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Saturday, 29 May 2010 09:33

Africa Needs Credible Institutions to Thrive - Annan

mandela-machelBy Loyiso Langeni

Johannesburg, South Africa, May 28 (Business Day) — Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), has identified the lack of credible institutions as one of the main stumbling blocks to Africa's attaining progress and prosperity.


Annan, who is now the chairman of the Africa Progress panel, was in South Africa to launch a report that assessed how well Africa has fared on developing economic institutions, promote political governance and achieving sustainable development over a five-year period.


The panel is an effort to monitor progress and accountability in Africa. It is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.


Other prominent members include SA's former first lady Graca Machel, former British prime minister Tony Blair, musician Bob Geldof and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.


The report found that Africa is still lagging behind in investing its resources in building institutions that would strengthen good governance and regional trade. Reforms were needed to entrench democracy, the rule of law and the freedom of association. There was also a need to remove barriers that prevented the poor from gaining a good education and accessing health care.


"More can be done by African leaders, in government, business or civil society, to advocate for development policies and resources," that would steer the continent away from its economic stagnation, Annan said.


He urged African countries "to organise themselves to make sure that their voice is heard" at multilateral institutions such as the UN, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Group of 20 countries. "Africa's future is in its own hands and the lead must come from us and our leaders", Annan said.


Annan felt strongly that there was a need to find ways to nurture the talent of young people to prevent them from seeking opportunities in developed countries.


Obasanjo supported the view that Africa needed "the right leadership" that would promote the interests of the poor. "We may not have critical mass leadership to move the continent forward but we do have some stock of leadership" capable of being the voice of the poor.


"Where progress has not been made it is because of (poor) leadership as we are the architects of our own fortune and misfortune."


One the key findings of the report indicated that Africa has a long way to go to achieve the targets of the Millennium Development Goals . This was partly attributed to a lack of political will demonstrated by African leaders to reduce the levels of poverty and inequality Annan said. 


Helen Clark, a former New Zealand prime minister and now chairwoman of the UN Development Group was in SA and made the same point about meeting those goals.

The failure of African countries to elevate women to positions of power and responsibility was one of the findings lamented in the report.


The panel called on governments and civil society movements to put more focus on initiatives to empower women through affirmative action policies.


Fellow panelist and governor of the central bank of Botswana, Linah Kelebogile Mohohlo, said there was "no question in my mind that we would begin to see good governance and proper leadership" if more women were given a role to play in Africa. He decried the lack of an adequate financial architecture to assist women to become successful entrepreneurs.

The panelists said they would also continue with efforts to engage governments on the continent on corruption, climate change, human trafficking, the rights of the girl child, peace and security issues.


The launch of the report coincided with the 47th anniversary of the Africa Day celebrations to commemorate the founding of the African Union. Amukelani Maphophe contributed to this news report.




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