22 September 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY CHAIR OF AFRICAN UNION, PRESIDENT OF AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK


Today was an important day for Africa, as it provided an opportunity to discuss the continent’s needs and challenges as well as the state of implementation of commitments and the way forward, Jakaya Kikwete, Chair of the African Union and President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said at Headquarters today.


President Kikwete said that, at the end of today’s high-level meeting on Africa, the General Assembly would adopt a resolution reaffirming the international community’s solidarity with Africa, reiterating the continent’s determination to resolve its own problems, and confirming the international community’s strong partnership with it.  African leaders had already signalled their intention to tackle Africa’s problems through the establishment of the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the region’s own “blueprint for development”.


At a press conference where he was accompanied by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, President Kikwete said Africa had made great progress in establishing the institutional architecture for the promotion of peace and security on the continent, which included the African Union Peace and Security Council, an early-warning system, the Panel of the Wise and the African Standby Force.  Africa would no longer accept undemocratic changes of Government, and the principle of non-interference had been replaced by the “principle of non-indifference”.  All Africa asked of the international community was that it become a genuine partner and appropriately support the continent’s own efforts.


Mr. Kaberuka added that subtracting debt cancellation, humanitarian operations, technical assistance and administrative costs would reveal a decline in core official development assistance (ODA).  As for the Doha Development Round of trade negotiations, it had not addressed development issues by the time of the talks’ collapse.  Furthermore, aid effectiveness remained a work in progress.


Although Africa was “coming of age” by attracting investment and economic growth, among other things, the perception that the continent was a risky place in which to invest should change.  After all, people had lost more money lately in New York City than in Africa.  What Africa could not address in the short term were its dilapidated roads, airways and lack of energy.  The enormous infrastructural gap hampered economic growth.


Asked whether $72 billion a year to reach the Millennium Development Goals was a realistic figure to ask for, Mr. Kaberuka said it was a modest amount compared with the $180 billion spent on agricultural subsidies.  Progress in Doha on reducing trade-distorting subsidies would have provided $72 billion.  It would be disappointing if the current financial crisis led to a reduction in efforts to support developing countries.


“Where there is a will, there is a way,” President Kikwete added, expressing his confidence that developed countries could get together and provide $72 billion.


Asked about the current financial crisis, President Kikwete said it had not been foreseen in 2002 or 2005.  There might be no easy answers, but the United States and the world would overcome the serious situation.


Responding to a question about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s comments that it was time African States took ownership of the process, and the fact that a country like Nigeria generated $200 million a day while Africa needed $200 million a year, President Kikwete said Africa may own resources, but ownership of development was part of a serious discussion.  In the past, donor countries had prescribed what was best for the continent.  Its wealth of resources had not been spent on promoting development.  The inadequacy of resources for development should therefore be complemented by developed countries.  Although Nigeria generated $200 million a day, there were few other countries with that kind of revenue.


Asked how a single day could help address delays in achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Africa and his own country, President Kikwete said the day provided an opportunity to look at the needs and what could be done about them.  Today’s event would take a look at what had happened since Monterrey.  Today was a reminder that the implementation gap had to be closed, which remained possible in the seven years until 2015.  Part of the commitments by developed countries had been delivered, and developed countries should deliver the part of the commitments that had not yet been implemented.


He went on to say that it would be possible for the United Republic of Tanzania to achieve universal education as it was less than 3 per cent away from that goal.  The country had already achieved gender parity in education and was doing well on infant mortality rates, though less so on maternal mortality rates.  Support was necessary in order to achieve the halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015.


Mr. Kaberuka added that the considerable progress achieved over the last five years should not be underestimated, noting that international support had made it possible.  Furthermore, the failure of the Doha Round had major implications and Africans would, therefore, remain mobilized on that agenda.  While trade was important, commitments needed to be respected.


Responding to a question about the role that emerging lenders such as the Gulf States could play, President Kikwete said those emerging States could play a very important role.  Some developing countries had more capacity than others and therefore had a responsibility to help others.  Fortunately, that was being done by, among others, Brazil, China and India.  However, their capacities were more limited than those of the big developed economies.


Mr. Kaberuka added that Africa’s infrastructure problem was so big that there was a place for everyone to assist -- traditional donors, emerging donors and even the private sector.  One of the challenges for Africa was to reduce its role as an exporter of raw materials, and to add value in African countries.  However, that required the development of infrastructure.  One must be careful not to substitute new debt for old debt.  Natural resources should be managed in a manner that would benefit Africa.


Asked about the absence of President Thabo Mbeki, President Kikwete said the South African leader had a strong commitment to African development, having come up with the idea of the African Renaissance that had led to NEPAD.  His absence was a big loss for Africa.


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For information media • not an official record