Full speech on media portrayal of Africa by SA deputy pres

Edinburgh, Scotland

Wilfred Kiboro, the Chairman of the International Press
Johann Fritz, Director International Press Institute
George Reid, Right Honourable Presiding Officer of the Scottish
Honourable Ms Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commissioner
Ladies and Gentlemen:

May I thank the International Press Institute (IPI) for this
opportunity to exchange ideas on a subject of importance not only
to Africa but to the world.

Editors and their different media play a crucial role in
ensuring success or failure in Africa’s quest to hold the world
stage. There is, of course, enough competing news around these days
to exert heavy centrifugal pressure away from Africa yet. I would
still argue that we deserve and even demand attention for Africa.

First let me say that the faith the IPI showed in our
democracy-to-be when, just before our 1994 transition, you went
ahead and held a world congress in my country, is not only
appreciated but vindicated. Our magical combination of leadership
and commitment ushered in a splendid democracy, and it grows in
strength and depth by the day. It has small and big challenges
which test the resilience of our democratic institutions and are
making them stronger.

The question, do editors get it right or wrong on Africa, was
posed when I was invited to speak here. I must start by stating I
respect the editors ‘Freedom of Speech’ and I recognise that
editor’s are human beings sometimes they will get it wrong and
sometimes they will get it right, or even both. Editors have been
making choices on how they see Africa. And they have tended to see
the dark side of Africa.

Africa still has a disproportional share of damning news which
sustains Afro pessimism. Hence I would like us to talk about
“re-branding” Africa, consistent with the strides made by
individual countries and by the continent as a whole, through NEPAD
& AU.

I would like us to dispose of the mindset of Africa in decay in
favour of a new mindset – the one that is in line with the emerging
reality. I am reminded of a Headline of the economist a few years
ago which said “Africa the hopeless continent”. A rather sweeping
statement which has haunted some of us.

This is not to deny that we have had and still have some very
sad moments in different parts of the continents but the over
generalisation has had the specific result of dishing out
collective punishment to all in the continent and discouraging
investment thus holding back progress.

Negative attitudes towards Africa are entrenched, and therefore
leading to self-fulfilling prophecies. What I suggest to this
informed gathering is that things have changed in Africa and are
changing substantially and for the better, which calls for
Re-imaging Africa. I would like to speak to some of the Africa-wide
initiatives that illustrate how Africa is developing & overcoming
its problems.

The Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) through which African
countries review one another on wide ranging subjects, such as
governance, peace and stability. Human rights, Economic development
etc. Ghana, Benin, Rwanda and South Africa are some of the
countries that have acceded to the Peer Review Mechanism. South
Africa’s is currently being peer-reviewed. There is great societal
dialogue ensuing from this process which can only serve to
strengthen African democracies. It also highlights contradictions &
synergies within our society. The results will be presented to a
panel of heads of states who will engage their peer on the findings
with an aim of assisting the country improve itself and for all of
them to draw lessons.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development NEPAD provides a
mechanism for African countries to collaborate rather than compete
against themselves. It is about pulling together resources to
address common problems of development and share risks. Initiatives
within NEPAD include:

* The Comprehensive African agricultural development programme
-Through which African countries are working towards targeting 10%
of their budget to promote agriculture. The priority in that regard
has been identified and Regional centre of excellence are being
developed such as the international livestock research institute in

* In the ICT sector progress has been made on the roll out of e
-schools & the East Africa Submarine fibre optic cable system is
taking shape.

* Kenya – Tanzania – Uganda interconnection project & Mozambique
Malawi Interconnection project also progressing.

* The Western power corridor interconnection is on schedule for
the Inga (three) hydropower project in DRC which will increase the
much needed energy generation capacity for at least 10 Southern
Africa countries.

* Challenges facing NEPAD include Human Resource shortage and
capacity of Regional economic communities. Substantive progress has
been made however in preparing projects, 14 bankable infrastructure
projects have been successfully considered by the Japanese
government for funding.

On the political front the emergence of democracies in Africa
and the number of Heads of State who have retired gracefully at the
end of their terms are indicative of the deepening political
maturity. In some countries where there were initiatives to extend
terms of offices of Presidents there has been successful opposition
by parliaments and broader society clearly, illustrates the
vibrancy of our society and elected representatives.
Notwithstanding that in some countries the opposition was not

It is important to celebrate some of the former conflict-ridden
states that are now marching towards stability and progress: such
as the stunning success of once war-torn Mozambique and recovering
states such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi
and Liberia.

Problems do remain in some countries such as Darfur in Sudan,
Ivory Coast, these are exceptions rather than the norm but no doubt
challenges. Out of 54 countries in Africa only 5 countries are in
conflict in 2006. Yet the 49 countries are easily compromised by
failure to acknowledge peace in most countries and note success of
individual nations. The decline of numbers of African refugees and
refugees in general as indicated by UNHCR is very welcomed and
proof of progress.

At Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005 the G-8 leaders of the world’s
richest nations pledged to support Africa’s development. Their plan
also called for international coordination of increased assistance
to Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goals and for debt
relief. The HIPC debt relief aimed to ensure the additional
resources will target the poor in the affected countries rightly

Before this HIPC Initiative, eligible countries were, on
average, spending slightly more on debt service than on health and
education combined.

Under the recent debt relief IMF- and World Bank-supported
programs, some of the countries have increased markedly their
expenditures on health, education and other social services and, on
average, such spending is now almost four times the amount of debt
service payments. That has to be encouraged. The struggle for debt
relief has only been partly won.

We have to take into account that pressing reconstruction needs
may mean large new loans at the same time that old debt is being
reduced, especially for countries that have emerged from conflict.

Maintaining a sustainable debt position while seeking the
additional financing needed to make progress towards the MDGs
remains a serious challenge for countries, even after debt relief
under the HIPC Initiative. None of these are easy problems. These
are issues that we would hope IMF and World Bank continue to
explore and that they are not lost in discussions that may take too
long. Writing about these issues over and over again helps to
sustain the pressure and keep the story alive.

Africa does face significant challenges, which have been
captured in the state of preparedness of most Africa countries to
meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

This calls for a concerted and united effort by those that are
weakest, those that are stronger and the developed world to
collaborate. Poverty reduction, water, energy, shelter, nutritional
status and life expectancy are but some of the challenges Africa
faces today. The demand imposed by HIV/AIDS and other chronic
illnesses to the socio economic fabric has meant that some
countries, posed to do much better, have an added burden on their
resources both financial of the human.

Yet even with these challenges, it would be wrong to conclude
that Africa is a dying continent with no capacity to ever take off.
The development status of Africa presents a challenge to the world
as well as unique opportunities for development and sustained
investment. These are opportunities for investing in green fields
especially for infrastructure which are often obscured in the way
Africa is reported about, the tendency is to be obsessive, about
risk assessments and not opportunity, which influences how a
country is then rated. Anecdotal evidence gets elevated to trends
which feeds into analysis and editorials that have far reaching
economic impact.

I am still arguing that a very good story is emerging in Africa
and it calls for different branding and more positive editorials.
In the same way that we have seen a decline in conflict and more
democratic institutions. Africa also has interesting economic
indicators which prove that there is a forward push rather than


* Growth of many economies of the world in 2004/5 was
constrained however Developing economies however, showed much
better outlook and performance. Africa benefited from a favourable
commodity cycle, benefits of peace and stability and macro economic
reforms. The average GDP growth for Africa’s was 5.1% against world
growth of about 4.5% average.

* Africa’s average inflation remained below double digit in 2005
with inflationary pressure recorded in fewer countries.

* Most Sub-Saharan countries have a good chance of achieving
3-7% growth which a positive trend but not as enough. Oil exporting
countries will do even much better. Oil producing countries also
need to invest the oil revenue windfall much better.

* In addition to successful Macro- reforms and improved
investment climates to many African countries. There is a need for
continuous micro-reforms to correct market failure and specific
country challenges

* They are off course the external challenges, amongst the major
challenges are the high oil prices, that work against Africa, acts
of God e.g. Drought, the locust invasion which, unfortunately
robbed some of the West African countries of the benefits of the
agricultural sector with good, overall performance in addition
there is persisting market access barrier in rich countries and
lack of progress in the WTO.

In our case as South Africans we need to reduce inequalities.
Hence we have adopted our own Accelerated and Shared Growth
Initiative ASGISA in response to our South African specific
socio-economic challenges, which include:

– Massive infrastructure Investment by the state to address
overstretched infrastructure that cannot cope with our levels of
growth which averaged 4.5% of GDP in 2005.

– A drive for Skills Development focusing on priority and Scarce
Skills for South Africa needs.

– Sector development which targets high potential growth sectors
where SA has a competitive edge such as Tourism.

– We also focus our attention to the ‘second economy’ – which is
those who live in the margins of society. We have a range of
interventions targeting SMME. Youth and women are aiming for
universal access to provision of social services by 2014.

ASGISA is a calculated response to drive shared growth. We
realise our growth need and can go much faster and impact on more
people to reduce unemployment and poverty than it has done in this
first decade of our democracy. SA’s growth has also come on the
back of a commodity boom, South Africa being a mining economy and
growing consumption and sustained business confidence.

Our target is to grow at 6% of GDP per annum minimally by 2010
so that by 2014 we are able to achieve even go beyond the MDGs in
some areas.

The greatest and most fatal threat to some of these good plans
is the shortage of human resources, the pouching of human resource
by developed countries from a small pool of well trained people in
our country especially educators and health workers, is our biggest

I would like to reiterate what the president said recently in
London, he called for the two nations to have a collaborative
win-win approach when it comes to skills and dealing with skills
mobility with rich countries such as UK must compensate poor
countries for brain drain by investing in training more people in
the developing countries and sharing the surplus. In that way we
will also build the capacity of our training providers .

The story of brain drain in developing economies is a big story
that needs to be told and solutions to be found. We also need to
entice the many skilled Africans who are in the Diaspora, which off
course means we must incentivise them. It would be na=EFve to think
we can control mobility of skilled personnel but a do nothing
scenario is also untenable. We would urge a collaborative approach
between the rich and poor countries.

I want to repeat; Africa is a good story even with all its
challenges. A story that can be told much better using facts as
against anecdotes, seeing the bigger picture and resisting a bad
broad brush across the 54 nations. The African story is good but
like any good drama it also has tragedies, sad and happy endings,
humour and joy if you search for facts.

One of the greatest disappointments is the African media that
tries too hard to imitate Foreign media which often means sounding
like their overseas counterparts when reporting about their own
countries and missing opportunities to bring in local insights
originality and depth.

The importance of accurate reporting cannot be over emphasized.
I believe Africa has had its fair share of very bad and inaccurate
overgenaralised criticism with many dire consequences. Time has
come for Re – branding the continent which also demand even greater
performance by Africa nations themselves and reliable platforms for
Africa to talk about itself and be heard.

I hope and believe this today is one such platform and I thank
you for this opportunity. I hope you will resolve to keep the true
African story alive.

I thank you.

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