By SA News
Despite the many challenges facing Africa, the continent has the power to capitalise on opportunities and make the 21st century an African one, says South Africa Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Speaking at the 43rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Africa Region Conference in Sandton, Johannesburg, on Tuesday, the minister said Africa needed to utilise its resources, economy and people in a way that would benefit Africans.
“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,” she noted.
Using land resources more effectively would enable the continent to contribute to economic growth and enable it to feed its people.
“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,” she said.
Africa also needed to use its natural resources more efficiently to benefit countries of the continent and its people.
“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.”
Dlamini Zuma highlighted the need to develop infrastructure that facilitated connectivity between and amongst African countries by road, rail, air, sea and telecommunication systems. This infrastructural development must lead to the promotion of inter and intra-African trade, she said.
“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,” the minister said.
Also critical was ensuring that the North-South Corridor, from Cape to Cairo and the East-West Corridor, from Senegal to Djibout, was built.
“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,” she said.
Over and above the physical infrastructure, some regulations and laws needed to be aligned and institutions strengthened in order to be able to facilitate free movement of people, goods and capital flow.
Dlamini Zuma noted trends that suggested Africa had the youngest population in the world, which was continuing to grow rapidly.
“We need to ensure our young people have access to education, healthcare, nutrition and skills development to enable them to participate in the mainstream of our economies and to become a skilled workforce. Our national budgets must support such priorities,” she said.
Policy makers and legislators also had to ensure that women increasingly participate in Africa’s developmental processes and that women and girls were protected against gender violence and that girls have access to education.
“With women constituting more than half of the continent – population and working force, democracy cannot be fully realised without their empowerment and involvement,” she pointed out.
Entrenching good governance was a precondition for Africa’s development and social progress, Dlamini Zuma added.
“Although political and economic governance are improving, much more needs to be done, and key elements include strengthening the institutions of the State to foster predictability, accountability and transparency in managing public affairs, promoting free and fair electoral processes, fighting corruption and inefficiency, enhancing service delivery, and expanding social protection programmes.”
Africans should begin to drive their own developmental agenda and rely more on itself to ensure it achieves it priorities using its own resources, the minister said.
At the same time, Africa had to strengthen its strategic partnerships with the rest of the world to advance its own objectives on its own terms.
“While legislatures are independent and should do their work without fear or favour, they must not lose sight of the fact that ultimately theirs is to collectively work for the goal of creating a better life for all,” she stressed.