Africa: World crises "must not detract from poverty eradication"

ADDIS ABABA, 21 November 2008 (IRIN)

  • Initiatives aimed at eradicating poverty in Africa must continue, despite global financial, food, energy and environmental crises, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, said on 20 November.

Addressing a news conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at the end of a meeting of the Danish Africa Commission, Migiro said the crises should not overshadow Africa's development agenda.

"The Africa Commission's development comes at a time when the world is facing four major crises - the financial crisis, food crisis, the fuel crisis and the environmental crisis - all these just as we are passing the mid-point in the [UN] MDGs [Millennium Development Goals]," she said. "The Africa Commission's agenda falls squarely on aspirations of the MDGs."

Since women are the backbone of agriculture in Africa, Migiro said, the commission's commitment to gender parity would help in the alleviation of the global food crisis being experienced mostly by African countries.

Focus on youth

Migiro is one of 17 commissioners of the grouping, established by Denmark in April 2008 to focus on strategies aimed at creating more and better employment opportunities for the continent's estimated 190 million young people aged between 15 and 35.

Migiro, with the chairman, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and several other prominent world leaders were in Addis Ababa for the second meeting of the commission, where they received proposals from representatives of youth in 23 African countries on ways of fostering economic growth.

"The commission's ambition is to bring about real change for Africa's growing number of young people by improving its competitiveness in the global market," stated a communiqué.

"Strengthening regional cooperation is crucial and we will make regular evaluations of the initiatives ahead of the next meeting of the commission to be held in May 2009 in Copenhagen," Rasmussen said.

DRC crisis

Kikwete said although insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could affect the commission's initiatives in the Great Lakes region, the political leadership in the area was committed to resolving the civil war in the DRC.

"Leaders in the Great Lakes are committed to resolving this matter; we have mandated former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa to mediate and facilitate talks between the parties involved in the conflict," Kikwete said. "In a month's time, we will meet again in Nairobi [the Kenyan capital] to review the facilitators' efforts and to chart the way forward, we want to create jobs for the youth and we know this is not possible where there is war."

Another commissioner, Betty Maina, who is the executive director of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, told IRIN the fight against poverty would be greatly strengthened by the involvement of private enterprise as envisioned by the commission.

"Making it possible for enterprise to thrive; merging business ideas and maximising on the possibilities by establishing a mechanism to fund good business ideas would go a long way in lifting African youth out of poverty," she said.

The commission's meeting on 20 November was preceded by three days of deliberations by 60 youngsters, who submitted several recommendations to the commissioners, key among them being that aid is not the answer for Africa - "competitiveness is".

"Aid is not a solution; we are calling for quality partnerships between the north and the south," Humphrey Polepole, a youth representative from Tanzania, said. "Any aid terms that inhibit Africa's self-management should be discouraged; we are not here for aid, we want to be listened to because the youth in Africa is a powerhouse, we are the majority."