It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.
Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you.
The journey is part of the experience — an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.
25 May 2010
Africa Day is a truly watershed moment epitomising collective African experience that straddles a long, rugged landscape of our history as Africans.
So I am convinced that the government and the people of Turkey have graciously welcomed us on this wonderful day in Africa’s political calendar because of an abiding interest in the African continent.
This is much appreciated. Similarly, South Africa, and Africa in general, shares an interest in the mutually beneficial relationship and friendship with your great nation, as our visit to your country demonstrates.
We are also honoured to share experience with and thus benefit from a country whose civilisation goes back to the mist of time.
In terms of recent history, it is a known fact that Turkey has contributed immensely to the march of human progress since it emerged as a modern day Republic.
Credit on this account should go to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of Turkey whose vision laid the foundations for the greatness of your nation.
I speak with no fear of hyperbole when I say that modern day Turkey is indebted to this great thinker, whose thoughts radiated high ideals and pioneered modernity for your nation.
Programme director, Africa Day represents a historic moment as much as it is a historical memory for all the people of Africa.
Its value resides in its powers to enjoin us to cast our minds on our history, the better to reflect on our present challenges and thus to shape our future.
At a symbolic level, Africa Day is a metaphorical moment that unites all Africans from all corners of the continent.
It says in spite of the divisions imposed on all Africans over the years of colonialism, we share an indivisible future occasioned by our common past of subjugation, domination and dehumanisation.
Yet in a manner of speaking, it is equally a symbolic day for all the people of the world who share the vision of a peaceful and prosperous Africa.
In celebrating Africa Day today we are, in essence, commemorating the birth of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the African Union (AU).
Forty Seven years ago, today, 32 independent African States signed the Charter of the newly born OAU pledging themselves to the eradication all forms of colonialism.
To their credit, mobilising a broad spectrum of the oppressed masses, these midwives of African liberation went on to inspire liberation in rest of the continent.
However, as the iconic Nelson Mandela sagely said:
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
Nowhere did this profound reality assume pronounced importance than in the sphere of post-colonial Africa’s socio-economic conditions, which conditions threatened to strangulate the hard won gains of our liberation.
These socio-economic challenges expressed themselves in the severe hardships of poverty, which, if left unattended in the prevailing euphoria of freedom, would continue to mar the face of the newly liberated Africa.
However, it is also important to note that none of these negative economic conditions was a result of chance and coincidence.
Africa’s vulnerability to its history of colonialism came back to haunt it in many ways in its post-colonial incarnation.
For example, the post-colony in Africa faced, among others, the following constraining conditions:
· Conflicts, wars, military interventions and autocracy supplanted democracy;
· The emergence of neo-colonialism which meant few African countries could independently embark on any political and economic development route outside those designed, approved and managed by the erstwhile colonial powers;
· The Western powers never envisaged independent African countries to decide their own development paths, rather, they sought to create dependent client states which could be manipulated according to the strategic and economic requirements of these western countries;
· The weak and fragile economies of the newly independent countries left them vulnerable to the variety of political mechanisations of imperial powers; and
· Debt, aid, manipulations by aid donors and unfavourable trade terms, became an albatross on many African countries.
Recognising this negative economic state, the OAU tried on several occasions to come up with measures to address the African economic conditions.
It was also out of the recognition of the various factors which had hindered the development of the continent, and which were seriously jeopardizing the future of its peoples.
A number of seminal events thus took place with the sole aim of rethinking new paths for Africa’s economic development.
Among these were:
· The Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa 1980-2000;
· The Monrovia Declaration of Commitment of the Heads of State and Government, of the Organisation of African Unity on Guidelines and Measures for National and Collective Self-Reliance in Social and Economic Development for the Establishment of a New International Economic Order; and
· The Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community, on June 3rd 1991 in Abuja, Nigeria.
Underlying all these historical OAU Summits was the heightened consciousness to develop and utilize the human and natural resources of the continent for the general well-being of the African peoples in all fields of human endeavour.
The Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) was unparalleled in that it gave rise to the establishment of an African Economic Community constituting an integral part of the OAU.
Inter alia, the AEC’s objectives were as follows:
· To promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to increase economic self-reliance and promote an endogenous and self-sustained development;
· To establish, on a continental scale, a framework for the development, mobilization and utilization of the human and material resources of Africa in order to achieve a self-reliant development; and
· To promote cooperation in all fields in order to raise the standard of living of Africans, and maintain and enhance economic stability, foster close and peaceful relations among Member States and contribute to the progress, development and the economic integration of the Continent.
Further, there would be the liberalisation of trade through the abolition, among Member States of Customs Duties and Non-Tariff Barriers so as to establish free trade areas in each regional economic community.
The countries also agreed to adopt a common trade policy, ensure a common external tariff and establish a common market.
Of importance, there was agreement on the removal, among Member States, of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the right of residence and establishment.
Subsequent to this economic programme, a new realisation dawned that Africa needed a new political vision which at the time could not be expressed within the context of the OAU.
Events soon dictated a change of direction in keeping with the post Cold War world scenario, which was imposing its imponderables globally, especially on economically vulnerable nations.
Changes wrought by the fluid international environment immediately after the end of the Cold War meant the inevitable repositioning of Africa’s interests in the face of the new, exacting international economic landscape.
Consequently, the OAU carried out a critical review of Africa’s political, social and economic situation, necessitating new institutional forms of response to changing conditions.
This resulted in the launch of the African Union (AU) in 2002, which took over the baton in the forward struggle for the sustainable development.
The AU’s objectives are, among others: the consolidation of democracy; peace and stability; human security; good economic governance as well as sustainable development; human rights; health.; gender equality; information and computer technology; integrated regional development; as well as cultural and heritage preservation and promotion.
Qualitatively, all these objectives hoist Africa onto a higher plane of sustainable human development, in tune with the temper of current global economic and political exigencies.
Notably, with the onset of the AU, Africa turned a corner on political stability.
The OAU’s mandate was driven by liberatory impulse, deferring to sovereignty and thus adopting non-interference clause in domestic affairs.
As it turned out, this did not prove helpful in building the culture of democracy in post-colonial Africa.
Learning from such historical errors, the AU espoused a contrary view and opted to prioritise key issues of democracy, justice, and human rights as the index of building Africa’s political future.
Accordingly, the AU has made democracy a key requirement for its membership.
No government is acceptable within the AU’s fold if it does not enjoy democratic credentials, based on free and fair elections under universal suffrage.
As a result, since the formation of the AU a steady but unprecedented democratisation process has been sweeping across the continent.
Encouragingly, this renewed fervour in the deepening of democracy owed much to measures taken by Africans themselves, with the participation of the masses of our people.
Multi-party elections and democratic governments is becoming the norm rather than an exception.
Concomitant with this positive political turn of events has been the improvement in the economic outlook of many African countries, until the recent global recession.
The economies of many of our countries were beginning to recover, registering better rates of growth than had been the case for almost three decades.
We can see a clear correlation between the AU’s political character and the economic improvement of its member states.
At the same time, one can also notice the small but growing impact on Africa’s recovery economic plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, (NEPAD).
NEPAD, which serves as a blue print for Africa’s economic resuscitation, is the economic programme of the AU.
NEPAD priorities areas such as infrastructure development; banking and financial standards; agriculture; access to market and creating positive conditions conducive for better investment; as well as reducing business costs and increasing Africa’s competitiveness in the world economy.
NEPAD was developed with the express understanding that this is new partnership for the development of Africa, which is owned, managed and driven by Africans, has a responsibility to end the centuries of poverty and underdevelopment.
Of central importance to the concerns of NEPAD is the need to make interventions in the area of information and communication technology, the heartbeat of modern development.
Over many years Africa’s economic integration and participation in the global economy has been constrained by factors such as the high cost of access for end-users to foreign-owned satellite telecommunication providers for cross-border, regional and international telecommunications traffic.
In addition, high Internet access costs, low bandwidth, poor ICT infrastructure and often unreliable communication facilities further exacerbate the challenges the African countries face.
Happily, the year 2010 is already holding out great prospects in this regard. For example, the broadband fibre-optic submarine cables are being sunk and the eastern seaboard cable is already operating.
A broadband network that links all 54 African countries will provide abundant bandwidth, easier connectivity and reduced costs.
In addition, it is expected that the marine cables will enhance competition in business process outsourcing (BPO), considered the vital link to the rest of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we all know Africa is a landmass generously endowed with a variety of minerals.
Yet we do not as yet have a fully developed secondary industry to process our export oriented products.
Building up Africa’s physical infrastructure — roads, railways, harbours, electricity grids, waterworks, communications networks — is another NEPAD priority.
Such infrastructure will be essential if African industries, small businesses and farmers are to produce and earn more.
I am confident that these bold steps will lay the foundation for the development of secondary industry needed for mobilising domestic and foreign capital for full scale industrialisation.
In addition, NEPAD still need to address the following challenges:
· Regional macro-economic stability;
· Financial market integration; and
· Infrastructure development and opening up of borders to facilitate the free movement of goods and services and other factors of production.
We also need to develop efficient infrastructure and services to facilitate the free movement of people.
On the critical matter of green revolution, NEPAD has registering good progress for small scale African farmers.
NEPAD has mobilised public support among African governments to prioritise and invest in agriculture.
NEPAD encourages African governments to implement the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), a framework to accelerate economic growth and boost food security through greater investments in agriculture.
Endorsed by African leaders, Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme calls on African governments to allocate 10% of their national budgets to agriculture, in order to achieve 6 percent annual agricultural growth.
This vision has already galvanized some partners around the world to support agriculture in Africa.
The new partners will work together through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme”s national roundtable processes, which will direct investments toward implementing policies and programmes that strengthen smallholder farmers” access better soil management techniques.
This will also lead to improved seeds and fertilisers, increase their access to markets, and build the capacity of African institutions to advance agricultural research and to develop home-grown, evidence-based agricultural policies.
The resolution of all these challenges offers unique opportunities for trade and growth in Africa.
Among such opportunities is the processing of vast mineral resources Africa has, which largely needs development of requisite infrastructure.
The above scenario outlines challenges, the flip side of which lays bare countless opportunities.
Whatever difficulties we encounter we should not lose sight of our main objective of unity and integration.
At all times we should consistently and faithfully pursue the prescriptions of the Abuja Treaty, NEPAD and the objectives of Constitutive Act of the AU, develop our economies and ensure that integration and development proceed side by side.
On this score we should all note that Africa remains alive with possibilities, and will do so for generations to come.
You will recall that the United Nations (UN) introduced new conflict resolution and peace keeping strategies early in the 90s, which impacted directly on the concrete conditions in Africa at the time.
This UN approach occurred concurrent with efforts to reconceptualise the Organisation of African Unity.
Thus this United Nations development accorded with the emerging view that Africa needed to work towards the AU, part of whose mandate would be to strive for peace, stability, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction in Africa.
I would like to emphasise the fact that, guided by this UN approach, we as Africans have since registered considerable gains in areas of peace and stability, democracy and good governance.
Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR, and Cote d”Ivoire are among a few African countries that are a living example of successful peace efforts that represent our resolve to bring about African solutions to Africa’s problems.
It should, however, be mentioned that there are challenges that remain, as demonstrated by the recent re-emergence of the spurts of unconstitutional changes of government and other forms of conflicts in some pockets of the continent.
Be that as it may, we remain committed to deal with these sporadic challenges.
In this regard, the theme of this Africa Day celebration, ‘Building and Maintaining Peace through Sport in Africa’, was correct in conception, as informed by two factors, namely:
· The African Union’s decision to declare 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security in Africa; and
· And related to this, the hosting of the first FIFA World Cup on African soil – an event we have aptly called the African FIFA World Cup.
This is all the more reason the AU has steeled its resolve to strengthen peace-making efforts across the continent and will spare no energy to mark this year as a milestone towards creating a climate conducive for sustainable peace and security in Africa.
Effectively, this work is already underway, and in many of the African countries the mechanisms towards peaceful resolution of conflicts are in place.
Although peace is being realised and we are on the right path towards creating “a better Africa”, the need to put emphasis on conflict prevention mechanisms is acute.
In this connection, I am confident that with time this objective, too, will be achieved.
In speaking about prospects for prosperity and stability in Africa, we are also aware of the role Turkey is playing in supporting peace efforts on the African continent.
On this account, let me take this opportunity to acknowledge and commend Turkey’s contribution to peace keeping efforts on the continent such as the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNASMIL), the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC-CIVPOL), and the UN Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), to name but a few.
In conclusion, a few thoughts on the theme for today are in order. The year 2010 has been highly anticipated and will no doubt go down in the annals of history as a year of the great African hope.
Bearing this in mind, the AU coined the theme of this year’s celebration: ‘Building and Maintaining Peace through Sport in Africa’.
Hosting this FIFA World Cup represents a gigantic leap forward towards advancing to this imperishable vision.
Africa commits to build and maintain peace on the continent by taking decisive actions that bring desired outcomes.
In addition to the above, we seek to showcase the achievements and potential of Africa to the World.
We are proud that six African nations will be playing in the World Cup and we hope, through them, the platform for a unified continent will be cemented.
South Africa takes this opportunity to welcome you to the FIFA World Cup and look forward to giving you a truly African experience.
By the same token, we invite you to celebrate Africa Day with us today, as a prelude to FIFA 2010 World Cup show, and as the foundation for lasting peace and security on the African continent.
We celebrate thus in the full knowledge that this is an inspirational day for all Africans on which, in a way, we renew the vows of our own liberation.
Africa Day is therefore no ordinary day, but history in motion.
It is a generational experience best summed up in the timeless words of Don Mattera, an African patriot, writer and visionary, who memorably opined thus at the launch of the African Union in 2002:
Beautiful mother, beloved continent,
This is your time, your moment, your century
Etched on the golden scroll of history
I thank you.BACK TO TOP