African countries need more connectivity - Dlamini Zuma

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pretoria - Home Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has called for greater connectivity between African countries, saying it would aid trade and improve relations.

Speaking on "Economic Liberation: The Role of the African Union" at a seminar in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, the minister highlighted the importance on developing infrastructure that would facilitate connectivity between African countries by road, rail, air, sea and telecommunications.

"It is important we should be connected because without that connection we cannot begin trading with ourselves and we will remain as the markets for the products of other nations. We will therefore not be able to utilise our markets for our own benefits as Africa," she pointed out.

It was becoming "more critical" that the North-South Corridor, from Cape to Cairo and the East-West Corridor, from Senegal to Djibouti was built and the construction of these and other roads that are needed be accelerated, she said.

"More than 50% of trade from Asia to the West goes through Africa's coastline. And all our imports and exports are transported by foreign ships to and from our countries. So if we are to improve trade amongst ourselves we have to look very seriously in participating in areas of ship building and ownership."

Owning vessels would make it easier and cost effective for trade between African countries, the minister noted.

Connectivity will also play a role in helping countries understand each other better. Dlamini Zuma noted that currently many African countries had a better awareness of Europe than Africa.

On the issue of agriculture and food security, Dlamini Zuma said currently Africa generates only 10% of global agricultural output and imports tens of billions of dollars of food each year.

"Using our land resources more effectively will enable us to not only contribute to our economic growth but to ensure we can feed our people ourselves. We will also be able to contribute towards job creation and income distribution.

"It will also enable us to use the foreign currency which at the moment is being used to import food for other developmental imperatives on our continent. Food security must therefore be something we strive to achieve immediately."

Dlamini Zuma added that Africa's natural resources had to be used more efficiently to benefit the continent's countries and people.

"We need to take control of our mineral resources, in terms of extraction. We should beneficiate and also ensure that we do get sufficient benefit from these mineral resources. At the moment, the company doing the extraction/beneficiation gets the resources while the country and its people receive very little," she said.

Dlamini Zuma stressed the importance on healthcare and education, saying a skilled and healthy population would increase productivity and grow economies.

On the role on the AU, the minister said the body should co-ordinate the sharing of experiences among member states, facilitate and encourage the implementation of agreements and protocols.

She said the AU should identify priorities that would unite the continent and that countries could work together on. It also needed to work towards full economic integration and political unity, the minister added.

"The African Union must ensure we play our rightful place in global affairs so that the African voice is heard and respected. We should remain the advocates for development, human dignity and an equitable world for our peoples and member states,"