Oxford — In a lecture at Oxford University on Sunday 13th February, former UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan argued that the quality of its governance and leadership is the one area that will, above all else, determine Africa’s future.
Speaking on “The Future of Africa” at the Sheldonian Theatre, Mr. Annan:
- Hailed the new wave of optimism taking hold, with Africa once again being seen as a continent of opportunity – the last emerging investment frontier.
- Called Africa’s younger generation ‘the major reason for confidence in Africa’ – with their dynamism, determination and ambition.
- Stressed that strong economic growth can be sustained and accelerated through investment in energy and infrastructure, and improved regional integration.
- Underlined that South-South relationships offer important opportunities for peer learning on development strategies to eradicate poverty.
- Argued that the quality of its governance and leadership – including respect for the rule of law and human rights – is the one area that will, above all, determine the direction of Africa’s future.
- Highlighted that promoting national cohesion, tackling impunity and land reform are key to building strong and cohesive societies.
- Called for the international community and the African Union to help build sustainable democracies by protecting the integrity of the electoral process, and ensure that elections are backed by institutions and laws that support a pluralist society.
Mr. Annan said: “Half a century ago, Africa stood at a cross-roads. It was a time of great expectations and excitement. As history has documented, many of our hopes were soon dashed. But today, a new wave of optimism has taken hold. Africa is once again being seen as a continent of opportunity – the last emerging investment frontier. Africa’s fortunes have been turning around in the last decade. But we have recently seen a reminder of the stubborn political obstacles that can get in the way of progress in the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.
“If there is one area which, above all, will determine the direction of Africa’s future, it is the quality of its governance and leadership. Since the 1990s we have seen more multi-party elections, greater adherence to democratic principles, and the growth of civil society. But in many African countries there remains a profound mismatch between the aspirations of its people and the caliber and integrity of those leading them.
“No less than 17 African countries are holding elections this year. Leaders must understand that they enter elections to win or to lose – that peaceful transition of power is the cornerstone of sustainable democracy and durable peace. The African Union and the international community must do more to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Elections must be backed by institutions and laws that uphold the rights of all citizens and create a pluralist society rather than defend ethnicity or special interests.
“The events in North Africa, I believe, have broader lessons for authoritarian regimes everywhere. These popular uprisings show that the democratic aspirations of people cannot be contained and that human rights are not a luxury, let alone a plot from outside. Wherever people live, they want their voice to be heard, their rights respected, and to have a say in how they are governed. They yearn for decent jobs, opportunity and a secure future for their children. The demand for more inclusive, more accountable and more responsive Governments is, I believe, unstoppable.”
Mr. Annan gave his lecture at the Sheldonian Theatre on Sunday 13th February. The event was organised by Exeter College. Mr. Annan’s speech marked the start of celebrations for the college’s 700th anniversary, which will culminate in 2014.