuminating the countryside - am exceptional period when a nation's creative genius discovers its mission, fulfil it to its best, without betraying, diminishing or downsizing it. It should correspond to great moments in history, and great works. All people want rebirth after misfortune, wars, genocide, holocaust, ignorance, obscurantism, colonialism. Rebirth is a positive attitude of hope."

We have to mobilise the masses in Africa and internationally "to bless Africa with a generation creative genius that discovers its mission, fulfil it to its best, without betraying, diminishing, reducing or downsizing it - the missionary to achieve Africa's integration and renaissance".

I am confident that this conference will contribute to our efforts to ensuring that these fundamental values do determine the new world order, which is equitable and ensures that the quality of life of millions of Africans improve substantially and that "right is might and not might is right".


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