GENEVA — A top African Union official says Africa has everything it needs to move toward a prosperous future and to become a leading player in global affairs. AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says Africa has many hurdles to overcome, but she remains optimistic that the continent is up to the task.
The African Union is celebrating its 50th anniversary. AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says this is a time for reflection - a time to look at past failures and successes, as well as to reflect on where Africa will be 50 years from now.
She says Africa has succeeded in liberating itself from its colonial past, but has not succeeded in becoming prosperous. She says Africa is poor, but need not remain so. She says Africa has a dynamic youthful population, hard-working people and countries endowed with minerals and other resources.
Zuma is the first woman to hold the AU Commission Chair and is a former foreign minister of South Africa. She says Africa must quickly develop its infrastructure to prosper. It must develop its transport, energy and ICT sectors. She says this would unlock the continent's potential so it can expand its internal trade and develop a flourishing tourist trade.
"We think that if we handle ourselves well, our resources well, invest in our people, we can be prosperous. But, we must also continue on the process we have started, which is going very well of democratization of our countries. And, most of our countries now are democratic and they are having regular elections," said Zuma.
The AU commission chair does not gloss over the huge problems that exist, such as ongoing conflicts in Mali and Sudan, widespread corruption and criminality. But, she says these problems can be overcome, reduced or contained.
For example, she notes that 20 years ago, there were some 15 raging conflicts in Africa. She says this dreadful situation has been dramatically reduced. She adds that development is the only sure pathway to a sustainable peace. To encourage development, she is calling for investors to promote job creation.
In regard to current events, Zuma says she has low expectations that the meeting of the G-8 will produce any concrete or beneficial results for Africa.
"I think the G-8 and Africa is not an easy relationship because the G-8 has a different presidency every year. Each one decides on their agenda, so what was discussed last year is not necessarily followed through to the next year. So... maybe it works for the G-8, obviously it does - otherwise they would not be continuing to do it - whether it works for Africa, I am not sure," she said.
Zuma says the African Union will be sending observers to monitor Zimbabwe's elections, currently scheduled for July 31, in line with orders from the Constitutional Court.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is pushing for the vote to be delayed until a number of legal reforms have been enacted.
Zuma says it is up to Zimbabwe's people to decide whether they want to obey the rule of law or not. However, she is quite adamant that whenever the election does take place, it must be free and fair.