FAILURE by African countries to internalise and implement policies formed by the African Union (AU) is to blame for continuous existence of poverty and dependence on aid, former South African President Thabo Mbeki declared in Dar es Salaam.
He was responding to various issues raised by various prominent personalities during the special Breakfast Roundtable held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dar es Salaam.
As a continent, we do not have a problem of absence of policies. We have perfect policies that can help in addressing various challenges that are facing us. Our problem is implementation; it remains a major challenge," Mr Mbeki told the forum.
Giving an example, the former head of state who assumed the reins of power from the first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, noted that the African Union has a comprehensive agricultural development policy that was ratified by all member countries, which has all elements needed to develop the sector but implementation has been problematic.
The former president added that another problematic area that hinders the continent from achieving desirable development is the failure to manage natural resources to benefit local needs. "Fifty (50) billion dollars get lost in Africa every year in illegal exports and capital flight.
Such illicit outflows rise due to poor management of our resources," he said. Mr Mbeki added that the continent has good policies on natural resources as well but the problem is on the internalization of the same to individual countries.
"We do have policy decisions to address all these matters. The problem is that these programmes don't get internalized in our respective countries; they remain in Addis Ababa," he observed. Mr Mbeki noted that there could be lack of enthusiasm or weaknesses in the governing systems of the African countries that contributes to such failure.
"It is embarrassing to see that there is no follow-up to government decisions and here is where the question of strategic leadership arises," he said. Three former prime ministers, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, Judge Joseph Sinde Warioba and Mr Cleopa Msuya, who conducted the roundtable as chairperson, were among the high-profile invitees to the roundtable who included heads of parastatal organizations, past and present, politicians, politicians and academicians.
In his intervention, Mr Msuya said that the fragmentation of the continent was leading to fragmentation of the economy as well. He also hinted on strategic leadership, saying it was vital for countries in the continent to develop. "Leaders are not there because they want to eat or because it is their time to eat but they are there to lead a particular country into prosperities," he said.
He added that in this regard, leaders should endeavour to go with the tune of ever changing situations and the challenges posed by the contemporary world. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Mr Bernard Membe, noted that scarce and limited resources have been a challenge in implementing various development programmes aimed at poverty reduction.
Mr Membe noted that African countries were facing a great challenge in addressing the challenges brought by the increased demands of various groups in the society especially youths. He added that much emphasis should be put on opening up the rural areas through reliable infrastructures and investing heavily on agriculture and education to pave way for rural transformation.
Mr Membe noted that dependency on foreign aids which do not come in time was also a problem and African countries should focus on the avenues that would lead to self-reliance. The event was sponsored by Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and Uongozi Institute to discuss various challenges the continent faces. The former head of state runs chairs the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
The discussions, which focused on the kind of leadership needed to tackle range of challenges facing the continent, were well attended by various heads of parastatal organizations, academicians, economists and politicians, several of which made constructive suggestions for sustained Africa's social, political and economic growth.
Meanwhile, Mr Mbeki has called on Africans to take unity as a matter of life and death. Delivering a public lecture yesterday at the University of Dar es Salaam, he noted that it was only through unity that the continent would address its challenges.
He cited Libya's latest experience as an outcome of lack of unity and that the African Union (AU) must be strengthened to maintain peace and security in Africa.
"AU member states were divided on the Libyan incident, giving room to other (foreign) nations to take over," said Mr Mbeki, warning that the Libyan incident was a dangerous experience.
He also urged African countries to build capacity, strengthen economic blocs, improve electoral processes, curb corruption and avoid divisions in order to achieve their objectives.
On their part, Former Prime Minister, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim and Prof Issa Shivji described Mr Mbeki as a true Africa leader. "Comrade Mbeki was among very few African leaders who spoke freely and confidently against NATO's interventions in Libya," noted Prof Shivji amid applause.
Mr Mbeki was, however, non-committal when asked by Dr Kitulo Mkumbo on his controversial stand on causes of AIDS. The senior don wanted to know if the former president sticks to his statement that the pandemic was a result of poverty.