The head of the African Union, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, has warned that rising oil and food prices could wipe out all of Africa’s recent economic progress. He spoke Monday at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa at a changing of the guard ceremony.
VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein was there. From the Ethiopian capital he spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the warning from the Tanzanian leader.
“Rising prices have hit not just Africa, but the entire globe. He’s concerned and he’s warning his fellow Africans, African leaders and others gathered at the African Union headquarters today. That action needs to be taken to protect the people against the effects of rising prices in a continent where average wages and average incomes are very low, among the lowest in the world, that people who stand to suffer the most are the ones at the bottom of the economic scale. As prices go up, the people with the least income of course are the ones that lose all their purchasing power. They can’t afford any food. And with the droughts that are being experienced in parts of East Africa, Ethiopia in particular, there is concern that there’s just not going to be enough food to go around in the near future,” he says.
However, Mr. Kikwete had no solutions. “No, he didn’t. This was just a warning speech. This was a ceremonial speech at which he was really welcoming the new chairman of the AU Commission [former foreign minister of Gabon], Jean Ping and his administration, and saying farewell to the outgoing chairperson, the former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare. He didn’t really go into detail, but it’s the elephant in the room. Rising prices are on everybody’s lips there,” he says.
Heinlein says Ethiopia is also feeling the effects of high food prices. He says, “Some prices of basic food stuffs have gone up as much as 600 percent. People are suffering. There’s no question about it. People are really struggling. The government is trying to implement subsidy programs throughout the country. They’ve increased the food aid request from the international community. The United States is just about to increase by $100 million the amount of food aid it’s giving to Ethiopia this year.”