Greetings to you all on the eve of Africa Day
It is an absolute joy and delight to address the public on Africa Day. Today is a day to be proud and a day to celebrate! Quite often, when “AFRICA” is on any agenda the discussions revolve around the many challenges, problems and frustrations that face our governments, business and civil society, especially in the area of development, upliftment, progress and poverty alleviation. But Africa Day, for me as an African and the many Africans on our beautiful continent, is a day to
REMEMBER, REFLECT AND REJOICE.
We celebrate Africa Day on the eve of the 2010 FIFA World Cup; the first hosted on the African continent. We REMEMBER the commitment and dedication of our African leaders, who through tremendous effort and sacrifice brought about independence in our continent – leaders who stated quite categorically that they could not rest until every square inch of Africa was free.
Today we celebrate Africa; we celebrate our achievements, our people and more especially our ability to change our future for the better. In celebrating Africa today we also remember, the many travesties of our past that have created unacceptable levels of poverty and desperation. We remember also the many heroes of our continent that have spoken out and acted on behalf of the common good of our continent and people.
We REFLECT on the possibilities of a new dawn for a better life for the people of Africa. We also reflect on the multitude of challenges that face us in the mammoth task of ensuring that Africa reaches its full potential.
We REJOICE that today we have visionary leaders that are seeking to find solutions for sustainable development in our continent. We salute the leaders who formulated a plan for Africa’s development in 2001 which led to the adoption of the G8 Plan of Action on Africa and the creation of NEPAD. We also rejoice, because Africans are ready and motivated to work for social development programmes that will bring positive change and improvements for the people of Africa. We have the true potential and latent energy to carve out our own destiny.
Dear Friends, Africa is a continent with a future full of HOPE. As one of my favourite Nigerian proverbs goes - “The pillar of the world is HOPE”. At the heart of our development towards progress in the future are the people who have the energy and ability to be in control of their own destiny. The hope continues in the Opportunities that we have to use the vision and aspirations of these people, together with our natural resources to create long lasting sustainable development interventions that will improve the lives of our people. The future for Africa is NOW and the future for Africa is HERE!
On 3 February 1960, then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in an address made to the Parliament of South Africa, made his famous ‘Winds of Change’ speech in which he signaled the end of British colonial rule on the continent. Macmillan said, “The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact”.
Here we are today in our jubilee year, 50 years free from colonialism. As a cleric, it would be an oversight if I do not make reference to the Holy Scriptures. The biblical texts make reference to the obligations and benefits of a jubilee year. It is a time when debts and loans are paid off, when land is given back, when the poor are given a clean slate. The texts acknowledge that the earth and all creation belong to God and therefore no human being is to have sole rights to any resource for ever. For Africa, the concept of a jubilee year is a sign of hope that we can be the drivers of our own development. The poor have hope that through using our own resources we may embark on a process of progress and development so that our people may acquire an acceptable standard of living and live with dignity.
We are a continent, where our people have excelled in areas of art, literature, sport, poetry, economics, environmental issues, world peace and human rights. Africa has given the world the wisdom and skill of people like Wangari Maathai, a famous environmentalist from Kenya; Nelson Mandela the first democratically elected president of South Africa; Kofi Annan a Ghanaian who was former secretary of the United Nations; and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate. Of course I have no illusions about the challenges that we still face as a continent. There is still a lot that needs to be done in the areas of peace, human rights and development.
On Africa day we celebrate the achievements of countries like Malawi, where after the drought in 2002 there were about five million people - out of its 12 million population - in dire need of food aid. Malawi now has this year become an overnight donor of maize to other hunger stricken countries in the region. In 2008 after donating crops to other countries they were even able to sell the surplus harvest. Dare I add that this success occurs after they ignored recommendations by some funding agencies not to subsidise fertilizer and other farming inputs!
This is one of the most dramatic incidences in the history of the battle against hunger in Africa.
Sierra Leone was once a war-torn country but now has been declared a success story in Africa in the significant areas of good governance, political tolerance, strong commitment to fight corruption and drug trafficking and her pursuit of praiseworthy peace building initiatives. Through its strong leadership in President Ernest Bai Koroma (who by the way was recently conferred the 2010 ACCORD’s Africa Peace Award), Sierra Leone was invited to Australia to be the co-founder of the international commission for the fight against corruption. We also celebrate their successful minerals projects funded by DFID.
In Mali, a landlocked country, the implementation of a multi-modal (road, rail, and sea) transportation system was key to overcoming infrastructural constraints. This, coupled with improved phytosanitary, orchard management and post-harvest handling training programmes, increased mango exports to the European Union by five-fold between 2003 and 2008 and boosted incomes for Malian farmers.
We have success stories in Rwanda in the coffee sector, in Kenya in the mobile phone industry and many more like these. The successes have changed the lives of many. Aloys Havugimana for example, a Rwandan coffee farmer, was a business owner with a shop and a car until the genocide when he lost everything. After deciding to plant coffee he has been able to put his three children to school, donate livestock to his neighbours, build houses with good construction material and plant a four hectare forest.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the economic conditions and landscape has changed dramatically since the middle of the 90’s. Aggregate gross domestic product’s (GDP) have grown from 2.5 to over six percent in 2008. The region has also begun to make headway on poverty reduction and on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
On Africa Day in 2010, we are 50 years on in our independence and already we have much to celebrate. Development is often a long, slow and painful process, it does not just happen overnight. Looking at the many achievements in Africa after such a short time is really amazing. One only has to compare the length of time it took the so called developed countries to recover and develop after wars, famines, etc. and we can see that our progress is quite remarkable indeed.
I believe that the winds of change that are driving this new progress with passion and vision is due to the fact that we now have stronger leadership, better governance and an improved business climate. Africans have come to the fore with innovation, market based solutions, people participation, and an ever growing tendency to rely on home grown strategies for development. Africans are driving our own development!
Within the context of this development it is important to stress the importance of intra-Africa trade and integration that will be rapidly achieved with greater infrastructure development. The African continent has great growth potential and to be able to reach this potential we need to advocate and promote trading within Africa.
Civil society organisations like us at the African monitor are continually seeking ways to promote people centred and community participation in the development arena. Motivated by the fact that we see poverty as a human travesty, the African Monitor facilitates a process in the most remotest of communities called poverty hearings. Through these hearings the voice of individuals is heard. People are allowed to speak and we listen to them. These people are not just written off as statistics or problems to be fixed.
These hearings are motivated by the fact that we at the African Monitor are passionate about the fact that effective development involves people. Our vision as an organisation is summed up in a motto that says, “African voices for Africa’s development.” It is our mission to ensure that people, who are normally the objects of professional development planners and decision makers, become engaged participants in our own development. I firmly believe that it is people that matter most, while plans and projects are the channels through which individuals and communities may experience positive development that ultimately results in poverty alleviation.
But that ladies and gentlemen is not the end. The African Monitor, as a grassroots-focused organisation, pledges that after listening to the stories we will work vigilantly to ensure that the stories shared are used to amplify the voices of Africans in development issues to the policy makers and implementers.
As an African NGO, it is our task to further advocate and pressurise the policy makers and implementers to facilitate appropriate responses to the information gathered and shared at this process. We strive to create platforms that are used to demand action from development planners and decision makers.
More recently the discussions around the world have been on climate change. It is most welcome that at a recent ministerial conference held in Lilongwe, Malawi the impact of climate change was acknowledged and given serious consideration.
Ministers have committed themselves to the vision of a food-secure Africa within five years, especially by means of policies and strategies that provide incentives to farmers (particularly smallholders), agro-industries and agri-business enterprises to enable them to respond to the growing demand for food in regional and global markets. They have also committed to accelerate the implementation of the Maputo Protocol in which African Governments committed to spend at least 10 percent of their annual budgets on Agriculture and have called on the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to harmonise their policies, strategies and investments to facilitate and enhance intra-regional trade in food and agriculture.
It is important to note that agriculture supports the livelihoods of 80 percent of the African population, provides employment for about 60 percent of the economically active population, and for about 70 percent of the poorest people on the continent. Sixty percent of Africans are reported to be below the age of 30 and want to migrate to more urban areas and they have no jobs, consequently leaving the rural areas vacated. For this reason, there is an increasing realisation that we have to invest in the rural economy.
In order to combat the impacts of climate change which impacts on agriculture the Ministerial Conference further committed to integrate it in their growth, employment and poverty eradication strategies and have urged development partners to provide financial, technological and capacity-building assistance to enable African countries to address climate change challenges, in particular by putting in place effective adaptation strategies as a priority, as well as appropriate mitigation actions.
Ministers have also undertook to accelerate regional integration as a strategy for achieving sustainable socio-economic development in their national programmes, including the scaling up of investments in regional infrastructure within the framework of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) and the AU Minimum Integration Programme (MIP).
Also at this conference thought was given to the establishment of Pan-African financial institutions such as an African Investment Bank, African Central Bank and the African Monetary Fund. Thought was also given about developing strategies to combat illicit financial flows. This augurs well for the future growth and development of Africa.
Through African Monitor’s work, particularly the Poverty Hearings and the Citizen Consultations, we are even more optimistic, as it is emerging more clearly, that the real obstacles to overcoming poverty are now getting into focus and seen to be within reach for many African countries. For example, the indigenous business sector, African governments and civil society are increasingly beginning to overcome their mutual mistrust to be able to form new alliances that are able to bring to the centre stage the mainstay of the African economy, which is the informal sector, infrastructural development and the smallholder led agricultural revolution, hitherto so grossly neglected in preference for big technical solutions, white elephant projects and unsustainable exploitation of resources.
In science too Africa is making progress. Science is beginning to be transformed into culture and the increasing army of educated youth and the African Diaspora is forming the all-important technological bridge in this transformation. This process once galvanised, will give birth to the kind of leadership that has roots in society rather than one which is alienated; one which is more willing to share power rather than consolidate it in a few individuals and their cronies; and the continent’s rich resources will for the first time be put at the disposal of the general populace.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that African people are a proud people and are a people of hope. Let us be the fresh winds blowing through the lungs of our people, of our institutions and let us be energised and motivated to work resolutely for a world that is whole, happy and where all may live with dignity.
Together, we can make a difference!
- Archbishop Njongo Ndungane is president and founder of African Monitor.
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