Africa must break free from its past in order to realize a brighter future, says Joaquim Alberto Chissano. Leaders must show a new vision and a new spirit of partnership to overcome the continent’s many challenges and create a better world for its people. With the right frameworks in place, and the right aims in mind, the battle for security and prosperity will be won

Inspired by the ideals of pan-Africanism and the determination to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism, a generation of African leaders set about challenging the status quo and dreamt about liberating the African continent.

Their vision of liberation was built around the need to foster greater unity and solidarity among the African people as the necessary foundation for victory. It was also underpinned by the strong will to regain their dignity and to build a free and prosperous continent, living in peace and security. The creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was the embodiment of this vision.

Our predecessors fought hard for the realization of this vision and many lost their lives. That golden vision remains in the memory of each one of us. As the result of the sacrifices made by the liberators of Africa, our continent is proud to be free and independent.

But challenges of great magnitude still confront the African continent. About 50% of our people live below the poverty line. Africa is the least developed continent in terms of physical infrastructures, science and technology and it is the least advantaged in terms of receiving foreign investment.

The interplay of external and internal elements has often been considered as being at the core of the difficulties besieging the continent.

Colonialism was responsible for the pillage of resources, for violence and for slavery. It resulted in socio-economic underdevelopment in the form of misery, illiteracy and endemic diseases.

We have also come to realize the extremely negative impact of our large external debts and of the unfair international economic order.

But there are internal constraints as well – including fragile governance structures, corruption and ill-conceived economic policies.

However, the greatest challenge posed to African nations goes beyond a simple diagnosis of the impact of those external and internal factors.

We live in a globalized and dynamic world in which many variable factors intertwine. This requires that we constantly adapt and adjust our thinking.

Reality conditions and limits the scope of our intervention. We need to show creativity and innovation in our approaches. We need to liberate our minds from the political taboos of the past.

We must be able to discover opportunities where yesterday we saw nothing but threats and risks. We should be ready to discover partners where yesterday we saw enemies.

To do this, we have to redesign the whole conceptual architecture so that we can see further ahead – and in a different way. We must create a new vision and we must have the necessary courage to turn that vision into reality.

It was against this background – and in response to the multiple challenges imposed by the deep and radical changes that occurred around the world – that the African Union was established.

Our organization is determined to take the struggle started by our predecessors to a new dimension. The objectives of the African Union are – among others – to build peace, security and stability in the continent, to accelerate Africa’s political and socio-economic integration, to entrench democratic values and institutions and good governance and to encourage greater participation by the people.

One word captures the essence of this new frame of mind: change. We have to realize that the key to success lies within ourselves. Nothing illustrates this better than the conflicts that destroy our countries and divert the resources from development programmes. These conflicts emanate from our inability to settle our differences successfully and peacefully.

They are also the manifestation of the absence or fragility of institutions and mechanisms that promote and sustain the culture of peace and dialogue, respect for human rights and democracy.

It is vital and urgent that we all embrace these values. To be effective and to have real impact, this process of change must be deep and all-inclusive.

This gigantic undertaking of rescuing the continent from its present predicament requires the commitment and dedication not just of governments, but of all stakeholders.

The structures of the African Union seek to be more representative of the African people. Through the Pan African Parliament – and the Economic, Social and Cultural Council – the Union has provided a platform for the people’s participation in shaping the destiny of the continent.

With a view to providing leadership and institutional support to the process of peace building – and the prevention, management and resolution of conflict – the African Union adopted the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council. This body will play an important role in building and consolidating peace, stability and security in Africa.

The security and prosperity of the continent is predicated upon our ability and determination to realize successfully the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).

Nepad is a strategic vision and framework for Africa’s renewal. And it encapsulates the priority goals around which our action must be focused.

These goals include: peace and security; political stability; the promotion of democracy, human rights and good governance; poverty eradication; high and sustainable rates of economic growth and development; a greater political and economic integration at sub-regional and continental level; the improvement of Africa’s competitiveness; and the strengthening of Africa’s participation in global multilateral institutions.

In the framework of these objectives, the continent has adopted as fundamental challenges: the immediate implementation of projects already identified in the areas of agriculture and infrastructures; the mobilization of internal and external, private and government resources to fund these programmes and the peace initiatives of the African Union; and the monitoring of progress towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals in the areas of education and health, particularly HIV/Aids and water.

Africa also seeks to mobilize cooperating partners – inside and outside the continent – to fulfil their commitments for the successful implementation of Nepad.

The African continent has made considerable progress in many fields. Positive results have been achieved in the areas of conflict resolution and good governance. There are far fewer conflict situations today than a few years ago.

The electoral processes are already a regular feature in our countries. This year alone, general elections are scheduled in South Africa, Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger and Tunisia.

The Nepad Peer Review Mechanism – which provides a basis for the consolidation of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law – is being established.

This mechanism provides us with performance assessment parameters that will enable us to work together to consolidate and replicate best practices – and to support one another so that we can move together at the same pace.

A new political panorama is emerging in Africa that is rooted in the values and principles of good governance, democracy, rule of law and broader participation in a civil society.

These developments are boosting confidence in the current and future stability of the continent. In turn, this has had a catalytic effect in encouraging and attracting domestic and foreign private investment.

This has also been reflected in a better understanding of Africa’s new vision, and greater solidarity and support from the international community towards Nepad.

As a result, the United Nations and other development partners have adopted this programme as their framework for dialogue and cooperation with African countries.

Africa has declared war against HIV/Aids and other pandemic diseases that undermine our development efforts. They deprive us of our main resource – our human capital. Although there is still a great deal to be done, the results achieved so far are already visible and encouraging.

The dawning of lasting peace and stability in Africa is irreversible. With all these developments in place – and with the consistent and sustained leadership provided by the heads of state of the Implementation Committee of Nepad, and their colleagues in the African Union – the right framework is in place.

The question is not whether Nepad will succeed, but how fast and how soon. We in Africa believe that, together with our partners, we can make this journey shorter and smoother. The battle for security and prosperity in Africa is being won.

Joaquim Alberto Chissano
His Excellency Joaquim Alberto Chissano is president of the Republic of Mozambique and chairman of the African Union.