African leaders urge development, education for Africa’s ‘new dawn’

African leaders meeting in Ethiopia to mark the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union (AU) have urged a focus on education, technology, infrastructure development and integration.

Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of Ethiopia and current Chairperson of the African Union, said in the debate on Pan Africanism: “the major responsibility of the current generation of Africans is to create a continent free from poverty and conflict. I believe this is the new spirit of Pan-Africanism that should inspire current and future generations to fulfill the dreams of our founders for a peaceful, prosperous and united Africa”.

He identified five important measures to be taken, namely development of the agricultural sector, building human and technological capability, building infrastructure including telecommunications infrastructure, promote the private sector and nurture democratic governance and popular participation. He said: “Human and technological capability is critical in accelerating growth and development. In this era of globalisation, we cannot simply compete on the basis of our factor endowments. Hence, we need to assimilate technology developed elsewhere and move up the technology ladder. That is why we need to have a comprehensive system of vocational training and tertiary education, which is tailor-made to our needs for technology assimilation and adaptation. This is what would enable us to train the necessary manpower.”

“Along with the entire continent, the Diaspora and the friends of Africa, the African Union is today celebrating the past, present and future through a Grand Debate on “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”. However, “as we debate Pan Africanism, fifty years after the OAU was formed, we have to ask some tough questions about our dream for the next fifty years and the Pan Africanist values that continue to inspire us,” remarked Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission, in a statement which was received not only by the live audience but also by audiences in Africa and internationally. The tough questions, she said, refer to self-reliance, economic independence, rising social inequalities, integration through modernized infrastructure and industries. To achieve these targets in the future and sustainably change the narrative on Africa, Dr Dlamini Zuma urged Africa to “act with greater speed and a sense of urgency to create free trade areas and towards an African Common Market, strengthen the five regions as building blocks of the Union and facilitate the free movement of peoples and goods”.

She noted: “Our greatest resource is our people, especially our young population, whose energy, creativity and courage must drive Africa’s renaissance. Investment in their education and training and more generally in science, technology, research and innovation therefor remain critical to drive Africa’s modernization and development in all spheres. In this regard, the role of African business, entrepreneurs and professionals must be strengthened, so that they too contribute to the Pan African vision.”

The debate was led by Carlos Lopes, UN Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). It revolved around four major areas: better utilization of economic opportunities, the need to have strategies for the future, challenges relating to governance and changing the discourse on Africa, and the issue of inclusion.

World famous and renowned leaders who contributed to the debate were Dr Donald Kaberuka- President of the African Development Bank; Dr Amina Mama - Gender advocate, writer and academic; Donald Patterson- former Prime Minister of Jamaica and Tendai Wenyika- Chairperson of the Pan African Youth Union. Various interventions were made by African Heads of State and Government present.

The outcome of the Grand Debate as well as the recommendations from consultations conducted by the AU Commission with key stakeholders will inform Africa’s Agenda 2063, a framework that will guide the continent’s development over the next 50 years.

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