Keynote address of H.E. Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

 

for

 

the launch of the Commission for Africa report

in Addis Ababa & London, March 11 2005

 

 

Chairperson,

Colleagues, brothers and sisters,

 

Today we are launching the report of the Commission for Africa, entitled “Our Common Interest”, simultaneously from Addis Ababa and London. It marks the culmination of the efforts of commission drawn from Africa, Europe, USA, Canada and China, chaired by Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the UK, and ably supported by a superb secretariat. Let me take this opportunity to thank Mr Blair for establishing the Commission, and congratulate the Commission and its secretariat for a job well done.

 

The Commission was established at a unique moment in history. It is a time when the world is making tremendous progress in reducing poverty, with the notable exception of Africa. For Africa as well, however, it is a moment of re-awakening buttressed by a new resolve to take concrete measures to address its deep seated problems as exemplified by the establishment of the African Union and the progress of the AU’s programme NEPAD.  A re-awakening after many false starts and unnecessary detours armed with a far better understanding of what works for development and what is clearly a dead end. We live in an era of globalisation where the stability in one part of the world is inter-dependent with stability in another part of the world. We are living through a period in history where the most perceptive citizens of individual countries recognise that we are each other’s keepers bound by a common humanity and destiny across nations, race, culture and religion. And as to the here and now, we are on the eve of a United Nations assessment that puts to test our mutual commitment and performance in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals which reflected our shared expression of our readiness to fight poverty. Last but not least, 2005 is the year when the UK government fully committed to partnership with Africa takes the helm in the G8 and the European Union. We are therefore at a propitious time to chart a much more ambitious path to make poverty history in Africa and everywhere else in the world.

 

In spite of the fact that members of the Commission are from every part of the globe, and despite the fact that much of the report is focused on what the rest of the world, particularly the developed, should do to support and create an enabling environment for Africa to break the shackles of poverty, the report is infused with what can only be described as a quintessentially African spirit and perspective.

 

The objective of the report as the name of the Commission implies is to enable Africa to break out of senseless violence and conflict, oppression and mal-administration, abject poverty and ignorance. It is a report, which has Africa’s fundamental interest as its sole guiding principle. Such a report cannot but be infused with a quintessentially African spirit.

 

The report is based on what Africa has already said it wants to do to get out of the quagmire it finds itself in. It is based on the peace and stability programmes of the African Union, and on the social, economic and political programmes of NEPAD. In other words, it starts by reaffirming Africa’s own agenda and perspective and builds on it based on the latest research findings and experiences in peace making, the promotion of good governance, and the acceleration of pro-poor growth. Such a report cannot but be infused with an African spirit.

 

Naturally the report recognises that Africa is part of a quickly accelerating global integration across the board. No part of the world is an island unto itself anymore. It argues that only globalisation that is inclusive and fair can be sustained, and in this context argues that if Africa is marginalised every global citizen stands to loose the full benefits of globalisation. Based on previous work to promote a global partnership to support Africa, it comes up with specific proposals to enhance such a partnership. It argues the case for globalisation that caters to Africa’s fundamental interests. And, here as well, the report can be nothing other than a report infused with a quintessentially African spirit.

 

The report does have a lot to say about what the rest of the world should do to make it possible for Africa to achieve its objectives including the MDGs, It highlights the need for a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of development assistance, the need for more and better debt relief, and enhanced and non-reciprocal market access for African goods and services. It makes specific and practical proposals on these and other matters of interest to Africa.

 

The report, however, makes it abundantly clear that in the final analysis Africans are the authors of their own destiny and every recommendation it makes is based on this fundamental principle. A report that is based on Africa’s full ownership of its programmes, that sets recommendations on putting Africa on the driver’s seat can be nothing other than a report infused with a purely African spirit.

 

While thus we can and must expect our partners to do their share in our common endeavour, this is our report, our achievement as Africans. It is for us to fully own it. It is ultimately up to us to ensure its implementation. Nothing and nobody can do for us what we must do for ourselves. It is for this reason that I recommend the report to you fellow Africans and call upon you to fully embrace it, and as they say, run with it, because nothing other than running with it will do.

 

I thank you.