29 July 2012
President of the ANC Women`s League, Comrade Angie Motshekga
Tshwane executive Mayor, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
ANC Women`s League, International Relation sub-committee chairperson, Fatima Nahara
PWMSA Convenor, Hlengiwe Mkhize
ANC Women`s League Deputy Secretary General, Mpai Mogorosi
ANC Women`s League National Executive Committee Members,
ANC Women`s League International Relations Sub-Committee members,
Representatives of the Alliance
Representatives of the ANC Youth League
Representatives of Veterans Leagues
Comrades, friends and compatriots
Members of the Media
It is with honour and humility to have been invited to address this gathering on the issue of the African Union. Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for your good wishes both, during the run up to the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and following my successful election as the new Chairperson.
This election poses a greater responsibility on women in general since it is the first time that a woman has been elected to this position in 49 years. It is also the first time that the incumbent is from the Southern Africa region.
I was asked to speak about the African Union itself.
But before we can speak about the African Union, it might be important to pause and recall the history of our Continent. This will allow us to local the African Union and its people in a historical context.
Our history has both the positive, bright and proud side and the dark and painful history.
All evidence, genetic, paleontological and linguistic evidence indicate that modern humans existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago, when they migrated and populated the rest of the globe. There is no doubt therefore that Africa is the cradle of humanity and an advanced civilisation. We have had a very advanced architecture as evidenced by the Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids, Tunisian city of Carthage, Great Zimbabwe as well as the old city of Timbuktu in Mali to mention a few.
The intricate sculptures of Makonde of Tanzania, the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria, the beautiful paintings of the Drakensburg, various artistic creations of the Egyptians demonstrate to us a continent with a great past. Africa is a continent that boasts of old highly organised kingdoms from the Ashanti to Monomotapa to that of Timbuktu.
We also have rich astronomical heritage. The Dogon people of Mali have generational knowledge of the star Sirius A and B which appears only once in 50 years. Scientists and astronomers are only now discovering what the Dogon have known for generations.
Africa also has a tradition of highly organised kingdoms - to name a few, Mesopotamia, the Ashanti, Monomotapa and so on.
Our history also speaks of an Africa that valued the matriarchal family, where women were the economic backbone of the continent in which the values of peace, justice and social well-being was promoted. In many communities and kingdoms, women spearheaded development and led their countries with great vision.
Women also played an important role in economic and governance structures on the African continent.
I remind you of the heroic role of ordinary women in the liberation struggle in Algeria in the 1950 and early 1960s. In East Africa women were vital in the struggles against colonialism, especially in rural and urban Kenya. Similarly in West African countries (such as Guinea Conakry, women pointed and embarrassed their men folk who did not join the anti-colonial movement, and of course, closer to home, we are familiar with stories of the brave women of Zimbabwe and Mozambique who joined in their struggle for liberation.
Women have played a pivotal role in sustaining communities and kingdoms, in nurturing nations and national economies and must play a role in the economic recovery of Africa.
In the renewal of African economies and societies culture will be critical to this effort.
This is part of our heritage, of our history which we should be proud of, a history which should inspire us and generations to come, a history which should assure us that we indeed have capacity to overcome the present obstacles to the restoration of Africa as a great, prosperous continent.
The dark side of our history cannot be forgotten because it is part of what defines and shapes our present position as Africans. Slavery robbed the continent of its finest and fittest sons and daughters. It was the most barbaric and cruel manifestation of racism. It is my belief that it is only if you define a people as of an inferior race that you can trade them as slaves.
In its long history, Africa has given much to the world, from new forms of social organisation and technology to arts and sciences. I will give you just two examples that we use every day. The word paper derives from the Egyptian word papyrus, a plant from which the first paper was made; and the origin of the alphabet we use when we write can also be traced back to Africa.
The plunder of Africa by outside powers began with the rise of capitalism and happened in two phases. In the first phase, which lasted 400 years, slave traders carried away the most precious of our resources, the sons and daughters of Africa. An estimated 12 million Africans were shipped as slaves, mostly to plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas. The enormous wealth they produced provided the capital needed to industrialize Europe and build empires. Slavery also created the African diaspora, with which Africans and Africa needs to build much stronger links, as emphasized at a recent conference hosted by South Africa.
In the second phase, the imperial powers established colonies over almost the whole of Africa. This process was completed after they divided up Africa between them at the Berlin Conference of 1884. Their aim was to use the super-exploitation of African labour to extract raw materials, ship them to Europe, and turn them into products to be sold at a huge profit, including to Africans.
Colonialism and imperialism not only led to carving up of the continent amongst certain European countries but it also meant Africans, through violent oppression and divide and rule tactics were denied freedom, self-determination and access to education. Our culture was despised and destroyed, our languages were suppressed, our ethics and values were replaced by European values, languages and religion. We were thus denied of our identity.
However all was not lost, the great African armies in Isandlwana in South Africa and Sudan defeated the mighty armies of the British Empire. There were also heroic struggles of the peoples of the continent, which saw progressive decolonialisation of the African countries and defeat of Apartheid in South Africa and Ian Smith in Zimbabwe.
It is a recognition of this simultaneously glorious and dark past that let to our leaders attempting to ensure Africa`s institutions were robust and adequately equipped to help create the conditions for an African Renaissance, an Africa destiny determined by Africans.
In this regard, the first half of the 20th century, until the end of the Second World War in 1945, was marked by the rise of new form of African Nationalism and new forms of resistance. This was aptly surmised by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1906, when a student at Columbia University in the United States:
"The African already recognises his anomalous position and desires a change. The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities."
In 1960, no less than 19 new states were born in Africa and 19 new flags raised to salute their independence. This followed the independence of Sudan and Ghana in the 1950s and the victory of Egypt after invasion by British, French and Israeli forces. Almost every one of the leaders of these states had spent time in prison and their movements were harassed, banned and ridiculed by the imperial powers.
We are talking of leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere. These leaders were visionaries who we must always be inspired by and learn from. They served their people, Africa and humanity selflessly and with great courage and wisdom.
In this same decade, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963. Amongst others, the OAU focused on unity and ending oppression on the continent.
Haile Salassie, the first chairperson of the OAU, made a powerful speech in this regard:
"We name as our first great task the final liberating of those Africans still dominated by foreign exploitation and control."He went on to say that, "Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free. Our brothers in the Rhodesias, in Mozambique, in Angola, in South Africa, cry out in anguish for our support and assistance." In the same speech he said, "History teaches us that unity is strength and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to the true African brotherhood and unity."
Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in 1964 resonated the sentiments of Haile Selassie in an address entitled, "I Speak of Freedom":
"It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance."
In 2002, the Organisation of African Unity was succeeded by the African Union. This was done not, because the objectives of the OAU had been achieved but because it was time for Africans to find African solutions to African problems, it was time for Africans to determine the nature of the relationships they entered into - to change the donor-recipient paradigm to one of a partnership amongst equals. It was envisaged that the African Union would therefore have the appropriate institutions and legal instruments to ensure a new era for our continent.
Evolution of the Organisation of African Unity into the African Union
African Heads of State and Government converged in the Libyan City of Sirte in September 1999 for deliberations on the future of the Organisation of African Unity. In the Sirte Declaration adopted on the conclusion of their deliberations they said:
"We deliberated extensively on the ways and means of strengthening our continental Organisation to make it more effective so as to keep pace with the political, economic and social developments taking place within and outside our continent," and were in this regard, "inspired by the ideals which guided the Founding Fathers of our Organization and Generations of Pan-Africanists in their resolve to forge unity, solidarity and cohesion, as well as co-operation between African peoples and among African States."
In further recalling "the heroic struggles waged by our peoples and our countries during the last century of this millennium for political independence, human dignity and economic emancipation," and cognisant "of the challenges that will confront our continent and peoples [in the 21stcentury], [they emphasized] the imperative need and high sense of urgency to rekindle the aspirations of our peoples for stronger unity, solidarity and cohesion in a larger community of peoples transcending cultural, ideological, ethnic and national differences."
In their discussions on how to strengthen the continent and its peoples, the Summit decided to, establish an African Union.
The African Union was established to, amongst others, accelerate the process of integration on the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing social, economic and political challenges.
Vision and Mission of the African Union
The vision of the African Union is that of: "An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena."
This vision of a new, forward looking, dynamic and integrated Africa will be fully realized through relentless struggle on several fronts and as a long-term endeavour. The African Union has shifted focus from supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, as envisaged by the OAU since 1963 and the Constitutive Act, to an organization spear-heading Africa`s development and integration.
The Objectives of the African Union
The Organs of the African Union
The Assembly of the African Union is composed of Heads of State and Government or their duly accredited representatives. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the Union.
The Executive Council
The Executive Council is composed of Ministers or Authorities designated by the Governments of Members States. The Executive Council is responsible to the Assembly.
The Permanent Representatives` Committee
The Permanent Representatives` Committee is composed of permanent representatives of Member States accredited to the African Union and is charged with the responsibility of preparing the work of the Executive Council.
The AU Commission Mission of the African Union Commission
The Commission is governed by the following mission: to become:
The values that guide and govern the functioning and operations of the Commission are:
Portfolios of the Commission
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
Heads of State and Government in July 2001 decided to establish the Peace and Security Council. This decision was taken within the context of the prevalence of conflicts and civil wars in Africa and the requisite need for a robust framework for an African peace and security architecture.
Current members of the Council are: Libya, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe who are serving three year terms and Lesotho, Angola, Egypt, Guinea, Cameroon, Cote d` Ivoire and Congo Republic, Djibouti, Tanzania, Uganda are currently serving two year terms on the Council.
Pan African Parliament
The Pan African Parliament is an organ intended to ensure the full participation of African peoples in governance, development and economic integration of the Continent. The Pan African Parliament was established in March 2004 and is now fully integrated into the African Union system as an Organ, reporting to the Assembly and its budget is processed through the Policy Organs of the Union.
The Economic, Social and Cultural Council, an advisory organ composed of different social and professional groups of the Member States of the Union.
ECOSOCC aims to:
The African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights
Africa has specific instruments and systems for the promotion and protection of human rights - the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights, the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the African Court on Human and Peoples` Rights.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples` Rights provides for, among other things, mechanisms to promote and protect the rights embodied in the Charter. To date, all Member States of the African Union are party to the African Charter.
The Organ charged with the mandate to promote and protect human rights is the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights which has the following functions:
The Commission is further mandated to "collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples` rights, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples` rights and should the case arise, give its view or make recommendations to governments.
The Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, Adv Pansy Tlakula, currently serves as a Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples` Rights.
The African Court on Human and Peoples` Rights
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African unity adopted the protocol to the African Charter establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples` Rights in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on 10 June 1998. The Court was established to complement and strengthen the protective mandate of the African Commission. The protocol provides for an 11-member African court with members that have expertise in human and peoples` rights. To date 24 member states have ratified the Protocol.
Our own Judge President Bernard Ngoepe has served on the African Court of Justice since 2006. His term will expire in 2014.
NEPAD (New Economic Partnership for Africa`s Development)
The Continent`s socio-economic programme NEPAD has been described as "a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic."
NEPAD has received unanimous support from external partners as an instrument for forging partnerships among African countries, between African government and their private sector, and between Africa and the international community.
NEPAD promotes the key principles of ownership, leadership and development of appropriate capacity for the continental institutions, regional economic communities and Member States. It is also based on:
The NEPAD frameworks were developed to place Africa on the path to sustainable development. These frameworks contain all the elements for continental integration and have all been developed collaboratively with extensive stakeholder participation. The frameworks include:
African Peer Review Mechanism
The preconditions for sustainable development have been entrusted to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which is a voluntary mechanism to be acceded to by member states. A High Level Panel of Eminent Persons was also set up to conduct country reviews as part of the APRM.
National chairperson Baleka Mbete was elected to the African Union`s African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Panel of Eminent Persons in January 2012.
The Financial Institutions
The African Investment Bank
The establishment of the African Investment Bank is one of the three financial institutions mandated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. It is based in Tripoli, Libya.
The mandate of the African Investment Bank was envisioned to aid in fostering economic growth and accelerating economic integration
To achieve these objectives, the Bank will carry out the following tasks:
African Monetary Fund (AMF)
The establishment of the African Monetary Fund (AMF) is also mandated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, in a bid to facilitate the integration of African economies, through the elimination of trade restrictions and enhance greater monetary integration. It is based in Yaoundé, Republic of Cameroon.
The African Monetary Fund aims to, amongst others:
African Central Bank (ACB)
The African Central Bank was created following the 1991 Abuja Treaty. The 1999 Sirte Declaration called for its implementation to be accelerated. It is based in Abuja, Nigeria.
The ACB, just like the other African financial institutions, is tasked with formulating a common monetary policy and to create the African currency to accelerate economic integration in Africa.
The African Central Bank aims to:
Opportunities and Challenges
While Africa continues to grapple with a number of challenges, it has even greater opportunities, which used strategically will certainly ensure that the 21st century is indeed the African century.
Africa accounts for more than one-quarter of the world`s arable land and is a source of livelihood for 70% of our people. However, it currently generates only 10% of global agricultural output and imports tens of billions of dollars of food each year. Using our land resources more effectively will enable us to not only contribute to our economic growth but to ensure we can feed our people ourselves.
We will also be able to contribute towards job creation and income distribution. It will also enable us to use the foreign currency which at the moment is being used to import food for other developmental imperatives on our continent. Food security must therefore be something we strive to achieve immediately.
Africa is the continent with most possibilities and potential, with its vast mineral and natural resources including sunshine, wind and biodiversity. Amongst others, Africa has about 12% of the world`s known oil reserves and 40% of its gold. We must use our natural resources more efficiently to benefit our countries and its people.
We committed ourselves in the Lagos Plan of Action to, amongst others, co-operate in the field of natural resource control, exploration, extraction and use for the development of our economies for the benefit of our peoples and to set up the appropriate institutions to achieve these purposes; and develop indigenous entrepreneurship, technical manpower and technological abilities to enable our peoples to assume greater responsibility for the achievement of our individual and collective development goals.
We need to take control of our mineral resources, in terms of extraction. We should beneficiate and also ensure that we do get sufficient benefit from these mineral resources. At the moment, the company doing the extraction/beneficiation gets the resources while the country and its people receive very little. Simultaneously, we have to confront the challenge of illicit outflows of capital that rob the continent of the much needed resources for its own development
Our collective resources, along with rising demand for raw materials from emerging economies especially, make Africa an attractive destination for direct and portfolio investors. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Africa reached US$62 billion in 2009, an almost seven-fold increase in a decade. This trend is expected to continue.
Meanwhile, rigorous implementation of the African mining vision adopted by African Heads of State and Government at their February 2009 Summit will strongly improve the development effectiveness of the continent`s natural resources.
We must develop infrastructure that facilitates connectivity between and amongst ourselves by road, rail, air, sea and telecommunication systems. This infrastructural development must lead to the promotion of inter and intra-African trade. Work has already begun in the form of NEPAD which is the economic blueprint of the continent and lays the basis for the political and economic renewal of Africa.
It cannot be that a continent surrounded by two oceans and many seas has no ship-building capacity. In the long term we should also look at the possibility of owning maritime transport facilities. This will increase our competitiveness as it will be cheaper for us to transport our goods within the continent and beyond.
It is critical that we ensure that we build the North-South Corridor, from Cape to Cairo and the East-West Corridor, from Senegal to Djibouti. The construction of these, and other, roads must be accelerated. We must speedily implement our continental and national infrastructure plans to ensure we accelerate our development.
How can we improve tourism amongst ourselves if we are not connected by road, rail, sea and air? But it is not only the physical infrastructure. We need to align some of the regulations and laws while strengthening our institutions in order to be able to facilitate free movement of people, goods and capital flow.
African Union Decade of Women
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2010 declared 2010-2020 as the Decade of Women. Working together with all member states and other sectors of society, we must ensure this decade lays a firm basis for the emancipation of women. Africa, nor any other continent, can achieve its full potential if 50% of its people remain under-development and marginalised.
The African Women`s Decade is a mechanism to accelerate the implementation and attainment of the goals stated in the various declarations, protocols and conventions adopted by the AU. Among these, four are key, namely Section 4/L of the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People`s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality and the AU Gender Policy.
We cannot talk of the emancipation of women without mentioning the Beijing + 15 Review Conference, simply because our collective future is guided by the challenges that were deliberated upon extensively at that Conference.
These include women still lagging far behind men in areas such as access and control of productive resources, women having less access to education than men, fewer employment and advancement opportunities available to women, women`s roles and contributions to national and continental development processes being neither recognised nor rewarded, women continuing to be absent from decision-making structures and processes, and women generally being excluded from peace negotiations even though they bear the brunt of conflict.
When it comes to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as set by the United Nations General Assembly, you may recall that the MDG 4 and 5 relate to children, infants and mothers, which is critical for the socio-economic development of Africa. It is thus important that we continue to prioritise maternal, infant and child health on Africa`s development agenda.
Africa has the youngest population in the world, which is continuing to grow rapidly. We must therefore ensure our young people have access to good education, basic healthcare, nutrition and skills development to enable them to participate in the mainstream of our economies.
It is significant that the Pan African Women`s Organisation (PAWO) which was formed in Tanzania in1962 commemorates its 50th anniversary this year. PAWO, established a year before the Organisation of African Unity (O-A-U) by the Heads of states and Government in the continent, is therefore one of the building blocks aimed at uniting and uplifting women in particular and citizens in general.
The role of African women in national liberation movements and calls for Independence is often paid very little attention. Women played an indispensable role in liberation movements across Africa from joining the ranks and fighting alongside their male comrades to marching and protesting against injustices.
In acknowledging the responsibility thrust upon us to ensure we leave a legacy that will ensure a better life for future generations of girl children, we must remember the fearless heroines who came before us in the struggles against oppression and colonialism - the Ghanaian - Ama Nkrumah, the South African - Albertina Sisulu, the Mozambican - Graca Machel, the Angolan - Hoji ya Hende, the Zimbabwean - Sally Mugabe, the Kenyan - the late Professor Wangari Maathai, the Liberian, President Ellen-Sirleaf Johnson, and many other unsung heroines of our continent who paid the supreme price in the just cause of their peoples.
We should try to achieve the vision of the late President of Mozambique, Samora Machel, said: "The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, or the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory."
The African Union, and its structures serve as a vehicle for the transformation and defence of Africa and its peoples. These structures will only be effective, however, if they have strong political leadership and the necessary resources, In particular, the Commission of the African Union must be strong in order to be effective, efficient and able to respond timeously and appropriately to current challenges.
We must also be able to mobilise all sectors of African society to be part of strengthening the African Union, amongst other, women, youth, organised business, and civil society. This is after all, our continent and is the one we will bequeath to future generations of Africans.
We must therefore, without fear or favour, sparing neither strength nor effort, ensure the vision of our forebears becomes a reality - an Africa for Africans, a prosperous Africa at peace with itself and the world.
Indeed, if we are to achieve a better Africa like the Warrior of light in Paulo Coelho`s book we must remember that, "A Warrior tries to make most of his virtues. He knows that the gazelle`s power lies in its legs. The power of the Seagull lies in the accuracy with which it can spear a fish. He has learnt that the reason the tiger does not fear the hyena is because he is aware of his own strength. We have to define for ourselves what we can truly rely on".
It is time we as Africans used the opportunities available to us for our own development and for the sustainability of generations to come.
I thank you.
ANC Women`s League National Spokesperson
078 120 9880
011 376 1055