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Featured Content: June 01, 2003

NEPAD/Africa Action Plan Briefing: Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria; Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal; Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Nigeria; Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa

Sunday June 1, 2003 21:15 GMT+1 Official Start Time [22:45 GMT+1 Actual Start Time
G8 Research Group: University of Toronto
Transcribed by Anthony Navaneelanand Sonali Thakkar

Video file of interview  *

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria Abdoulaye Wade, President of Senegal Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Nigeria Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa

Brief: The four presidents arrived approxiamately ninety-minutes late from the G8/NePAD Working Dinner in Evian-les-Bains which had run over-time. President Obasanjo spoke on behalf of the four leaders providing a summary of the commitments and achievements reached between Africa and the G8 over the past year, and during the course of the Evian Summit. The press briefing lasted for approxiamately forty-five minutes.

Nigerian President Obasanjo: Good evening ladies and gentlemem. May I, first of all, on behalf of my brothers and colleagues and on my own behalf, apologize for keeping you waiting. This was scheduled for around nine o'clock, and what happened is that we did not conclude our meeting in time, and as soon as we concluded our meeting we all rushed here. I hope you will forgive us. As we say in my part of the world, there are - beyond control.

As you do know, the - was here, if you like, we are the beginning of the route of the genesis of NEPAD. Just so that we can refresh ourselves, there are three unique things about NEPAD. It is meant to fill a need, the need that we as African leaders, by ourselves, for ourselves, we FRENCH… and the governed and the governor, partnership between the public sector and the private, partnership between civil society and government, a partnership, the emphasis is on partnership, and partnership between our different regions in Africa and partnerhsip between Africa and our development partners.

The third point that I want to emphasize is responsibility. We admit our own responsibility, what we have to do, and what we must do, there are certain thigns that are regarded as preconditions if we're going to have these comprehensive social development program in Africa. We must have peace and security, human rights, we must ensure that the necessary economic reforms that will make investment come to countries and continents put into place. These are things which we we regard as our own responsibility because they are more or less conditions precedent. And if we are talking of genuine partnership, then we have a responsibility and our partners too will have certain responsibilities. As a result of that, when last year we met at Kananaskis, in Canada, we put on the table in its totality our ideas of what NEPAD should entail. The G8, as our development partners, come up with their idea of Africa Action Plan that will match what we put on the ground. SO what we have done today is to actually review what progress we have made between Kananaskis. In Canada and today in France.

One of the innovative, if I can put it that way, idea or element is what we call African Peer Review Mechanism. We, on our own, voluntarily subject ourselves to peer review and we lay out what the thing that should be looked for when any country is doing peer review. We have set up that mechanism and we have also set up a panel of eminent people who believe in that process of peer review. And that is the first thing on NEPAD that we are able to report. We are also able to report on the joint Africa/G8 Plan for Africa's ability to to undertake peace support operations. As I said at the beginning, we realize that one main precondition for development is absence of conflict, absence of violence, absence of all those things that will make peaceful living impossible. So, in the next seven years, gradually, with the help of the G8, we will build our own capacity to be able to conduct peacekeeing, peace intervention forces, forces that will be able to maintain peace in the support of countries, regions and the continent.

We have also brought out a Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Program, which was done for us with the FAO. We have been able to draw up what are the programs and projects we can put into place to improve food security and agricultural production in Africa. We also have worked out on what we regard as priority projects in the infrastructure area: energy, transport, water and sanitation, and information and communication tech. And now we can discuss with our development partners and discuss how we will implement them. We working on elaborating plans on health, education, science, environment and tourism. Now, these things that we have done more or less on our part; we also thankfully, gratefully appreciate what our development partners have done. We realize when we were in Kananaskis. Last year, Canada announced increased assistance to Africa and recently they have shown how much they have implemetned their own commitment to NEPAD.

Brtain has presented its own report on implementation of the Africa Action Plan and they have made this very ingenious and very smart proposal on International Finance Facility. We endorse this and feel that we wil look at it in detail and look at how it will really go towards increasing flow for development in Africa. Ideally, to mobilize the flows to us, to enable us to meet the targets for the Millennium Development Goals that came out of a meeting of the UN in the year 2000.

We are encouraged by the proposal by France, on respect of export subsidies, and other support measures that destabilize agriculture in African countries. We see this proposal as good beginning in an area where we are exercise consistent concern that - and we are therefore encouraged with the assessment that is contasined in the report by France which says that also this sunmmit must be a summit of implementation, implementation not just of [???*********] but action.

We are also encouraged by the announcement of the United States government for a great increase in funds to fight HIV/AIDS -- $15 billion dollars and we think that this is significant.

And Japan had also given us encouragement in the area of polio eradication and debt relief, And ten years ago Japan held the first meeting between Japan and Africa and five years -- it is meant to be held every five years. Five years ago a second one was held and a third one is scheduled for later this year. We are rather pleased about that because we believe that something concrete will come out of it.

We appreciate the institutional support that we got from Germany, in particuarly for the Secretariat of NEPAD and the efforts they have made to reach out their private sector, parliamentarians and civil society for working with us in Africa.

Italy has been in the forefront of e-governance [internet governance] systems in Africa.

Well, all these are a good but more importantly we appreciate the fact that with G8 we can keep African issues in the forefront of world leaders and that is very, very important. We agree that what has happened so far, or the process we have used so far of *******of representatives of the leaders and our own standing committee should continue. There was also a suggestion, and we have no objection to that, that other donors should join the G8 and the international financial institutions should also join the G8. On the whole we are satisfied with the progress that has been made since last year and we believe that we should continue to build on that progress.

This is all that I have for you. I don't if any of my colleagues, you want to add anything? President Thabo Mbeki? President Bouteflicka? President Wade? Any questions from you? You can direct your questions to anybody.

Press Reporter #1: I have a question for President Mbeki, it about the AIDS announcement by the United States. I think you made a comment yesterday that Europe should match the US effort. Do you think that European countries should match the US effort as percentage of GDP? I'm meaning that should European countries commit as much money as a percentage of their GDP as the US are doing, as a percentage of their GDP? South African President Thabo Mbeki: I guess so. No but what we can is that indeed the matter came up in the meeting. We make the same request to the other G8 and indeed today immediaterly said that the European Union would therefore pledge itself immediately to a billion grand - sorry, a billion dollars…

Press Reporter #2: Billion dollars or euros?

South African President Thabo Mbeki: No, no it's a dollar. A billion dollars a year to the Global Health Fund. So they have a taken a decision to move immediately with regards to that because United States is commited to up to a third of the Global Health Fund -- the proportion and it can increase in quantity depending on the contributions of other people. So they have responded, they already responded today.

Press Reporter #1: So if your - sorry, if the US are putting on the table 3-billion dollars does that mean that US should also put something like 3-billion a year, is that what you're saying?

South African President Thabo Mbeki: No, we did not do any arthimatic about this. What we're interested in is that the funds - sufficient funds must be contributed by all of the donor countries in order to address the challenges. The United States had made this announcement because there was an agreement at Kananaskis. If you look at the G8 Africa Action Plan, this particular issue is in that action plan. So the US responded and said 'Alright, in order to implement Kananaskis, this what we're saying.' And therefore the others had to respond because they all made the same commitment and I'm saying the good thing that they did today was that the European Union said 'In which case, to respond to the positions taken by United States they would immediately agree that they must contribute at least a billion dollars a year on this.'

Press Reporter #3: I have a question for President --.

Nigerian President Obasanjo: Wait till I call you madam.

Press Reporter #4: [Question in French with no translation. Essentially the question asks why African countires are excluded from certain areans of the G8 Summit and why there is not more inclusion of all participants].

Algerian President Bouteflicka [Unofficial Instantaneous Translation from French to English]: We depend on the African Union and, consequently, if your question is a question that is hiding something else it would be preferable that you express clearly yourself. But no African country is excluded.

Press Reporter #4: [Unofficial Instantaneous Translation from French to English]: No, no, no. My question was not meant at excluding any African country. My question is that African countries should take part in more meetings than economic agenda.

Algerian President Bouteflika [Unofficial Instantaneous Translation from French to English]: I believe this is exactly what we are doing. It is an initiative made by NEPAD and they are the people who are here in front of you and it has been expanded to other head of state and now it has been approved and adopted by the African Union. So we have become partners. President Obasano did it, he did it on our behalf. He did it - we are doing that with the G8, with the European Union, and any other region or grouping. So we are struggling still to champion our rights and we will do it here and elsewhere.

Press Reporter: #5 [Unofficial Instantaneous Translation from French to English]: I am asking that question to all presidents. You seem to be satisfied with all the results but aren't you bitter that Iraq is going to have then important debt relief meanwhile Africa is waiting for much more than that. Meanwhile we are goinmg to spend a lot of money against nuclear proliferation, don't you feel [???] -- people to whom we don't give too much?

Nigerian President Obasanjo [Initial comments are in French with subsequent comments in English documented here]: …to make sure we are not spending our hard earned money in paying debt, and servicing debt, some of which we have paid back two or three times over. So the issue of debt relief is always in the forefront. But we also realize that it is not the thing that we can handle unilaterally. If we really want to get debt relief we must continue to talk to our creditors. What I will say is that there has been little given too late. We have HIPC, HIPC came in, came in little bits and pieces anf the effec is that it really hasn't made a temendous impact. And here we have what they call Middle-Income Debtors and unless they do something about the so-called Middle Income Debtors that debt will continue to burden them and they will not be able to make as much progress as they should make. So the issue of debt has always been in forefront and we are getting to the point now that what you are doing for least developed countries in terms of debt relief we have now found out it is not enough. They are not doing anything for the so-called Medium Income Countries is in fact very bad. So we are getting to think we are atleast being understood and I believe before long we are likely to get the relief that would actually would make impacts in the area of debt relief. They will have talked about also for that thing so that you have debt for education, debt for health, debt for food security, or debt disaster relief and there are a number of things that people have put on the table. And I believe that these really are probably the way to go. I don't know if anyone wanted to add?…

South African President Mbeki: That the…-- What the other president, President Obasanjo said is that the G8 heads of government recognzied that inded there hasn't been sufficient movement on this question, And that one of the decisions they took today was that they will attend to the question themselves rather than merely delegate it to some officials to deal with it because they recognize the fact that there hasn't been sufficient movement on this in the manner that President Obasanjo has indicated so they say that they will then take it on themselves to make sure they bring the necessary weight to make sure that it matter most in a better way.

Nigerian President Obasanjo: Madam…

Press Reporter #6: My question is --.

Nigerian President Obasanjo: Please, President Wade wants to say something to that.

Senagalese President Wade [Unofficial Instantaneous Translation from French to English]: There is a question that everybody's raising. We have found the world as it is, and the situation as it is. We don't have… [Momentary loss of translation]… system of colonization, of slavery, and this had led to deterioaron of the terms of trade so the prices paid to producers is going down and it is the same particularly for all the prime products. So we find the world the way it is, Africa was exploited and developped countries are the ones who were running the whole world - they were not asking the opinion of anyone. And suddenly, all of a sudden, Africa realized and expressed itself and decided to send three heads of state to the year's sumit meeting in Tokyo. At the time we were asking for, or calling for, a debt relief but then we established NePAD. We set up the Nepad and we realised that the need to establish the African Union, to inform the African Union, and then to organize ourselves in order to have a unique African vision. And now we are mobilized in order to achieve that objective. We are not the ones who are the world makers and we are not are feeling bitter, we have no bitternes, like anyone working in Europe. But then there is the queston of the arms race, problem of the class divisions in Europe - it's European problem, they not our problems. There is one thing you should know for sure, we are determined to fight, we are determined to bring about changes. And people are listening to us, this is the first time. Nobody used to listen to us. And this is the firrst time -- this is the third time -- that we are sitting together with the most advanced countries, the ones that have to most sophisticated weapons. And then we are making adavcnes and progress. And I am not saying we are making significant progress but we are making progress. But you cannot ask us to do something which is not African and we are not doing politics. We cannot be good politicians if you feel bitter, or if you have some bitterness or reluctance. But we are trying to defend ourself with our own means and we are trying to defend Africa with are our own means and within means.

Press Reporter #7: Question for President Mbeki, I was covering the People's Summit in Annemasse and brilliant economists from all over the continent were there and about NEPAD they write two issues. First of all they are saying it is nothing else but selling African to transnational corporations and continuing in another way the policies of IMF, Bank and WTO And Secondly they are complaining because the civil society is not enough involved in NEPAD. So what do you answer to them?

South African President Mbeki: Well I am quite certain that you are quite correct that the economist are brilliant but they are also wrong. [Brief French comment begin].

Nigerian President Obasanjo: [Brief Comments in French before English comments documented here] If they feel the was you have told us that they feel, what is the alternative? Have they prescribed alternative? If they have not prescribed an alterntaive, one of the things that we were saying is that up to the time that we sat tehre talking and working on NEPAD every program we have had in Africa had been received. Somebody had prepared it, they had given to us and we had taken it, not talking about it. At one time it was structural adjustment and it came out, it came, it impoversihed us - it didn't adjust anything. At one time it was import substitution. Now, it came, it didn't solve any problems, Now we say this is the first time that African leaders put their heads together with the experts who believe in what the African leaders believe in: that we have to be captain of our ships, masters of our home, and architects of our fortune - or if you like, misfortune. And this is the first time. So what we believe is that every African, intellectual or non-intellectual should join hands with us and see how far we can propel this. That is number one.

Number two, to say that civl socioety is not involved is wrong. I have in Nigeria, out of Nigeria, in Addis Ababa, in Dakar, we have been meeting civil society and briefing them and talkng to them, and all sorts of groups. Private sector groups, women's groups, labour groups, employer groups. The whole of them. And if anybody says they haven't been involved, well tell him to try and find out and we will involve him or her. But this is an African program, designed by Africans, being executed by Africans, but with the support with the support of our development partners.

Senagalese President Wade: [Comments in French]

Nigerian President Obasanjo: Last question. But you have to forgive us but, ah, last question.

Press Reporter #7: