SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES AFRICAN HEADS OF STATE
NEW YORK, 15 April (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to heads of State on Partnership with the Private Sector for Financing Africa’s Growth through NEPAD, delivered on his behalf today in Dakar by K.Y. Amoako, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Africa:
It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the political and business leaders and others who have gathered to discuss the key role the private sector can play in supporting the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
The overriding aim of this initiative is to improve the lives of Africa’s people. In keeping with the Millennium Development Goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, NEPAD has set the objective of halving, by the year 2015, the proportion of Africans living in poverty.
This is an ambitious goal, but it is not impossible. To achieve it, to defeat the conflicts, cure the diseases and alleviate the multiple hardships that have held the continent back, Africa will need all the wisdom, political will and creativity it can muster. It will also need substantial financial resources -– most of which must be generated locally. Current aid flows are insufficient, but even no increase in aid would in itself be enough to finance the continent’s development. To fill the investment gap, and to create the engine of growth that will lift people out of despair, Africa needs a more vibrant private sector.
For entrepreneurship to flourish, and for private investment to flow, there needs to be the right enabling environment. African governments thus have a fundamental responsibility to deliver a capable State: a stable, pluralistic State with transparent administration, effective institutions, and sound regulatory frameworks, all underpinned by the rule of law. NEPAD recognizes as much, and places good governance at its core –- as a prerequisite for development, and as a catalyst for business activity. Indeed, the NEPAD heads of State Implementation Committee, having already agreed on codes and standards for economic and corporate governance, is now trying to develop similarly stringent codes and standards for political governance.
While there is no substitute for capable governments, there is also a great deal that the private sector itself can do to support Africa’s efforts to reduce poverty. More and more business leaders are realizing that they do not have to wait for governments to do the right thing; indeed, in many cases, governments only find the courage and resources to do the right thing when business takes the lead. Business can enter into public-private partnerships, for example to build the basic infrastructure -- roads and telecommunications networks -- that countries need to develop, or to support the provision of education and health care services needed to maintain the flow of skilled workers and human resources that an economy needs. The NEPAD document outlines many such areas for collaboration. Experience shows that even small investments can make an enormous difference. The United Nations Global Compact, the corporate citizenship initiative that I initiated three years ago, is another type of public-private partnership, which asks business to embrace universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, and the environment.
If there is a single theme that permeates the NEPAD initiative, it is that of partnership –- based not only on shared interests but also on enlightened interest. Africa’s leaders recognize the need to learn from mistakes of the past, determine their own destiny and develop a homegrown strategy for achieving their objectives. I hope that foreign businesses will respond in this new spirit, recognize the enormous potential that exists to create markets, jobs and wealth, and resist the simplistic view of Africa as a continent in endless turmoil. And I hope Africa’s own businesspeople and entrepreneurs will be given the room they need to do their part in building strong and stable communities. The United Nations is strongly committed to supporting these efforts, and can help identify tangible opportunities where engagement and investment have a real chance of success. Let us, together, do all we can to help millions of people throughout Africa to improve their lives, so that a continent so rich in human and natural resources can truly and at long last fulfill its great promise. In that hopeful spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.
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