guest columnBy Elisabeth Barbier
Nairobi — On February 15 and 16, the 24th Conference of Heads of State of Africa and France took place in Cannes, southern France, at the invitation of President Jacques Chirac.
The Africa-France Summit, which takes place every two years, is a defining moment for the relationship between France and the continent. This year, the aim was to discuss 'Africa and global balance', including raw materials, Africa's position and role in the world, and the Press. These are issues of paramount importance to Africa.
African crises such as Darfur and Guinea were also on the agenda. Forty-nine delegations from African countries, France, representatives of the United Nations, African Union, European Commission and the International Francophone organisation took part in the conference.
For the first time, Mrs Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, currently heading the European Union, was invited. Japan was also represented for the first time by Mr Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister. Energy minister Mr Kiraitu Murungi represented Kenya.
From the discussions in Cannes, a number of ideas can be surmised. No country can seriously plan its development or organise public expenditure in the face of uncertainties, particularly on commodity prices. Overproduction, shortages and speculative practices are some of the major threats to development. Global threats need to be fought even if at the cost of upsetting powerful interests because it is in the collective interest of every country to get the greatest benefit from its resources.
Commodities have been a blessing and a curse for Africa. The buoyancy of the global economy, leading to increased demand for raw materials, provides the continent with an exceptional opportunity to take up her rightful place in globalisation and to convert her wealth and resources into development. Balanced industrial partnerships and strengthening of infrastructure are essential.
Adherence to the principles of good governance that will guarantee sustainable management of natural resources is also necessary. The security and economic well being of the world is closely linked to the stabilisation and development of the African continent. This confirms the necessity of reinforcing representation of Africa in international institutions such as the Security Council, UN agencies and international financial institutions and improving coordination with African organisations.
To be beneficial to Africa, globalisation must also be harnessed. With respect to trade, increased consideration must be given to the extension of the advantages of countries benefiting from preferential arrangements. In development finance, the implementation of innovative mechanisms is needed to attain Millennium Development Goals.
Integrating Africa in the information society is of major importance if the continent is to take her place in a globalised world. The spread of information and communications technologies, improvement of education and standards of journalism are essential.
- The writer is the French Ambassador to Kenya