Address by Deputy Minister Alvin Botes, at the Parliament of South Africa: National Assembly, on the 20th anniversary of the African Union in 20 Years, (hybrid), 25 May 2022
Speaker of the National Assembly,
Deputy President Mabuza,
Fellow Members of South African Parliament,
Chief of the Majority Party, Honourable Majodina,
Members of the Arab Maghreb Union,
Members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,
Members of the Community of Sahel–Saharan States,
Members of the East African Community,
Members of the Economic Community of Central African States,
Members of the Economic Community of West African States,
Members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development,
Members of the Southern African Development Community,
South Africa continues to execute our foreign policy through the canon of Pan-Africanism, South-South solidarity, South-North cooperation and Multilateralism (global Governance). We do so knowing that our national interest is intertwined, interrelated and integrally infused with the stability, unity and prosperity of Africa.
Pan-Africanism, as expressed through the African Agenda 2063 of the African Union, is the most immediate priority when South Africa executes her foreign policy. This is further underpinned by strong emphasis on Ubuntu Diplomacy.
At all times we must fight against the man-made disease of convenient memory losses; we must remind ourselves that we once were a people, who were subjected to a duality of oppression through colonialism and apartheid.
Freedom was Not Free: Colonialism
Colonialism, through its chief representative, King Leopold II of Belgium gained absolute pre-eminence over the Congo and eventually other countries in Africa following a report he read in 1879 about the rich mineral resources in the Congo Basin which is presently known as Democratic Republic of Congo).
During 1914 following the footsteps of the Belgian King and within forty years, African territory was finally invaded and divided amongst the European powers with Britain capturing Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa and the Gold Coast. Quite a vast area of West Africa was ceased and occupied by France including, Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Senegal. On the other hand, East African countries such as Tanzania and Namibia were controlled by the Germans, whereas Mozambique and Angola were subjugated by Portuguese.
Pan-Africanism and African Unity
Pan-Africanism informed decolonisation, which became an anti-thesis for the colonial powers. This movement began after World War II during the early decades of the twentieth century. The acclaimed Pan-Africanist leaders were Kwame Nkrumah, the father of African independence, Abdel Nasser, Samora Machel, Kenneth Kaunda, Haile Selassie, Sam Nujoma, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Seretse Khama, Thomas Sankara, amongst others. Pan-African leaders in the African diaspora were people such as Marcus Garvey (Jamaican) and William Du Bois (African American).
Franz Fanon cautioned us in his seminal works entitled Black Skin, White Masks that without conceptualisation and a new way of life, the struggle will rely on the memories of past battles and old formulas and fall back into an unhappy unconsciousness—what is called “Afro-Pessimism and Afro-optimism on the other. We can no longer speak like some amongst our forbearers of the Monrovia State, Brazzaville Groups, Casablanca Powers, Anglophone and Francophone. Let us put an end to these terms. We require a singular African identity, premised on the African Renaissance.
African Union Agenda 2063
The theme of this debate, Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent is in line with the Aspiration 1 of the African Union Agenda 2063 which speaks to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. Without food security, it is difficult to achieve all other aspirations of the Agenda 2063, and is required to support several of the Sustainable Development Goals, including “End poverty” (SDG 1) and “Zero hunger” (SDG 2).
Former President Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the inauguration of the AU twenty years back, summarised the overall mission of the Union as follows:
“By forming the Union, the peoples of our continent have made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite! We as Africans have a common and a shared destiny! Together, we must redefine this destiny for a better life for all the people of this continent.”
We must equally and immediately recalls the AU Decisions and commitments on nutrition, as pathway to leverage the Unity of Purpose for a Shared and Inclusive Prosper destination, which President MBEKI spoke about, being the establishment of the African Task Force on Food and Nutrition Development in 1987, the adoption of Maputo Declaration on the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, under the NEPAD initiative in 2003, the endorsement of Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security in 2010; the adoption of Malabo Declaration in 2014; the endorsement of African Union Nutrition Champion in 2014 (His Majesty King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho); the endorsement of the Africa Leaders for Nutrition Initiative in 2018; and the launch of Continental Nutrition Accountability Scorecard in 2019, amongst others.
Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent requires Unity of Purpose amongst AU member states of the world’s most under-developed continent. The objective reality in our continent is that ours has largest arable land and yet majority of hungry people are found here in Africa. According to the African Development Bank, the continent has 65% of the uncultivated, arable land left in the world to feed 9 billion people by 2050.
In 2017, Africa spent 64.5 billion US dollar on importing food, and may spend even more in subsequent and forthcoming years. This is unsustainable and unaffordable. It is also completely unnecessary…65% of the world’s remaining uncultivated arable land, But we agree to lose precious foreign exchange by continuing to pay so much for imported food? We must act with Unity of Purpose to eliminate the negative balance, and start to sow, grow, process, consume, and ultimately to export the food ourselves. To pay 64 billion US dollar to import food, is unsustainable and negates from our common destiny of shared prosperity.
Agriculture and Food Security
Agriculture accounts for some 60% of jobs across the continent. Despite its central role, the agricultural sector accounts for 16.5% of African GDP due to its low productivity, and Africa’s cereal yield is only 41% of the international average. Private sector infrastructure, beyond production facilities, remains underdeveloped. For example, Africa produces approximately 69.2% of the world’s cocoa beans by weight, but receives only 2% of the revenue of global sales of chocolate.
Implementing the Abuja Treaty in its totality is more urgent and pressing than yesteryear, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a perfect vehicle for enhanced intra-African trade. We should encourage Eriteria to seriously consider signing this Pan-Africanist economic protocol.
Financing Food Security
The 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods expresses firm recommitment towards attaining an agriculture revolution in Africa. This recommitment arose as a result of the progress made and lessons learned from the implementation of earlier AU Decisions and Declarations, most notably the 2013 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa. Based on this resolve, the African Leaders, met in Malabo, during 2014, and re-committed themselves to the Maputo target of allocating at least 10% of national budgets to the agriculture sector.
As we celebrate Africa Day 2022, it is important to critical reflect on the seriousness which we, as guarantors of an Inclusive African Prosperity, have taken heed of the seven Malabo commitments.
On Malabo Commitment 1: Recommitment to the Principles and Values of The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Process, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Rwanda is the lead African states.
On Malabo Commitment 2: Enhancing Investment Finance in Agriculture, Zambia, Eswatini, Seychelles and Egypt manage to be the lead states on financial agricultural mobilisation.
On Malabo Commitment 3: Ending Hunger by 2025, Kenya has been singled out of substantively having improve access to agricultural inputs and technologies, increase agricultural productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, improve food safety, reduce food and nutrition insecurity, and improve social protection coverage for the vulnerable groups. South Africa together with Kenya registered remarkable progress in reducing postharvest losses above the Malabo target of 50% (by 99.88% and 63.16%, respectively).
On Malabo Commitment 4: Halving Poverty through Agriculture by 2025, Ghana and Morocco are the lead states through Inclusive Agricultural Growth and Transformation includes a resolve to ensure that the agricultural growth and transformation process is inclusive and contributes at least 50% to the overall poverty reduction target
On Malabo Commitment 5: Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agriculture Commodities and Services, Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone are chief proponents, who significantly increase the value of trade in agricultural commodities and services in Africa by creating enabling environment for intra-African trade in agricultural commodities. South Africa’s exports to Africa (R385 billion) for the first time exceeded in 2021 its exports to the European Union (R355 billion). Whilst major economies like China, the USA and EU remain important- Africa as a group is larger than all of them. The quality of trade is almost as important as the scale of trade.
On Malabo Commitment 6: Enhancing Resilience to climate variability. The Commitment is meant to help improve resilience capacity of households to climate change, and eleven states, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.
On Malabo Commitment 7: Enhancing Mutual Accountability for Actions and Results. AU Member States committed to align, harmonise and coordinate multi-sectoral and multi- institutional platforms for peer review, mutual learning and mutual accountability. South Africa together with Mali, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Morocco, Mauritania, Tanzania, Tunisia, Senegal, Ghana, and Botswana, leads on this commitment.
South Africa must commend the four African AU member states Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, and Mali, for having met the target of spending at least 10% of the total national expenditure on agriculture, thereby being the lodestars of the Maputo protocol.
Direct government intervention in South Africa brought down multi-dimensional poverty down from 17.9% (2001) to 7% (2016). Household hunger as a result dropped from 2.7 million to 1.7 million. The South African government has allocated 4.5% of its total public expenditure to agriculture, amounting to R17.3 billion. There will be a pertinent focus on improving agricultural production and revitalising essential agricultural infrastructure through the implementation of the agriculture and agro‐processing master plan; accelerating land reform by implementing the comprehensive land agrarian strategy and finalising land restitution claims, and mitigating and preventing the outbreak of diseases among livestock and products within the agricultural value chain.
Honourable House Chairperson,, Landownership inequalities and landlessness are growing, and in Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Liberia, and Southern Africa they are high enough to undermine shared growth and social cohesion. We should note and learn lessons from the successful redistributive land reform undertaken by Mali.
Honourable House Chairperson, South Africa appreciates substantively that Inclusive Prosperity will be accelerated by Good Governance and we acknowledge the stewardship role of the APRM in this regard; we appreciate the foresight of AUDA-NEPAD, which shapes our development dividend, and the economic possibilities brought about by the AfCFTA. We concur that Africa’s Peace and Security architecture is a critical driver for development, through the APSA.
Honourable House Chairperson, the war in Europe, between Ukraine and Russia do affect global food security, and has interrupted global supply channels. Leaders of political parties should appreciate that relationships between states are informed by Structured Bilateral Mechanism, which underpins principles of mutual respect and territorial sovereignty, and encourage self-determination of citizenry in accordance with the UN Charter. The South African government will continue to direct herself through these bilateral mechanisms, and apply its voice of reason in various multilateral organisations as it relates to immediate cessation of hostilities and Peace Diplomacy. Anything contrary will prolong insecurity, and create great challenges for sustainable food security in South Africa and Africa.
Honourable House Chairperson, we Must be Proud that the Organisation of African Unity substantively achieved its objective of Decolonising Africa, we Must be Confident on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the African Union, that An Inclusive Prosperity for Africa is a Real Possibility.
I thank you, Siyabonga, Enkosi, Baie Dankie, Ke itumetse, merci, asante sana.
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