Pretoria — Foreign affairs deputy minister Aziz Pahad says it is imperative for the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) to succeed or there will be no poverty eradication in Africa.
Briefing journalists in Pretoria today on President Thabo Mbeki's visit to Rome, Italy, to attend the World Food Summit, Mr Pahad said the President would review South Africa's developments on food security.
President Mbeki, foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, public enterprises minister Jeff Radebe, deputy minerals and energy minister Suzan Shabangu, and agriculture and land affairs minister Thoko Didiza are attending the conference.
The delegation will also attend the meeting of the Nepad Implementation Committee.
Mr Pahad said the delegation would hold discussions pertaining to their departments' crucial roles towards Nepad and poverty eradication.
'South Africa is still an exporter of agricultural products, and what we are doing with Nepad is to use this conference to promote South Africa's development in investment, agriculture and rural development,' Mr Pahad said.
He said the conference was timely and important because the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that about 13 million people in Africa were facing starvation.
Mr Pahad said the conference also indicated internationally that the African leadership was committed to eradicating poverty, achieving food security and promoting sustainable development.
Among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries heavily affected by starvation are Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique, and according to the WFP, the problem is set to worsen by the end of the year.
Deputy Minister Pahad said about 2.3 million faced starvation in Zambia, 355 000 in Mozambique, 144 000 in Swaziland, 3.2 million in Malawi and 444 000 in Lesotho.
'This matter should be given special attention at the food conference in Rome and the position of Nepad on agriculture is also of paramount importance,' said Mr Pahad.
He said the event was crucial for South Africa, as it would lay the basis for the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Conference and what Africa 'must do on food security in the next five years.' The World Food Summit, which kicked off today, and ends on Thursday, is also expected to discuss issues around market access for agricultural products, water control systems and the increase of investment levels in agriculture.