Seven African Former Heads of State Issue Statement Following Boston University Summit

in Humanities/Social Science, News Releases
April 28th, 2004

Contact: Richard Taffe, 617-353-4626 | rtaffe@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — Seven African former heads of state released the following joint statement after attending the second annual African Presidential Roundtable at Boston University. It reflects closed-door deliberations held in London last week and Boston this week at the Roundtable sponsored by the BU African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC).

The Roundtable participants in London and Boston included: His Excellency Nicephore Dieudonne Soglo of Benin; His Excellency Sir Q. Ketumile J. Masire of Botswana; His Excellency Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro of Cape Verde; His Excellency Aristides Maria Pereira of Cape Verde; His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana; His Excellency Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania; and His Excellency Karl Auguste Offmann of Mauritius, who is the newest APARC Balfour African President-in-Residence.

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We have just concluded an unprecedented trans-continental Presidential Roundtable hosted by the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University. We began our deliberations in London last week and reconvened here in Boston this week. On both sides of the Atlantic we exchanged views on many issues that are of interest to Africa, the United States of America, and the European Union.

One name that deserves particular mention is that of former U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Charles Stith, director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center. We commend him for his leadership and hard work in making this Roundtable happen.

We also want to thank Boston University President Aram Chobanian for the gracious hospitality he has extended to us since we’ve been here and for his support of Ambassador Stith and the African Presidential Archives and Research Center. APARC is the perfect complement to Boston University’s historic leadership position in the area of African Studies.

For the past couple of days we have been involved in-depth talks about the necessity of increasing business and capital flows to Africa and the need to extend the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). As the former heads of states of Benin, Botswana, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mauritius, and Tanzania we felt that it was important to participate in these discussions for a couple of reasons.

First of all, on the one hand, Africa has been excluded for too long in terms of having access to its fair place in the global economy, and, on the other hand, Africa has never been more primed to take its place in the global economy. The countries that we had the privilege to serve as heads of state, and others like South Africa, Senegal, are serious about democratization and free market reform.

The development of NEPAD (the New Economic Partnership for Africa Development), which is built on the twin pillars of good governance and sound economic policies, as well as the inauguration of the African Union, which reflects the same sentiments, are clear indications that as Africans we believe it is time that Africa — a continent of close to 800 million people and 53 countries — receive more than 4 percent of the private capital flows that fuel the global economy.

Our purpose today is to say it is time to take the albatross of neglect from around Africa’s neck and replace it with a sign that says Africa is open for business.

A second reason that we thought it was particularly important for us to come to the United States for these discussions — with people like Mr. Percy Wilson, President of the US-Africa Trade and Aid Link Corporation, Congressman Richard Neal, co-sponsor of the AGOA Acceleration Act, James Harmon, Chairman of the Commission on Financing Capital Flows to Africa, Stephen Hayes, President of the Corporate Council on Africa, and other public and private sector leaders — is that the present discussions taking place in the United States Congress regarding AGOA III are critical to Africa’s future.

In an election year trade bills tend to be a bit sensitive, particularly in an environment where the economy is soft. We hope coming to the U.S. for these discussions reinforces to President Bush and Congress that passing AGOA III is in everyone’s interests. This past year U.S. clothing imports under AGOA totaled $1.4 billion. Extending AGOA and utilizing such things as tax incentives to strengthen AGOA could result in $1.6 billion increase in foreign direct investment in Africa.

A more prosperous Africa is a more lucrative market for America. Africa is not a competitor to America, but potentially one of America’s most reliable partners.

Finally, the present global crisis gives an urgency to our concerns about Africa’s needs. We understand the need to rebuild Afghanistan. We understand the need to rebuild Iraq. We understand the need for the United States to focus on the terrorism that rocked this country on 9/11. But, having said that, let us add that the need to deal with terrorism should not become another reason for Africa’s neglect.

Even more so, it is important to point out that there is a connection between America’s (and other country’s) national security and the economic security of developing nations around the world. This is not simply an African perspective; it is something that has been agreed upon by both Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Jacque Chirac, even though they they’ve disagreed on the strategy to deal with Iraq.

A new era is emerging in Africa. Democratic rule and economic liberalization are taking root in a number of African countries. This trend is commendable and should be encouraged. We are therefore optimistic about the future despite the present economic environment.

The optimism we feel is fueled by our belief that the winds of democratic and economic reform blowing on the continent will continue. Furthermore, we are optimistic because of initiatives that have so far been taken in this country, like the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, USAID’s stepped-up efforts, and the Corporate Council/World Bank Commission on Financing Capital Flows to Africa.

The optimism we feel is not cause for complacency. As elder statesmen, we will continue to work in our respective countries and on the continent to encourage the sort of regulatory reform, and macro and micro economic changes that will enable Africa to flourish; and we will also continue to encourage, challenge, and cajole the leadership of this country to stay the course in the effort to fully include Africa in the global economy.

America’s leadership to encourage greater capital flows, provide incentives for investment on the continent, a nd advocate for further debt relief are absolutely essential to creating the global consensus to treat Africa fairly. It is our hope that our leaders and the business communities — in Africa and the United States — will intensify their efforts toward the attainment of our cherished goal of placing each African country, and the continent as a whole, on the path of sustainable growth and development and to halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process.

We hope that these two days of discussions and our future efforts will result in the progress we seek for Africa.

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For more on the APARC Presidential Roundtable 2004, see www.bu.edu/aparc.

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