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Image Nepad Chief Executive Joins African Heads of Mission to celebrate Africa Day in London

At a special Africa Heads of Mission in London meeting to mark Africa Union Day on 25 May, Professor Firmino Mucavele, the Chief Executive of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), paid tribute to the visions of Africa’s founding fathers, while highlighting the challenges faced by Africa today.  Established in 1999, the Africa Union is the successor of the Organisation of African Unity which was formed in 1963 to promote the unity and solidarity of African states, eradicate colonialism, defend territorial integrity and promote international co-operation.

Welcoming the diplomatic delegates and other invited guests, H.E. Samuel Mbei, Dean of the African Union Heads of Mission, introduced the panel of speakers and challenged those present to engage in a frank exchange of views on the way forward for Africa.

David Batt, Director of the African Partnership Forum, presented a speech on behalf of the UK Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn.  In it he highlighted the steps that had been taken since the report presented by the UK’s Africa Commission and noted that “the role of the AU is essential in finding and implementing Africa solutions to African problems.”

The African Union and NEPAD

Professor Mucavele reflected on the ideals behind the formation of the OAU and how, 36 years later, the leaders of Africa decided to set up the African Union (AU) to succeed the OAU in order to better face the new challenges of integration on the continent. 

Professor Mucavele spoke of his own organisation and the philosophy, strategy and progress of NEPAD. “NEPAD is about partnership, ownership and mutual accountability.”  He stressed that NEPAD is not an institution in conflict with the AU, but a programme of the AU, developed by African leaders to promote sustainable development and that the organisation is about making smart partnerships for human, social, institutional and economic development.

“NEPAD is also a philosophical framework,” he explained.  “A programme, a development framework and a philosophical framework.” As a programme of the AU, it aims to promote good governance, rule of law, peace and security; to build institutional capacity and mobilise human, material and financial resources for Africa’s development.

Image The need for unity in Africa is paramount, Professor Mucavele said.  “We should stand together. NEPAD is about building Africa and strengthening the Africa Union.”

The Professor spoke of his organisation’s mission to help restore self-confidence   to Africa and of how unity and partnership among African countries would lead to more appropriate and effective negotiations with the West for development in Africa.  In seeking financial resources, he spoke of how Africa could leverage its existing resources to better effect.  “The problem of Africa is not about money but sharing what we know.  It’s about self-confidence,” he said.  “We must use these principles to negotiate with our development partners and to dignify Africa.” 

The Professor argued that the continent needs to mobilise its human resources in order to have knowledge and value systems and to better leverage its natural resources.  “We have them,” he said, “but still suffer from famine – 300 million people living on less than $1 dollar a day.”  The continent, he added, also needs institutional resources to harmonise and synchronise procedures and laws so that it can trade. 

Unity and Partnerships

ImageUnity and partnership was the recurrent theme of the Professor’s address.  “Partnerships are key for Africans, but only when we know what we want and we know what we want to do.  Then we can negotiate knowing our comparative advantage.  We should create new products and markets and harness and generate financial and human resources for development.”

The Professor acknowledged the challenges of corruption within the Continent but also pointed out that corruption is a universal challenge and one that involves complicity from other parts of the world.  “We can fight to change the image of Africa but we have to move to new ways,” he said.

What is needed to help make the difference for the African continent, he said, was working together to effect increased productivity, efficiency and lower transaction costs on the continent.  The role of NEPAD in this process was critical.  “NEPAD operationalises the principles of the AU and oversees their implementation.  Our emphasis is now on partnership between African countries and regional and continental integration.”

Pictures by Bright Malopa.

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