3 July 2006
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan has praised Africa and the African Union for progress it has made in various aspects during the past decade.
He said although not as “forcefully nor as consistently as desired”, Africa had been growing in prosperity over nearly ten years.
“The AU itself is in many ways the most eloquent testimony of that progress, in development, in security, in human rights – the three interlinked pillars on which the human family must build its future,” he said.
Heads of State Summit
Annan was addressing the 7th session of the AU Heads of State and Government Summit in Gambia, which took place over the weekend.
He said in the past five decades Africa had been through a series of “momentous” changes.
These included decolonisation; apartheid; the first attempt at nation-building as well as a “disappointing” era often marked by civil wars and the tyranny of military or one-party rule.
He also cited economic stagnation as a result of corruption, weak governance, inadequate regulatory systems, state-sanctioned theft and unchecked external interference.
The progress made included, he said, Africa’s achievements in development of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
“Today, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have had a galvanising effect on governments throughout Africa. This summit is rightly focusing on regional integration, while there is broad agreement on the need to build national strategies around the MDGs. I am proud to say that the UN is assisting Africa on both fronts.
“This Union has recognised that Africa’s partnership with the rest of the world must be based on solid achievements, and on monitoring of both donor and recipient performance. You know that making development happen relies on a shared sense of responsibility and a reciprocal sense of trust,” he explained.
Annan acknowledged that there were still huge obstacles to be overcome if Africa was to reach all the MDGs but said progress on some of the individual goals was “deeply encouraging”.
These included progress on human rights, the goal of achieving universal primary education, fighting HIV and AIDS, promoting peace and security, reducing maternal mortality and providing safe drinking water, among others.
“And not all progress is equally difficult. Fighting malaria with bednets, or empowering farmers with improved seed varieties, can bring dramatic change relative to the cost,” he said.
‘Betting on Africa’s future’
On the economic front, Annan pointed out that 27 African countries were projected to grow more than five per cent in terms of Growth Domestic Product (GDP) next year and that the inflow of direct investment to African countries increased by more than 200 per cent in the past five years.
He said more than 30 000 trades took place daily at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) compared with 5 000 a decade ago and that the combined value of all companies listed there was higher than those on any of the stock exchanges in Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore or Mexico.
“South Africa is now the fastest-growing investor in the African continent after the UK and China. It is betting on Africa’s future, and I encourage others – African and non-African – to do the same,” he said.
Meanwhile, African heads of state were reportedly meeting behind closed doors currently, discussing a human rights report and the establishment of human and people’s rights courts.
Annan is also reported to have met with the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to discuss the situation Darfur.
This as the AU peace keeping mission in Darfur is ending in September but it had suggested that the UN take over the task.
On Sunday, Annan met with President Laurent Gbagbo to discuss the situation in the Ivory Coast.
“This is part of a series of consultations that we have been carrying out in our determination to ensure that we stick to the time table that we established for elections in Cote d’Ivoire,” Annan told the media.
He said they had to continue the consultations in the Ivory Coast on 5 July.
“I, and some of the leaders here, will join the five Ivorian parties, including the Prime Minister and the President to continue our discussions and to see what further assistance we can provide them in implementing and sticking to the Road Map that all of them had agreed to,” he said.
The summit is also focusing on regional economies and integration and is held under the theme: “Rationalisation of Regional Economic Communities and Regional Integration”.
Some of the key issues include the use of a model of collective action to address Africa’s challenges and accelerating the pace of integration to keep up with global trends.
The leaders were also scheduled to consider reports on the Draft African Charter on democracy, elections and governance, including a review of the Lome Declaration on unconstitutional changes of governance in Africa.
The meeting was also scheduled to receive reports on economic issues such as the integration of Africa into multilateral trade, the establishment of an African Commodities Exchange and the rationalisation of regional economic communities.