Zuma: Infrastructure, food security critical for Africa growth

Friday, January 31, 2014

By Chris Bathembu

Addis Ababa – Well-functioning infrastructure, agriculture and an end to conflicts will be critical for Africa to achieve its full potential economic growth, President Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

“We need to create the infrastructure, in every respect, roads and rail and ICT so that we are connected and that when we put our economies together, there is an easy flow of goods within the continent,” Zuma said in an interview on the side-lines of the African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopia.

African leaders from 54 countries, who are members of the AU, have been meeting in the Ethiopian capital to discuss several challenges facing the continent and what can be done to achieve the ambitious goal of turning Africa into the world’s 3rd largest economy in the next coming years.

With Africa seen as one of the world’s fastest growing economic hubs, Zuma said meeting the demand for key infrastructure has been identified as a priority by the AU.

“There was a very encouraging report that came out when we were in the plenary about the projects we are embarking on. The majority of the projects are already funded and are already going on, so we are not talking about what we think we need to do - we are very specific about what kind of infrastructure we need,” said Zuma.

“We come from a colonial past, wherein we were divided into many countries with very hard borders and there was no ease of movement. Therefore, the issue of infrastructure to connect our countries becomes very critical.”

Zuma said the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development was a statement that African countries could no longer depend on outside donors for their survival.

“We are now saying the time has come for us to stand on our own. We have the resources to turn around our situation and that is the direction we are moving towards.”

Zuma said linked to infrastructure development was the issue of agriculture and food security for the continent, which he said all heads of state at the summit stood united in their belief that Africa was capable of producing enough food for its people and exports. The AU has declared 2014 as the year of agriculture and food security, and has promised to invest in scientific research and agricultural technology in the next year.

“The discussion was [around] what we do as countries jointly to realise the goal of producing enough food. Of course, at the heart of all this will be the land question, because you need the land to produce. But everybody agreed we have to produce more than we have been producing for ourselves [to] develop agriculture as an economic activity.”

Emergency troops, APRM report

He confirmed that seven countries have signed up for the mooted temporary interventionist force that the AU wants to use to intervene in crisis situations that continue to engulf parts of the continent.

Referred to as the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), the instrument would enable countries to voluntarily contribute troops for an immediate response to crises in the short term, while allowing for a political solution to the crisis.

Zuma said practical modalities for the operationalization of ACIRC were discussed at length at the summit.

“It does not compel any country. Those that see the need and those who have the capacity will be able to contribute, and that has been a very important development in this summit.”

On the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) report on South Africa, which was released this week, Zuma said the document painted a clear picture of where South Africa was 20 years after it attained its democracy.

A glowing picture of South Africa was painted this week after Zuma presented the country’s third APRM report to the 20th Summit of the APRM Forum of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa.

“There were questions that we were asked in previous reports, for instance the question of xenophobia and what we were doing about it. We answered those questions and [stated] what we were doing. By and large, we are hearing that South Africa has done very well.” – SAnews.gov.za

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