Self-Sufficiency Demands Greater Efforts, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Conference on Africa’s Realities, Challenges

18 May 2010

Self-Sufficiency Demands Greater Efforts, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Conference on Africa’s Realities, Challenges

18 May 2010
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Self-Sufficiency Demands Greater Efforts, Deputy Secretary-General


Tells Conference on Africa’s Realities, Challenges


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the international conference “Africa, an Opportunity for the World:  Realities and Challenges”, in Yaoundé, today, 18 May:

I would like to express my deep appreciation for your warm welcome.  We have been made to feel very much at home here in Cameroon.

On behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the entire United Nations system, I would like to express our congratulations on your nation’s fiftieth anniversary since independence.  I was too young to celebrate your country’s independence at the time, though I remember clearly the joy in my school when Tanzania became independent three years later.  Those were heady days indeed for Africa.  I am delighted to be here to join your celebrations.

Mr. President, this is indeed an historic occasion.  When British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan spoke so long ago of the “wind of change” blowing across Africa, little did he realize that such a wind would become a hurricane.  In a relatively short space of time, it has fundamentally transformed not only Africa, but the entire international system.  The era of African independence has brought many new countries into the United Nations General Assembly, paving the way for a radical transformation of international relations.  This is what we celebrate today.

Next month, Africa will host the World Cup for the first time.  It is a justifiable source of African pride.  African stars will shine, as they have done for years now.  Who can forget the exploits of the Indomitable Lions?  And who now cannot be aware of the talent of Samuel Eto’o?  Your sporting stars are flag bearers in the vanguard of a broader truth — that Africa is playing a growing role on the world stage.

I read a quote recently by the author Henning Mankell.  He said, “Too often we learn everything about how an African dies, but nothing about how he lives.”  This is the reality and indeed the challenge for Africa today.  For Africa is not just a place of famine, strife and poverty, as so conveniently portrayed in the media.

True, these maladies exist.  But Africa is also a continent of doctors, lawyers and engineers.  A continent of industry, and art.  And let us not forget, it has exported its music — for more than four centuries.  Thanks to Manu Dibango, a son of Cameroon, “makossa” has become part of world musical heritage.

Africa has also produced great statesmen and women.  I think of our founding fathers, including my own, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, who has set us all an example in fortitude, humility and an unswerving dedication to principle.  Africa has no shortage of inspiring women and men.

I have mentioned stars and dignitaries, but the continent is full of unsung heroes and heroines.  Women and men working, often in the face of intolerable hardship, to build a better life for themselves and their children.  Our responsibility must be to ease their path.  Africa has boundless potential.  Amazing human and material wealth.  One billion people, more than half of whom are under the age of 25. 

As the Chairperson of the African Union Commission always reminds us, Africa has90 per cent of the world’s cobalt, 64 per cent of the world’s manganese, 50 per cent of the world’s gold, and 40 per cent of the world’s unharnessed hydroelectric power generation potential.  Vast untapped geothermal and solar resources.  This is but a small snapshot of Africa’s incredible wealth.

This is part of what is meant by an opportunity for the world — the title of this conference.  And it is something that many increasingly recognize.  However, as we celebrate Africa’s achievements, opportunities and potential, we must also honestly address the realities and challenges that confront the continent.

I am sure, Mr. President, that you will agree with me that too many African babies still die in infancy, and far too many of our precious young ones have no access to basic primary education.  Maternal mortality is alarmingly high.  Why should a woman lose her life in the process of giving life?

Too many of our long-suffering farmers have to travel long distances simply to sell their products, and too many of our factories and industries lie idle for lack of parts, skills or investment.  Africa also faces the challenges of climate change and natural resource depletion; the continuing impact of the financial crisis; HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis and malaria; the unacceptable levels of maternal and child mortality; illiteracy; youth unemployment; inadequate or absent basic infrastructure; and discrimination and violence against women.  These and many other challenges require urgent attention.

I am equally sure that you will agree with me that Africa urgently needs an end to the brutal conflicts that have cost so many lives and destroyed so many hopes in recent decades.  While we applaud the end of civil wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi and Angola, we remain deeply concerned at the ongoing violence in Darfur, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. 

We welcome the efforts of the African Union and regional groups to end these conflicts.  As Africa strives for durable peace and sustainable development, the United Nations will continue to be a steadfast partner — as mediator, peacekeeper and peacebuilder.  We will also continue to strongly support Africa’s efforts to consolidate structures such as the African Union Peace and Security Council, the Panel of the Wise, the Early Warning System, and the African Standby Force. 

Without durable peace, there will be no sustained development, and without sustained development, Africa will not attain the Millennium Development Goals; nor will it successfully implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). 

And the United Nations will also work with Africa on the underlying causes of conflict.  We cannot turn a blind eye to corruption, nepotism or tyranny.  We cannot allow the will of the people to be thwarted by electoral fraud, unconstitutional changes of Government or manipulations of the law to keep vested interests in power.  Peace and sustainable development need to be built on the firm bedrock of good governance.

The good news, friends, is that much is already being done — through NEPAD, through the African Union’s peer review mechanism, through policy reforms and through mobilizing domestic resources.  Governments are working to promote regional cooperation and integration.  Africa’s people, its civil society organizations, its entrepreneurs and businesses are constantly breaking new ground.

The bad news is that much remains to be done and time is not on our side.  The needs of hundreds of millions of young, vibrant Africans cry out for immediate attention.  This is the reality.  This is the challenge.

In September, Secretary-General Ban will convene world leaders to give renewed impetus and direction to our collective efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals.  We have five years to build on those successes already achieved; five years to take what has been proven to work and roll it out to all who need it. 

Let me emphasize this point.  Experience shows that when strong commitments are backed by the right policies, adequate investment and international support, countries can achieve remarkable progress — and sustain it.  At the Millennium Development Goals Summit, we will showcase success stories, scale them up, show the progress that aid has made possible, and create partnerships that will allow us to do even more.

In conclusion, allow me to reiterate the commitment of the Secretary-General and the United Nations system for Cameroon as you pursue your development efforts.  The United Nations has been an indispensable partner in Africa’s pursuit of self-determination and self-sufficiency.  The battle for the former has been won.  The latter demands our continued and increased effort.

As we address Africa’s opportunities and challenges, I assure you that the United Nations will remain a genuine friend and ally.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.