Leaders at the African Union summit told delegates attending the Nepad heads of state and government orientation committee meeting on Saturday that the continent had a lot to celebrate despite some remaining challenges.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) was founded in 2001 to help speed up development on the continent. The Nepad meeting took place on the sidelines of the AU summit in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who is also AU chairperson, thanked Nepad for the work it had undertaken on food security and efforts to integrate the continent, saying it had made a breakthrough since its inception on both the conceptualisation and implementation of projects. He said however the continent was losing money that should have been generated through the extraction of minerals.
He said industrialisation was key to improving the continent’s fortunes.
“I urge Nepad and similar institutions to include industrialisation among our priorities. African minerals and commodities are beneficiated elsewhere,” he said.
‘Hewers of wood and drawers of water’
“African people cannot continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water while others benefit from our resources.”
Mugabe said poverty, hunger and disease continued to wreak havoc, while other countries benefited from Africa’s minerals.
In his welcome address President Jacob Zuma, who is hosting his counterparts from the continent until Monday, said they should celebrate the fact that a number of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.
He acknowledged however that unemployment among the youth was one of Africa’s biggest threats and identified climate change as stifling development. Zuma said there was “a huge difference to what Africa was decades ago. We have a commitment to challenge them on our terms.”
Zuma urged African leaders to work together, saying no African country could achieve prosperity on its own.
“We have one future and a shared destiny.”
On Saturday, African heads of state were continuing to arrive in South Africa for the two-day 25th ordinary session of the AU Assembly scheduled for Sunday and Monday at the Sandton Convention Centre.