“Africa’s people need neither pity nor charity” – UN Deputy Secretary General Migiro

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UN Deputy Secretary GeneralUNITED NATIONS – UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro spoke at the World Knowledge Forum, in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on October 12, 2011. Migiro speaking on the situation in Africa said, “The perception of Africa as a place where poverty, hunger, disease and civil wars are the norm is fast changing. Many now see the wide-ranging opportunities that exist across the continent. The robust growth of more than 5 per cent, on average, over the past 10 years shows that the continent has emerged from the volatile years of the 1980s and early 1990s”.

“Although still high, poverty has substantially declined from its highest level of 59 per cent of the population in 1996 to about 50 per cent today. And although still daunting, the fight against diseases such as malaria and HIV and AIDS, through interventions like mosquito nets and antiretroviral drugs, has dramatically cut the number of deaths resulting from these pandemics,” continued Migiro.

Change has been coming to Africa. The Arab Spring has resulted in leadership change in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. While there is a perception that Africa is a country rife with unrest, Migiro states, “Africa now has the lowest incidence of civil war in 50 years, as most of the conflicts that raged in the 1980s and 1990s have ended”.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General sees hope for Africa. “There are several reasons to believe that Africa is on the eve of an economic renewal. The high level of growth is expected to continue. For example, the continent is projected to post an economic growth rate of about 6 per cent in 2012, a remarkable performance compared to the rates expected in the world’s major economies, owing to their deepening macroeconomic imbalances”.

“African economies, in contrast, proved their resilience to the major shocks that have affected the world economy by posting a growth rate of 3.1 per cent at the height of the crisis in 2009; this at a time when many major economies were experiencing no growth at all”.

It is possible that Africa may become the newest hotbed for manufacturing, if international companies decide that the opportunities are there.

What is interesting however Migiro notes, “We should also note that some of the engines of Africa’s current growth, namely the increasing trade and investment with emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and Turkey, will continue to have a positive effect on Africa’s growth over the coming years”.

The United Nations Deputy Secretary General does not mention Canada or the United States as being major benificaries of this increasing trade and investment. However Africa could be a major competitor to Canada especially in the mining sector. “What Africa needs most, is to be recognized as a new investment frontier — where the returns are among the highest in the world. The continent has some of the largest known reserves of mineral resources including diamonds and gold; most of its actual mineral wealth remains unexplored”.

The opportunities are there, but African countries have lots of work to do. Migiro notes that “But Africa’s growth is not only coming from the commodity sector. Growth is increasingly broad-based. Investors are seeing growth potential in an array of sectors, including retail, financial services, telecommunication and real estate. More investments are on the way. And these are all positive signs. I urge investors to transform these and other opportunities into goods and services that will improve the lives of the millions of Africans now stuck in poverty”.

Ending government corruption and the perception of corruption is going to have to happen. Migiro comments, “If Africa’s partners are to do their part, Africans themselves will have to do theirs. That means continuing reforms in order to make their economies even more attractive while ensuring that their populations benefit from foreign investment. It means ensuring that the growth process be inclusive. Job creation, particularly in sectors where the poor are most active, should be an overarching priority of growth policies. And it means action against corruption, strengthening institutions and all the other hallmarks of good governance. Only by such policies will Africa be able to escape the “resource curse” and realize the full potential of its riches”.

Africa appears to be partnering with China, India and Korea. Considering the growth of the Chinese economy over the past decade, and the deepening problems in the United States, it is likely a partnership that will grow as many American interests struggle to recover.

Migiro states, “Africa’s people need neither pity nor charity. Respect, international solidarity and a level playing field will go a long way toward bringing a new dawn to the continent”.

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