Address by Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on “Economic Liberation: The Role of the African Union”
23 Apr 2012
South Africa’s Ambassador to Egypt, Your Excellency Ambassador Mayende-Sibiya
Our Host, Assistant Foreign Minister for Africa and Africa Union Affairs, Ambassador Mona Omar
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Zimbabwe, Ambassador Maboy-Ncube
Vice President of the National Human Rights Council Dr Mohamed Fayek
Secretary-General of the Africa Society, Ambassador Ahmed Haggag
Dean of the Institute of African Research and Studies, Professor Dr Ibrahim Gaber
The Chief Whip of the African National Congress, Dr Motshekga
Members of the diplomatic corps
We are very pleased to participate in this seminar in the land of the Pharoah, the Sphinx, the pyramids, and on the banks of the majestic Nile, the life source of this ancient civilisation. It is an honour to represent the South African government at these deliberations, in this vibrant, ever-alive City of Cairo.
This seminar is even more significant because it is taking place within the context of the Centenary of the African National Congress (ANC), and a free South Africa. Co-incidentally it is also the 10th anniversary of the African Union and the 49th since the very formation of our continental Organisation of African Unity, the OAU.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we stand here we recall with deep appreciation and fondness the role played by this country, Egypt, its leaders and its people in South Africa’s struggle for liberation and the destruction of apartheid and colonialism. They ensured that the issue of South Africa’s freedom was part of the international agenda at amongst others, the Arab League, the Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations and the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement founded in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, as you did for many other liberation movements, including Palestine.
Egypt also hosted the Chief Representative of our Movement, amongst whom was the late Alfred Nzo, who later became the first Foreign Minister in a democratic South Africa.
This country also fully participated in the work of the Special Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, commonly referred to as the Decolonisation Committee. Based in Dar es Salaam, with representatives from Ethiopia, Algeria, Uganda, Egypt, Tanzania, Zaire, Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria, it served to provide material support for the Continent’s liberation struggle including, amongst others, military training and weapon supplies.
Before we discuss where we are and where we should be going, it would be important to, as our icon former President Nelson Mandela in his Long Walk to Freedom said, “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended,” and so continues our long walk as the Continent to both political unity and economic liberation.
I would also like to quote extensively from the acceptance speech of the first Chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity during its launch in 1963, Haile Salassie. I do so because a lot of what was said then is still very relevant today: “We name as our first great task the final liberating of those Africans still dominated by foreign exploitation and control,” continuing that, “Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free. Our brothers in the Rhodesias, in Mozambique, in Angola, in South Africa, cry out in anguish for our support and assistance.”
Continuing he said, “As we renew our vow that all of Africa shall be free, let us also resolve that old wounds shall be healed and past scars forgotten…memories of the past injustice shall not divert us from the more pressing business at hand. We must live in peace with our former colonisers, shunning recrimination and bitterness and forswearing the luxury of vengeance and retaliation, lest the acid of hatred erode our souls and poison our hearts.”
Going on he said, “History teaches us that unity is strength and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to the true African brotherhood and unity.”
The first task of ensuring the liberation of those Africans still under colonial rule has been virtually achieved.
Selassie went further to define the second task which was, “Unity is the accepted goal. We argue about means; we discuss alternative paths to the same objective; we engage in debates about techniques and tactics. But when semantics are stripped away, there is little argument among us. We are determined to create a union of Africans… it is our duty and privilege to rouse the slumbering giant of Africa.”
He continued, “But while we agree that the ultimate destiny of this continent lies in political union, we must at the same time recognise that the obstacles to be overcome in its achievement are at once numerous and formidable. Africa’s peoples did not emerge into liberty in uniform conditions. Africans maintain different political systems; our economies are diverse; our social orders are rooted in differing cultures and traditions. Furthermore no clear consensus exists on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of this union. Is it to be, in form, federal, non-federal, or unitary?
Is the sovereignty of individual states to be reduced, and if so, by how much, and in what areas? On these and other questions there is no agreement, and if we wait for agreed answers, generations hence matters will be little advanced, while the debate still rages. We should, therefore, not be concerned that complete union is not attained from one day to the next. The union which we seek can only come gradually, as the day-to-day progress which we achieve carries us slowly but inexorably along this course.”
As I have already said, I am quoting this because it as relevant today as it was then. But we are on the correct course. The formation of the African Union is indeed one of those day to day processes that is carrying us towards that Union but it is now our responsibility to ensure that eventually that goal is attained but again it may not necessarily be attained tomorrow but every step we take brings us closer to the ultimate goal of political unity and economic integration.
Obviously the Africa that was envisaged and we strive to create is an Africa that is emancipated – politically, economically, culturally, socially and spiritually. Of course today, that emancipation must by definition include that of women. And the African Union having declared 2010 to 2020 as the Women’s Decade has to ensure there is visible progress in this regard.
At the time of the launch of the Organisation of African Unity, this was also said, “Today, travel between African nations and telegraphic and telephonic communications among us are circuitous in the extreme. Road communications between two neighbouring States are often difficult or even impossible. It is little wonder that trade among us has remained at a discouragingly low level.
These anachronisms are the remnants of a heritage of which we must rid ourselves, the legacy of the century when Africans were isolated one from the other. These are vital areas in which efforts must be concentrated. “Africa was the market for the produce of other nations and the source of the raw materials with which their factories were fed.”
Can we say we have overcome this legacy? Obviously the answer is no. I would argue that even though there has been progress, this has not been sufficient or adequate.
Infrastructure and connectivity
Indeed the vital areas should be the development of infrastructure that facilitates connectivity between and amongst ourselves by road, rail, air, sea, telecommunications. It is important we should be connected because without that connection we cannot begin trading with ourselves and we will remain as the markets for the products of other nations. We will therefore not be able to utilise our markets for our own benefits as Africa.
Connectivity will also encourage us to know one another and our various countries better. At the moment, many African countries have a better awareness of Europe rather than Africa and this can be attributed to the connectivity and the infrastructure that presently exists.
For instance, when it comes to air travel – when I left South Africa I was able to fly directly to Cairo on Air Egypt. Later today I will be travelling back to South Africa but I could not do so directly from Cairo to South Africa. There are various aircraft departing from Cairo for other destinations around the world, but none to South Africa. And the same can be said of Johannesburg and many other African countries. There are more flights out of Johannesburg, for instance to other continents rather than to our own continent.
It is therefore becoming more critical that we ensure that we build the North-South Corridor, from Cape to Cairo and the East-West Corridor, from Senegal to Djibouti. The construction of these, and other, roads must be accelerated.
More than 50% of trade from Asia to the West goes through Africa’s coastline. And all our imports and exports are transported by foreign ships to and from our countries. So if we are to improve trade amongst ourselves we have to look very seriously in participating in areas of ship building and ownership. If we own our vessels it will be easier and more cost effective to trade between ourselves. We can collaborate with countries of the Indian-Ocean Rim to undertake such crucial, long term projects.
How can we improve tourism amongst ourselves if we are not connected by road, rail, sea and air?
But it is not only the physical infrastructure. We need to align some of the regulations and laws while strengthening our institutions in order to be able to facilitate people, goods and capital flow in and out of our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The first opportunity is that if this rapid growth coupled with robust economic growth will be able to support the emergence of the continent’s consumer base, providing support to local industries and creating economic opportunities for foreign investors.
Agriculture and food security
Africa accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s arable land and is a source of livelihood for 70% of our people. However, it currently generates only 10% of global agricultural output and imports tens of billions of dollars of food each year. Using our land resources more effectively will enable us to not only contribute to our economic growth but to ensure we can feed our people ourselves. We will also be able to contribute towards job creation and income distribution. It will also enable us to use the foreign currency which at the moment is being used to import food for other developmental imperatives on our continent. Food security must therefore be something we strive to achieve immediately.
Mineral and natural resources
Africa is the continent with most possibilities and potential, with its vast mineral and natural resources including sunshine, wind and biodiversity. We must use our natural resources more efficiently to benefit our countries and its people.
As we committed ourselves in the Lagos Plan of Action to, amongst others, co-operate in the field of natural resource control, exploration, extraction and use for the development of our economies for the benefit of our peoples and to set up the appropriate institutions to achieve these purposes; and develop indigenous entrepreneurship, technical manpower and technological abilities to enable our peoples to assume greater responsibility for the achievement of our individual and collective development goals.
We need to take advantage of this green revolution and begin to move towards the creation of green economies.
We need to take control of our mineral resources, in terms of extraction. We should beneficiate and also ensure that we do get sufficient benefit from these mineral resources. At the moment, the company doing the extraction/beneficiation gets the resources while the country and its people receive very little.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At the formation of the OAU, Africa’s population was 250 million people. According to a Standard Bank report released in September 2011 entitled, “The Five Trends powering Africa’s enduring allure,” the continent’s population currently stands at over a billion and is expected to rise to two billion by 2050.
Africa currently enjoys a positive economic outlook with a growing population that stands at just over one billion people. This growing population will support the on-going emergence of Africa’s consumer base while robust economic growth and a rising population are colluding to create dynamic improvements in spending power across Africa. Further to this, studies by the African Development Bank recently found that the middle class in Africa is also growing. Critically, Africa’s growing population is not only increasingly affluent but also exceptionally young.
The report went on to say, “Africa’s young people will be the driving force behind economic prosperity in future decades, but only if policies and programmes are in place to enhance their opportunities and encourage smaller families. Population change is not the only force shaping Africa’s development. But failure to take advantage of the potential demographic dividend could dampen development prospects, while public policies and advocacy to enhance it could reap substantial rewards.”
Healthcare and education
For these advantages to be materialised, it means we have to ensure education and healthcare for our populations so they are skilled and healthy so that we are able to increase productivity and grow our economies.
We can work together on the continent to identify institutions of excellence which we can all share without have to duplicate existing efforts, especially in the areas of science and technology as well as research and development so our institutional knowledge should be used for our collective benefit.
In this regard, we look forward to the announcement of the decision of the host of the Square Kilometre Array.
We must also fight wide inequalities. Research has indicated that citizens are more restless in communities with wide inequalities and great differences between the rich and the poor.
What therefore is the role of the African Union? We must do all this in order to improve the lives of all our people – fight poverty and underdevelopment. In order for our states to achieve these things we must not leave things to unfettered market forces. We must lean towards becoming developmental states and put more emphasis on those areas of economic growth that produce jobs.
Whilst every country will have their own national programmes for development, the African Union (AU) should co-ordinate the sharing of experiences among member states, facilitate and encourage the implementation of agreements and protocols that have been adopted both by the OAU and the AU. But more importantly it should identify a few priorities that will unite us a continent and that we can do together, although efforts to drive these programme has already begun.
This is enabled by collaboration working with the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Agency for Africa. It should also mobilise partnerships but in a way that these partnerships do not entrench dependencies but assist us in charting our own destiny. We must also look at the best human resources the Continent has to offer and move away from our narrow national interests.
It must also work towards full economic integration and political unity. The economically strong countries must play a bigger role in assisting our continent and the African Union to make a bigger contribute to these programmes. We must ensure as called for by Selassie “an adequate [African Union] secretariat able to provide the necessary continuity between meetings of the permanent organs” so that the African Union secretariat is well resourced so it can do its work efficiently.
The African Union must ensure we play our rightful place in global affairs so that the African voice is heard and respected. We should remain the advocates for development, human dignity and an equitable world for our peoples and member states.
The African Union must ensure that New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Union Peer Review Mechanism is integrated in the African Union activities. The African Union should continue to strengthen its peace and security infrastructure and co-operation with the United Nations to find African solutions expeditiously as and when problems arise. Member states must also be ready to inject resources into NEPAD projects and to encourage the participation of partners without creating new dependencies.
Africa’s economy has continued to grow, even in this period of a global economic recession. This is reassuring but we must ensure this wealth is distributed equitably because if not, we will see more youth protests.
We are grateful for the opportunity and appreciate the fact that this seminar is co-hosted by the foreign ministry and the South African Mission and that we wish for much greater cooperation between Egypt and South Africa as Egypt enters its second Republic. We wish the government and people of Egypt a speedy recovery of your economy especially tourism and we wish you well in the forthcoming Presidential elections.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
23 Apr 2012
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