_: May I take this opportunity to join the Heads of State and Government in extending our gratitude to His Excellency Eduardo Dos Santos for his visionary leadership and guidance in executing the mandate of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government.
We also wish to extend our congratulations to His Excellency President Armando Guebuza, the President of Mozambique, on his taking up the reigns of leadership of the SADC region. We are confident that he will consolidate and accelerate our efforts to establish the political and economic conditions necessary for the people of the region to build a peaceful and prosperous future.
Let me express my gratitude to the Heads of State and Government for the confidence and trust that accompanied my nomination and finally the election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission. I hope that as I depart the shores of our region to the heights of Addis Ababa, I will have the inner strength and indomitable will to discharge my responsibility. And with your support and that of the entire continent, I shall do my best.
I will always remember the words of one of our finest sons of our continent, our hero President Patrice Lumumba who said in 1960 at the All African Conference in Leopoldville:
“We all know, and the whole world knows it, that Algeria is not French, that Angola is not Portuguese, that Kenya is not English, that Ruanda-Urundi is not Belgian. We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African.”
Moving from the premise that the future of our region is inextricably linked to the future of the rest of our continent, the implementation of the agreed programmes and policies will certainly add the necessary impetus to the realisation of the vision of Africa’s socio-economic renewal.
The success of the African Union is however dependent on the implementation of most of its decisions by Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the member states. Therefore, a strong, dynamic and symbiotic relationship between the African Union Commission and the regional economic communities is critical for the integration and development of Africa.
Only through the building of sustainable infrastructure in the form of integrated rail, air, roads, telecommunications and electricity between and among the regions can we succeed in ensuring inter and intra-African trade between all our peoples. This in turn requires the development of common standards and the harmonisation of legislation and other steps being taken within and between economic communities.
A united Africa will assist the peoples of our continent to deal with burning issues that confront them daily – issues such as climate change and food and water security; pandemics and the relationship between healthy, educated populations and development; democracy and the empowerment of youth and women.
African unity in action is what will give regions and individual states the competitive advantages they need to build on the successes achieved thus far.
Let us not forget that we have done it before. The kind of African unity that enabled us to end colonialism and claim our right to political independence and self-determination can empower us to succeed on the economic front.
Women make up just over 50% of Africa’s total population which currently stands at a billion people. Although Africa has been experiencing positive economic growth, it will not reach its full potential if women do not participate fully in the life and the economy of the continent.
Having proclaimed the Decade of 2010 to 2020 as the African Women’s Decade, it will be important to accelerate, amongst others, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly those that affect women and children, like halving poverty, reducing maternal and infant mortality, increasing the representation of women in decision making. Women must be involved more meaningfully in the economy. We should also ensure they have access to, amongst others, training, skills development, technology, land and financing.
Indeed Africa can halve poverty and even exceed this if we use our resources in a way that can assist the people of Africa. Africa has over 30% of all the world’s resources.
I would just like to quote Achim Steiner, Under Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya:
“Report after report is now demonstrating that sustainable management of Africa’s natural resources is one of the keys for overcoming poverty. Sensitively, creatively and sustainably harvested and fairly shared, these resources can assist in meeting – and going far beyond – the internationally agreed development goals.”
So it is possible we must use our resources effectively and share the proceeds equitably.
The continent has abundant human resources. We have a young population whilst the developing world has an aging population. We must ensure our young people are educated, healthy and skilled so they can become a vital asset to driving our economy. They will also have buying power which will contribute to our economies while also serving as a market for our goods and services.
I look forward to working with the African Development Bank and the ECA as the major continental organisations to see how we can accelerate the economic development of Africa and to ensure an equitable sharing of our resources.
In conclusion, as a continent we should work towards becoming more sustainable and self-reliant. The Lagos Plan of Action encouraged us to “cultivate the virtue of self-reliance.”
Unfortunately, even as we speak, our programmes at the African Union are solely funded by donors. We must remember that the Lagos Plan of Action suggested that “these outside contributions should only supplement our own effort [and] should not be the mainstay of our development.”
As long as donor contributions are the mainstay of our development, we will not achieve our own identified priorities.
Finally, I will leave you with the much more recent words of Joaquim Alberto Chissano, on the occasion of Africa Day on 25 May 2012:
“We have defined this century as “The African Century”. Today, we have the advantage of being better-equipped and more united to realise our aspirations. If we won yesterday, despite major obstacles and adversities, nothing will prevent us from succeeding in the future. The natural and human resources that we have and the great capital of faith and determination that encourage us, is an added value. Therefore, all Africans, regardless of where they are, must assume the certainty of success and give their best contribution in the efforts aimed at developing Africa.”
Future generations should not see us as a generation of missed opportunities. They should celebrate us for having bequeathed to them a better Africa than that which we found.