news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: African Development Forum

Africa: African Development Forum
Date distributed (ymd): 991012
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:

This posting contains a speech in South Africa to the African Renaissance Insitute by Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary Dr. K. Y. Amoako, discussing the African Development Forum that will take place in Addis Ababa on October 24-29, 1999.

For more information on the forum and archives of the on-line discussion that preceded the forum, see: or

President Thabo Mbeki's speech on the same occasion is in a separate posting also sent out today.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The African Development Forum -
Dialogue for the African Renaissance

Address by

Dr. K.Y. Amoako,
Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa

On the occasion of the inauguration of the African Renaissance Institute

Pretoria, South Africa
Monday 11 October 1999

For more information:
Peter K.A. da Costa
Senior Communication Adviser
Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
United Nations
P.O. Box 3001 (official mail)
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: +251-1-51 58 26
Cell: +251-9-20 17 94
Fax: +251-1-51 03 65

Your Excellency Mr. Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa

Your Excellencies, Former African Heads of State and Government

Your Excellency Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity

Ambassador Kapembe Nsingo, Executive President of the African Renaissance Institute

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am pleased to be with you here in Pretoria today, on this important occasion of the inauguration of the African Renaissance Institute. It is an honour for me personally, and for the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), to address this gathering. I would like to thank the Institute for inviting me to speak. This is a most timely initiative, and one that resonates well with our shared vision of a better future for Africa's peoples as articulated by President Thabo Mbeki. I would like to pay tribute for his leadership and for the eloquence with which he has promoted this vision.


You have asked me to speak on the subject: "The African Development Forum - Dialogue for the African Renaissance". As I will relate to you shortly, the African Development Forum, or ADF process, has been initiated by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and its partners as a means of fostering home-grown and African-owned solutions to our development challenges. We see the ADF as an important tool for concretely moving forward with the vision of an African renaissance. But before going into detail about the ADF, let me first say a few words about the socio-economic dimensions of our renaissance challenge.

Mr. President, in Sun City in 1995, you stated -- and you have repeated here today -- that the new century must be Africa's century. Indeed, how can we claim the 21st Century for Africa's children? To do so will require that we meet certain key goals within the next three decades:

  • Today, four out of 10 Africans live below the poverty line, on barely one dollar a day. The goal must be to eradicate absolute poverty from the continent.
  • Today, at least 30 percent of Africans have no access to medical services, while more than 40 percent of the population lack access to safe water. The goal must be to ensure healthcare for all, as well as universal access to water and sanitation.
  • Today, one out of every four African children does not go to school. Sixteen countries have enrolment rates of less than 60%. The goal must be to ensure that every African child has access to quality education.
  • Today, 14 of the 20 lowest ranked countries in terms of the gender development index are in Africa. The goal must be to address gender disparities by removing the constraints that impede women from reaching their full potential.
  • Today, Africans can only expect to live for 51 years, an average which is declining because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The goal must be to raise Africa's life expectancy, to bring it in line with that of the developed countries.
  • Today, high population growth rates have led to rapid environmental deterioration and undermined agricultural productivity. The goal must be to achieve a harmonious balance between population growth and food production, and better stewardship of the environment.
  • Today, more than 20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's population is affected by civil war. The goal must be to ensure durable peace and sustainable development by addressing the root causes of conflict, including poverty and deep-seated inequalities.
  • Today, with 53 countries demarcated by 165 borders, Africa is the most divided continent. The goal must be to promote regional cooperation and integration, and to make the African Economic Community a reality.
  • Today, Africa is the most marginalized continent in terms of its global finance and trade. The goal must be to enhance Africa's international competitiveness so that we can become an equal player on the global scene.


This renaissance is not a mirage. Indeed, the groundwork for change has been partly laid. There is a wide recognition of the problems we face, and a greater consensus within Africa on the overall direction for the future. As a result of the new thinking, recent years have seen tangible progress made by many countries in reforming their economies, and in putting in place the requisite enabling environment to bring about equitable growth and poverty reduction. This has resulted in very encouraging growth rates over the last five years -- Africa's best economic performance since the late 1970s.

Yet these accomplishments cannot be assumed to mean that the aggregate African economy has crossed the critical threshold to self-sustaining poverty reduction. To make our vision a reality, we need to recognize that poverty is multidimensional, and that its reduction is a long-term effort requiring sustained capacities in the delivery of essential social services. Macroeconomic stability and structural reforms are also essential to move to a higher path of sustained growth. Broad based participation of civil society and strengthened governance, including improved budgetary management and public accountability, are equally important to the implementation of an effective anti-poverty strategy.

Harnessing our storehouse of intellectual talent and expertise, be it on the continent or in the Diaspora, is critical to meeting these challenges. President Mbeki put it eloquently when he said at Midrand in August 1998 that "Africa's renewal demands that her intelligentsia must immerse itself in the titanic and all-round struggle to end poverty, disease and backwardness".

So what strategies should we employ to enhance the role of research in promoting African development? What if we were to create a network of networks, which links regional research institutions and universities as a means of strengthening quality, cost-effectiveness and inter-disciplinary knowledge, through broad information sharing between knowledge-producing centers? What if we set out strategies to strengthen mechanisms through which analytical work from African research networks and universities impacts on public policy decisions and activities of civil society? And what if we could simultaneously identify strategic studies needed to address urgent development issues?

At the Economic Commission for Africa, working with a number of partner organizations, we are helping to network African centers of expertise. This involves building a web of professional networks and centers of excellence to strengthen the impact and cost-effectiveness of knowledge-producing research networks and universities.

In seeking to harness Africa's talent to design innovative solutions to our development problems, we at the ECA are mindful of the fact that no single institution can act in isolation. Indeed, we consider partnerships to be critical to achieving optimal impact in the region. It is in this spirit of partnership that we reach out to the African Renaissance Institute. We welcome the Institute's noble goals, and we share its objectives. As such, we pledge to work closely with the Institute in tapping the wealth of expertise that our continent holds. We look forward to developing concrete modalities to drive this nascent partnership forward.


ECA's partnership approach is enhanced by its dual role as the regional arm of the United Nations in Africa, and at the same time an important member of the African institutional landscape, in concert with the Organization of African Unity and the African Development Bank. This allows us to convene a wide cross-section of Africans and their partners to share perspectives on key development issues, and to forge common African positions. We have used this convening power to good effect in recent years. We have brought together African policy makers and private sector actors across the world around the issues of investment; we have rallied African finance and planning ministers around the question of debt; and we have provided the largest mainstream forum yet to mobilize action on empowering Africa's women.

We are using this convening power as a key advocacy mechanism to strengthen interaction between public policy decision-makers and research networks and institutions, creating feedback loops between research, teaching, policy application and civic interests. This will enhance the understanding of African issues and promote African content of knowledge and demand-driven research of practical relevance.

Our advocacy is underpinned by rigorous policy analysis and research into some of the key development issues. For example, in our latest Economic Report on Africa, we have developed a set of new indices to assess the policy outcomes and economic performance of individual African countries. The indices also rank countries on the basis on their progress in meeting the long-term development objectives of poverty reduction, and measure the consistency of short-run policy actions with stated long-term goals.


This brings me quickly to the theme of my address today, "the African Development Forum: A Dialogue for the Renaissance". I want to share with you this new process and how it can galvanize Africa's intellectual talent to promote an African-driven development agenda, and achieve a consensus on the priorities and strategies to meet specific goals. The ADF will present governments, civil society and other key stakeholders of Africa's development with the results of current research and analysis on these important development goals.

The ADF is not an isolated event. Rather, it is a process that includes concrete mechanisms designed to ensure follow-up and to monitor the status of implementation of agreed actions at country level and regional level also. We consider networks of African researchers as key in the preparation of the technical and policy position papers around each year's theme.

The ADF process and the priorities identified in each year's theme need the highest possible political support. We have seen many efforts fail in the past because they did not have the full backing of Africa's leadership, and we were very mindful of this when we set about to design the ADF process. We shall seek counsel and guidance from a forum of the Heads of State and Government.


This year's ADF, the inaugural Forum that we hope will become a seminal moment in the African development calendar, is being convened in Addis Ababa from 24 to 28 October 1999. The theme, "The Challenge to Africa of Globalisation and the Information Age" has been chosen as a millennium issue, a renaissance issue if you like, because of the importance of defining African-owned and African-led strategies to engage with the global information economy. Indeed, it is a theme that President Mbeki has articulated as one of the pillars of the renaissance. The ECA has long advocated the importance of such strategies in the context of the African Information Society Initiative (AISI), which we are implementing along with a wide range of partners.

With its large rural population Africa represents the largest untapped market for new communications services. It also represents a major challenge to innovators who must identify and adapt products that will help Africa leapfrog some of its most fundamental development challenges.

When we speak of leapfrogging, we envisage information technology solutions that will save lives by bringing medical knowledge and diagnosis to areas that are cut off from access to conventional health services; we are looking at distance education applications that will create virtual classrooms, thereby improving the access of young Africans to the knowledge that they so badly need to become agents of development; we foresee initiatives that will link our entrepreneurs with local, regional and global markets; we see prospects for improved governance, through enhanced access to communication and African media content.

Examples of these sectoral applications are already available in many African countries. This first Forum will showcase some of these best practices and concrete examples. Profiles have been prepared on the status of information technology in all African countries, along with in-depth National Information and Communication Infrastructure plans for some 20 countries in Africa.

As a key feature of the Forum, a panel of leading African policy researchers and analysts will examine the implications for their work of the emergence of the new technologies. They will also examine how applications can be tailored to enhance their own research.

Your Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

South Africa is a leader in this field in the continent and the leadership of this country has fully embraced information technology as a driving force for development. As such, we have very much to learn from you. I am pleased to say that in preparation for the first ADF, we have been working very closely with the government of South Africa. I wish to take this occasion to extend my sincere gratitude to our South African partners for being so committed to the success of ADF. In particular, we are most grateful for the interest that President Mbeki has shown in the ADF process, for his commitment to its goals, and for his wise counsel.

In closing, Mr. President, I wish to recall the story of the residents of the town of Dead Man's Creek in Mississippi. As told by you, every evening at 9pm, after watching the many images of wars, starvation, malnutrition, refugees, corruption and other African horrors on their TV screens, the residents of that town found it very difficult to reconcile such images with the vision of an African renaissance. They therefore concluded, amid much laughter, that African leaders like yourself who speak of an African renaissance must either be great comedians or, at the very least, must have a good sense of humour.

Mr. President, I recently drove through Dead Man's Creek. The bad news is that they are still laughing at us. But the good news is that this laughter will stop one day soon. Why? Because you have succeeded in turning us all into rebels for the renaissance -- to use your phrase. With such leadership, with such a shared vision, and with a wealth of natural and human resources, Africa will claim the 21st century. Thank you.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: