|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Africa’s Challenge is Translating ‘Impressive’ Economic Growth into Social
Welfare, Secretary-General Says in Message for Benin Symposium
Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the symposium: “Audacity, the Only Challenge for a New Africa”, in Cotonou, Benin, 18 November:
I am delighted to send greetings to this important international symposium. I congratulate His Excellency Dr. Boni Yayi, President of Benin, for this initiative and for his strong commitment to promoting Africa’s development through its most valuable asset, its young people.
My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Africa affected by recent flooding. After the worst flooding in nearly half a century, Benin faces the daunting task of rebuilding, sheltering and fighting the threat of a major outbreak of water-borne diseases. The United Nations will continue to stand by all affected countries and to provide all necessary assistance.
The year 2010 has seen 17 African countries celebrate 50 years of independence. As we look back, Africa can be proud of many significant achievements. The Constitutive Act of the African Union enshrines commitments to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Africa has firmly rejected unconstitutional changes of power and the African Peer Review Mechanism is a promising new partnership between Governments and civil society. A new architecture of peace and security institutions is steadily emerging, including the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, the Panel of the Wise, the Early Warning System and the African Standby Force. The era of rampant civil wars has given way to consolidation of democracy. A vibrant private sector is emerging, new entrepreneurial opportunities are being created, civil society is stronger and Governments are more accountable.
Of course, Africa still faces serious challenges, including HIV/AIDS, hunger, deficits in access to basic education and high levels of youth unemployment. The continent must also contend with rapidly accelerating urbanization, the growing impacts of climate change and the persistence of sexual violence against women.
My recent visit to several African countries, including Benin, allowed me to see the commendable progress being achieved in the promotion of peace, stability and democratic governance. In particular, I have been struck by the tremendous potential of Africa as the world’s youngest continent, with more than 43 per cent of the population under the age of 14 and 65 per cent under the age of 30. While it will be a tremendous undertaking to provide these young people with jobs and income opportunities, this energetic, creative and vibrant workforce can do great things for African standards of living if given the tools.
Africa’s impressive economic growth during the past decade shows what is possible. The challenge now is to translate growth into improved social welfare for the people and faster progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Africa no longer leans inordinately on international aid and support. I hope the world will come to understand that the continent, far from being one that poses only challenges, is dynamic and full of potential.
I call on Africa’s young people to develop new ideas for a new Africa. I urge Africa’s men to do more to recognize and protect the rights of Africa’s women. To Africa’s women, I say: that place at the decision-making table is yours by right; the continent needs you to be there. I also thank you for being the engine of African development, today and tomorrow.
And to Africa’s leaders: I appeal to you to work together — with each other and with all sectors of society — to realize all of Africa’s promise for all of Africa’s people.
We at the United Nations will continue to support you. Please accept my best wishes for a successful symposium.
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