Prof. Mario Giro
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italy
Members of the Community of Sant’ Egidio
We say that the 21st century must be an African century, and we mean it!
Despite what you see on television screens or read in newspapers about our continent, the mood and spirit on the ground is very different. It reminds me of the years of independence, the 1960s, when Africa was shedding the shackles of colonial rule to enter the world stage as a free and an independent continent. Those were the years when we formed the Organisation of African Unity (the OAU), which has since became the African Union, because we saw and continue to this day to see ourselves as one single people with a common destiny. The future and prosperity of Africa lies in our unity and continent-wide integration.
The ideological basis of African unity is Pan-Africanism, a political movement that emerged around the beginning of the 20th century to unite all people of African descent, in Africa and its Diaspora. As a movement, Pan Africanism was an anti thesis to colonialism which had divided us, even creating different countries where none ever existed.
African unity is about Africa speaking with one voice in global affairs, in international negotiations or in the many bodies of the United Nations. We take pride in the fact that Africa is the most united continent in world affairs, in how we conduct ourselves and speak with one voice.
One big challenge to global Africa has to be singled out however, and this is the asymmetric global power relations, that divide the world between the North which wields so much power, and the rest of us who are the have-nots.
The United Nations is an assembly of all the nations of the world, but the same cannot be said for its Security Council which is a closed club of the privileged who decide, and undemocratically so, for all of us. Thus Africa is united in calling for the transformation of the Security Council to include us among its permanent members, especially that the items on the agenda of this body are predominantly about our continent.
The asymmetric global power relations account for the African condition that is our challenge today. Our continent, during the years of colonial rule, was only a source of cheap labour and raw materials. This has been a battle for us since our independence to transform and turnaround our economies, including industrialisation, and developing our human capital.
The key to claiming the 21st century is in industrialisation, to ensure value add, and reduce our dependency on the export of unprocessed raw materials.
We need infrastructure that connects are people within countries and between countries, Africa-wide, from Cape to Cairo.
This strategic re-orientation of Africa is well articulated in Agenda 2063, a fifty-year plan of the African Union that we adopted to take our continent to another level.
Underlying this plan are the principles of self-reliance, responsibility, African ownership, and transformative, democratic leadership.
The 21st century must be an African century, and we mean it!
Peace is therefore a precondition. We must address the root causes and the various manifestations of political instability and wars, in the Great Lakes, the Horn of Africa, or in any part of our continent that does not know peace.
The Community of Sant’Egidio has been a friend of Africa for years in the domain of peace and conflict mediation and resolution. We commend their work in Mozambique and the Great Lakes, just to name a few.
We know the root causes; we have the solution. Unlike in the past, we now take responsibility and lead in the resolution of conflicts on our continent through the African Union and our Regional Economic Communities. We continue to strengthen our capability and means to silence the guns in Africa by the year 2020. Please join us! Let’s work together towards this goal.
We accept that we must have leaders on our continent who put their people first; who are accountable; who eschew violence as a means towards a political end; an who are touched by the suffering of their people.
I take comfort in knowing that many of our leaders of today are of this calibre, and share our collective vision of a better Africa.
Africa has taken charge of its destiny. We need friends to work with us.
This gathering is one demonstration of the goodwill in the world towards our continent which gives us strength and make us more determined to claim the 21st century.
I thank you.