2002 AFRICA ECONOMIC SUMMIT
DURBAN JUNE 5-7, 2002
There are innumerable facets to a comprehensive discussion on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development [NEPAD]. In addition, there are a great number of different personal, ideological and historical perspectives which come into such discussions. In applying my own mind to these issues, I have tried to get to the essence of what needs to be done to move our continent forward. Many aspects of this agenda have been highlighted by many speakers and in many interventions which opinion-makers have made in this debate. They stress the need for each of our African governments to improve on the quality of governance, invest aggressively in infrastructure and bring about the maximum degree of liberalisation of our economies. By the same token, there is realisation that if we are to move from being as behind as we are in respect of other continents to come on to par with them, we need to move by leaps and bounds and effectively leapfrog from the past into the future.
I have always believed that success and failure in the making of history can be ascribed to a few crucially determining factors. Applying this approach to NEPAD, one can simplify by stating that its essence lies in setting in place an advanced infrastructure which consists both of institutions of democracy and actual hard infrastructure such as electronic communications, roads and the reticulation of government services. This advanced infrastructure would be ahead of what the country really needs or could afford and would perform the function of pulling economic development towards it. We would be raising the platform to force the economy to rise with it and grow on the basis of a qualitative leap. In order to achieve this, we need to seek an international partnership to build this infrastructure. This is all very clear to me, but I feel that some of our discussions have not placed sufficient emphasis on the nature of such an infrastructure in the 21st century.
The infrastructure that Africa needs to build cannot stop at or be delineated by the Atlantic and Indian oceans or the Mediterranean. We must acknowledge that we are developing a new continent in the 21st century and are at the dawn of the age of globalization in which infrastructures go beyond any national boundaries. We must embrace this perspective and seek a genuine partnership with more developed regions of the world by highlighting that through globalization, geographical differences are fading away. What is developed in Africa may very well become part of the economic prosperity which will support the growth of more developed countries. Money spent in Africa is money spent in the global village. From a global perspective, investing in Africa makes economic sense in that in Africa, each investment has the greatest marginal capacity for relative growth and therefore makes the greatest marginal contribution to the growth of the global village. Differently put, a dollar spent in Africa can make a greater difference than a dollar spent anywhere else.
However, when we are talking about moving by leaps and bounds towards the future, we must accept that this involves leaving behind old practices, ideologies, and paradigms.
Africa can no longer pursue the notion of a juxtaposition between developed countries and developing ones. If we are to embrace globalization, we need to do so wholeheartedly and not begrudgingly. There is no moving forward by leaps and bounds if we flirt with the future while clinging to the past and we qualify each "yes" with many "buts". We cannot postulate the need to enter into a global partnership to finance NEPAD merely on old grievances and the rightful resentment for present social and economic disparities. It must be cast within the acceptance of globalization.
Similarly, if we are to move by leaps and bounds, the democratic infrastructure that Africa needs to build must not only be genuinely democratic but democracy in the most advanced form we are capable of conceiving. We cannot espouse democracy while trying to retain political control in forms which are not fully democratic. One party states must no longer characterise Africa’s landscape. We need to establish a healthy relationship between government and civil society and forever abandon the notion that government has the power to reach into each and every corner of civil society and control it. For too long there has been an endemic totalitarian tendency which underpins the dream, or nightmare as it may be, that certain governments can reach, control and regulate the totality of social and economic phenomena within society, rather than accepting that the role of government should be limited to that of correcting and directing the free interplay of a plurality of institutions of civil society.
Establishing real democracies means promoting real pluralism within our societies, which means to relinquish, rather than concentrate power. We must have the strength to weaken the stronghold of government over society. The very perspective of an African union on which NEPAD is predicated points towards a weakening of the nation States. This must be brought about not only by strengthening a super national entity to be created, but also by empowering subsidiary autonomous political formations such as states, regions or provinces within most of the African countries. We must develop a global vision of political pluralism within Africa which spreads political powers amongst concurring and even competing centres of powers at different levels of government. This notion of plurality of centres of power is intimately consistent with African traditions and is peculiarly consonant with the emerging realities of globalization.
We must also bring about pluralism within the economic sector making a firm commitment to building a continental economy through the elimination rather than the consolidation of local monopolies and cartels. Especially in fields such as telecommunications, the economic growth of many African countries such as my own, is impaired by monopolies and restrictions of trade and especially in the emerging fields of communications and technology.
We must also realise the incredible speed at which the world is moving around us and that we are moving with it. We have placed on the table a notion such as NEPAD which is light years ahead of where we are now, and if we are to achieve it within a time-frame which is relevant and effective, we must commit ourselves to moving at the speed of light. I remember that when I spoke at this Summit in January 1993, a mere nine years ago, I presented a vision of continental integration of the sub-Saharan African continent on the basis of limited functions and subject matters, but on the basis of a super national entity to be formed. A mere nine years ago, my vision was far ahead of the times but now we are faced with our debate having moved so much further ahead than that which I suggested then. In fact what I suggested then would now be far behind the new frontiers which NEPAD has set for our ambitions.
We have conceived a dream which is greater than the sum of all the individual capacity of each of the countries involved in it, but which can easily match the collective capacity of such countries if they choose to work together to realise it. I have no doubt that this dream can be realised if we set aside any doubts and we accept no compromises in its realisation. If it is to happen, it must happen within the accelerated time-frame which it has put forward. This means that we must set aside other priorities and make the historical investment of delaying individual country’s delivery on pressing social demands, in order to build an infrastructure which will be able at a later time to multiply many times what we could do individually at this juncture.
For me, the priority is that of establishing strong institutions which give credence to NEPAD in terms of the consolidation of democracy and economic development on our continent. We need to have a mechanism which points out what is being done wrong in respect of both fields and can speak up on our behalf with a strong and authoritative voice which does not need necessarily to coincide with our own voice. From within our midst we need to have the courage to create a mechanism which can guide us and, when needed, criticise us in order to drive this process beyond what we would be able to achieve within the constraints of the politics and policies of the various governments we represent. This will also give credence to our commitment towards genuine democracy and development as far as our international partners are concerned.
We must keep in mind that thus far NEPAD has traversed the easy part of its journey. The hard and uphill part will begin when individual states, leaders and political organisations will need to relinquish their powers and privileges to do what is required and not as they wish. This will bring about potentially painful processes through which powers need to be relinquished and a superior law will need to be accepted. We will also need to have the courage to impose new standards over those situations which are not compliant. We need to be very honest and clear in stating that NEPAD is going to be still-born if its implementation is left to the hope that genuine democracy and the conditions for accelerated economic development, will emerge spontaneously from within the dynamics of all countries concerned. We cannot ask the assistance of our foreign partners unless we ourselves make a firm commitment to going beyond the hope that things will get right at some future time. If we wish to enlist the co-operation we need, we need to become prescriptive to ensure that things will get right by virtue of our own will and within the fixed time-frame. NEPAD will only succeed if it is backed by the will to bring about change and improvements which may not be spontaneously produced.
My original approach which I discussed nine years ago, was that of going one step at a time. However, now that a dream as large as NEPAD is before us, we cannot dare to fail it. Our generation will be judged by history on how we will live up to this dream which has now become the benchmark against which the success or failure of Africa will be measured by our own posterity. We have chosen the highest possible benchmark and I feel that it is now incumbent upon us to accept to walk the high and uphill road which will take us there, supporting our journey with the maximum measure of courage, single-minded determination and firm leadership which we may collegially muster.