African solutions to African problems

Our policy towards our continent – as aptly packaged under the theme of “Consolidating the African Agenda” – has been and continues to be shaped by a number of historical, economic, political, social and cultural realities and considerations. Top-most on our agenda is that we need to ensure that our continent economically develops and politically matures into the international systems of governance. Having been born out of struggle, our history compels us to refrain from pursuing foreign and economic policies that will make South Africa an island of prosperity in a troubled sea of under-development, war, poverty, disease and illiteracy. South Africa’s contribution to the economic and political development, including the security of the Southern African region and the African continent at large – is and will continue to be based on the spirit of mutual partnerships, and never as an aspiring hegemon. We will continue to contribute towards peace and development on the continent, including inculcating a culture of respect for human rights and sustainable development. These principles are fundamental to our foreign policy and we will make every effort to export them to our region, the continent of Africa and the rest of the global village. A cursory analysis of our relations with countries of SACU and SADC will reveal that since 1994, South Africa has considered regional economic relations in Southern Africa an essential component of its wider international economic relations. We have repeatedly committed ourselves to promoting regional cooperation along new lines that will correct imbalances in current relationships. In our objective of consolidating and strengthening SACU, our vision is to march towards a common market, underpinned by a new revenue arrangement that separates customs revenue from the redistributive aspects. We also hold the view that further consideration should be given to establishing a mechanism through which transfers are directed to infrastructural and investment projects that support regional integration and development within (the) Customs Union. SADC remains an immediate neighbourhood with which we wish to enhance trade; advance work on cross-border infrastructural development; and sectoral co-operation with a specific focus aimed at building the region’s production structures. We remain concerned that although South African imports from the region are increasing, they remain low value commodities. In essence, under-developed production structures in the region are proving a serious constraint to balanced regional trade. The challenge of the region’s industrial policies is therefore to expand the range of products that can be exported and to increase the value-added of those exports. At a continental level, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) represents the clearest expression thus far of South Africa’s “national interest” on the continent – which is to improve economic and political governance as a basis for enhanced economic development. We have and will continue to play a leading role in developing NEPAD and its various sectoral strategies; mobilizing African and international support for NEPAD; and supporting its structures and processes. At the same time, we note that as NEPAD turns ten, the pervasive mood is that of impatience, as most Africans feel the planning and coordination phases should urgently move into implementation mode. We fully associate ourselves with this view and note, amongst others that: We need to encourage regional integration in a manner that will assist countries to better be able to trade, share resources and build mutually beneficial infrastructure; We need to creatively deal with the aspect of food insecurity in a manner that will ensure increased amounts and quality of the food we produce on the continent to make food more secure, and exports more profitable, which will lead to improved social and political stability; We need to ensure that capacity-building in the continent addresses Africa’s real capacity constraints in a sustainable manner through a strategic long-term perspective that focuses on organizational systems; The APRM remains critical in ensuring that our development and regional cooperation programmes takes place in the context of good economic and political governance; and that, As a country, we have also made a commitment through the NEPAD Implementation Strategy of South Africa (NISSA) to focus our country on the mobilization and alignment of resources and institutions nationally, regionally, continentally and internationally in support of the NEPAD’s vision, mission and objectives. In our socio-economic profiling of our continent, we argue that Africa, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 35, is the youngest continent in the world. Young people represent a significant asset, in economic terms alone, they can contribute to productivity, increased consumption and income taxes. With this in mind, we will be committing a monumental mistake if we were to continue pushing to the margins our young people. We associate ourselves with the finding of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa that access to quality education for our youth is a “pre-condition for poverty reduction, political stability, peace and security, and sustainable development”. We are convinced that well-educated young people are reliable building blocks of an efficient and productive labor force, while a highly skilled workforce is essential to our continent remaining globally competitive. We hold the view that Africa has the best possibility in this prevailing milieu to emerge from an era of political and social decline into a renaissance of hope and social progress. We can attest to the fact that a new spirit is abroad on the African continent, with the citizenry of this continent obviously determined to use their newly-harnessed energy, pride and self-assertiveness to chart their own course of development and extricate themselves from the lowest rungs of human development. Most of the conflicts on the continent have been resolved. Democracy is spreading and economic growth is accelerating. What is more, there is a collective determination to turn Africa into one of the centers of rapid industrialization and social development. While historical experiences of subjugation have much to do with Africa’s current position, it is Africans themselves partnered by others, who can bring about the renaissance of their nations and their continent. The most immediate challenges in this regard, clearly involve the deepening of our democracy; the skilling of our workforce; the improvement of our social services; and the development of infrastructure for our economic prosperity. What is more, our collective project of regional economic and political integration, including the assertion of national and collective continental sovereignty should remain paramount. In conclusion From the point of view of Public Diplomacy, we have come to accept that one of our biggest challenge, is to ‘establish and maintain a voice’ in the marketplace of ideas and messages. This is where we have to deal with the power of perceptions and establishing links with non-state actors like you – beyond the opinion gatekeepers. In this regard we wish to use this interaction to confirm, strengthen and manage our alliance with you as part of academia, in order to ensure that we prevent situations where we express conflicting messages, purely because we have failed to share notes and views. South Africa has always supported the “Responsibility to Protect” principle on the condition that it should not be abused in order to achieve other aims. Consequently, if the use of force by the international coalition against Libyan targets will go beyond the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas (eg specifically be aimed at regime change) this will be violating these principles, and by extension, the mandate for the use of force contained in Resolution 1973 (2011).  As regards proportionality, the scale, duration and intensity of the military action should be only aimed at protecting civilians, and if the conduct of military operations would go beyond these limitations, this principle would have been violated. Our historical evolution mandates us to chart a path of hope and human solidarity in the world; inculcate a culture of peacefully conflict through dialogue; and promoting mutual friendship among peoples of the world.  This we shall do, proceeding from the premise that all nations have a shared responsibility to improve the overall living human conditions of the global citizenry. Our standpoint on these matters is both a matter of profound self-interest and an issue about the humanity of our own outlook. And lastly, we should also, as students and practitioners of foreign policy, be quick to notice attempts by some to rubbish the situation and reduce or minimize our contribution to the bigger picture of bringing peace, security and development to our troubled continent of Africa.

August 2011
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