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Tanzania's President Kikwete on Africa's Development Challenges

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has called on international civil society and non-governmental organizations to continue to work toward building a constituency for African issues in the United States and elsewhere in the western world. He also called on them to ensure that African issues become part of the western domestic political agenda to capture the interest of political leaders in developed countries.

President Kikwete delivered the inaugural Annual African Presidential Lecture Monday in Washington.

He spoke on the role of international civil society and NGOs in Africa’s development challenges. He grouped Africa’s development challenges into four classes, including what he called the challenges of exclusion and irrelevance, exploitation, governance and sustainability.

President Kikwete said the challenges of exclusion and irrelevance undermine Africa’s capacity to win the war on poverty, which he described as the central problem in Africa’s development. In addition to the lack of access to education and technology, President Kikwete said Africa continues to be marginalized in global trade.

“To be able to win ourselves from aid dependency, Africa must trade itself out of poverty. We must therefore insist on a fairer globalization and a speedy conclusion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, and it has to be a truly development round which means the outcome must be facilitative to Africa’s development, not obstructive,” Kikwete said.

He also identified exploitation as another development challenge facing Africa. He criticized specifically what he called the unfair process of globalization which he says is still based on the colonial arrangement to extract Africa’s raw materials for export to western capitals and to facilitate the export of European manufactured goods to Africa.

“Is it not exploitation that the coffee farmer from Tanzania is paid about 40 U.S. cents for one pound and that one pound can make many cups of coffee selling for dollars at a coffee joint in Washington,” he said.

President Kikwete also identified governance as another challenge facing Africa’s development. But he said the real challenge is whether African countries have the resources to reach the level of performance in governance that is required of them.

“To me, the governance challenge in Africa is not about political will. The general political will to improve governance is evident, but support to build the capacity of institutions in terms of experience and resources is still not up to speed,” Kikwete said.

He said Africa would continue to improve democratic governance in political and economic terms while also addressing the remaining conflict issues in the continent.

The first Annual African Presidential Lecture was co-sponsored by the African Union Mission to the United States and the Washington-based Academy for Educational Development (AED). AU Ambassador to the United States Amina Salum Ali said the lecture series is aimed at forging partnership.

“Forging new partnership is at the heart of the African Union Mission’s strategy for achieving the broader goals and objectives of the African Union. The African Union recognized that in order to achieve its mission, African governments must partner with civil society, especially women, youth, and the private sector,” Ali said.

AED senior vice president Vivian Lowery Derryck said the civil society can support and strengthen the African Union in many ways.

“Above all, civil society helps promotes optimism about Africa. It can paint a picture of the Africa that we are all working to achieve. When civil society collaborates with the continent’s premier regional body, the AU, the synergies that flow from that partnership can focus attention on problems with razor-like precision, Derryck said.

President Kikwete said the African Union has made the Diaspora into the sixth region of the continent. The only problem, he said, is how to organize or who should represent the Diaspora.

Kikwete appealed to international civil society and NGOs and the Diaspora to spread the good news of what he called the transformation that is occurring in Africa.

“There is so much that has happened in the continent. But not much is being said. The NGOs and international civil society organizations everywhere in the continent help us tell the story. If you don’t, it would always be Darfur, Somalia, as if that is what is representative of Africa,” Kikwete said.