Alpha Oumar Konaré calls for a united and indivisible AfricaThe Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konaré, presented a plea in favour of a united and indivisible Africa “where no African will be made to feel a foreigner”, in an address at UNESCO which the former president of Mali visited today on the occasion of the Africa Day celebrations taking place at the Organization’s Headquarters.
Highlighting the importance of African integration, “the only framework for truly endogenous development,” Mr Konaré defined the African Union as “an organization of regional integration”, which is evolving towards the establishment of the “United States of Africa.”
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koďchiro Matsuura, for his part, stressed the importance of assistance to countries emerging from conflict and of HIV/AIDS prevention, two priority areas for UNESCO “on which both organizations must cooperate closely.” He also welcomed the inscription of education and culture on the agenda of the African Union Summit, scheduled to take place in Khartoum (Sudan) in July 2005: “It is crucial that such an integrated approach prevail among States and international institutions, especially where post-conflict reconstruction is concerned.”
In his address, the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, described the situation in Africa today where “50 percent of food is imported and two thirds of the world’s AIDS carriers live”, and which includes “two thirds of the world’s least developed countries, 50 percent of the world’s refugees.” Raw materials account for 95 percent of Africa’s exports, and the continent represents “a mere third of the world trade (only) 1.8 percent of the world’s investments”. Life expectancy, at 47 years, is 30 years shorter than in Europe. “This is the only place in the world where life expectancy is regressing,” he said, adding that “many Africans know what conditions the continent will experience if things continue on their present course. Forests are dying, the desert is progressing, great drought is announced, acute water crisis, and Africa is becoming, ever increasingly, the world’s dumping ground.”
Quoting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2003 Report, Mr Konaré said that the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals will not be met, and asked the international community to step up it efforts to help Africa overcome obstacles. “Africa’s debt reached 281 billion dollars in 2001. This represents 51 percent of our countries’ gross domestic product and 318 percent of our exports. There is no political, or moral justification for this debt to be maintained,” said Mr Konaré.
Insisting on the fact that it is Africa itself that must find the financial resources for its sustainable development, Mr Konaré said that the continent must put an end to its “exclusive one-to-one relations” with Europe and develop partnerships with Japan, China, Brazil, India and, more particularly, the Arab world.
The Chairman stressed the importance of the cultural, intellectual and scientific aspects of development for Africa and spoke of the forthcoming meeting of African intellectuals in Dakar (Senegal) in 2004, of the creation of centres of excellence, the promotion of scientific research and the development of publishing. Finally, Mr Konaré introduced the idea of creating a Pan-African Space Agency, as well as that of a “great centre dedicated to humankind in Ifé, Nigeria, […] a place for ecumenical dialogue among civilizations, cultures, philosophies, religions, and people, to forge a humanistic vision for the 21st century.”
Upon his arrival at UNESCO this morning, Mr Konaré and the Director-General met to discuss and analyse cooperation between the Commission of the African Union and UNESCO, especially in education, HIV/AIDS prevention, and the safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
Photo: Alpha Oumar Konaré