Africa's marginalization must be reversed, says Thabo Mbeki on a visit to UNESCO“The African continent must have the capacity to use its resource base not to perpetuate an old relationship but to change it”, said South African President Thabo Mbeki in an address on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) before more than 800 people at UNESCO Headquarters today.
Presenting his view of the historic and ongoing causes of the continent’s “marginalization”, the South African President explained that “for centuries the Western World has treated Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, as a source of cheap labour and raw materials.” This “mould”, according to President Mbeki, had become increasingly difficult to break out of.
A very big loss of human capital was incurred during the periods of slavery and colonialism, undermining the capacity of African communities to generate wealth, President Mbeki said, arguing that the situation remained fundamentally unchanged in the post colonial period.
“Indeed, diversion of resources away from wealth creation to some extent accelerates in the post colonial period, as more resources are needed to finance the new state machinery and to meet the pressing social needs of the people,” said the South African leader.
He spoke of “a frame of mind about Africa” according to which “the continent has no place in the world economy except as a supplier of raw materials; there is no requirement that the continent should have access to modern technology and contemporary human skills […]; no contribution to human civilization can be expected from Africa except in the fields of the performing and plastic arts […].” This has made it all the more difficult to reverse the process of marginalization, President Mbeki argued.
“To bring this human tragedy to its end,” the President said, “it is necessary that the peoples of Africa gain the conviction that they are […] the instruments of their own destiny.” He said that it is of crucial importance, for Africa and the rest of the world, that “Africa needs a new political order and system of governance that would […] enjoy the support and loyalty of the African masses. […] It is also important for the rest of the global community because it would ensure that stable and predictable conditions exist in Africa”.
Determined to defeat underdevelopment, “African leaders committed themselves to the project of the renewal of the African continent at the dawn of the new century and the new millennium,” added President Mbeki, explaining that “the ultimate objective of this African initiative is to change the nature and architecture of the international governance system and perceptions about Africa.”
“We conceptualize NEPAD in part as a response to the ideological internalization of conditions of inferiority of ourselves, thus it signals a break with Africa’s own complicity in its oppression, in perpetuating what I called the self-fulfilling prophecy,” President Mbeki said.
After speaking of African achievements in the arts, culture, natural sciences, philosophy, religion and architecture over the centuries, the President turned to Africa’s position in the international system that has “for a long time frozen the African continent out of the global economic life.”
The South African leader said that “prescriptions, donations, aid and assistance, previously accepted unquestioningly and without much thought from friends and international agencies with grateful and required deference must surely give way to Africa’s investment of its own meagre resources in its own development purposely identified for their potential human development with the aim of surmounting the challenges facing its people.”
Photo © UNESCO/A. Wheeler