Members of the African Union Executive Council meet in Nairobi to brainstorm on the paradox of rich Africa, poor Africans and changing mindsets

By African Union Commission (AUC)

The 4th Retreat of the African Union (AU) Executive Council opened on Friday 6 May 2016 in Nairobi, the capital city of the Republic of Kenya. During the Retreat, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the AU Member States discussed “ the paradox of rich Africa, poor Africans, on changing mind-set and other relevant issues.” The Ministers exchanged their views on most of the socio-economic and political issues aimed at developing the continent in a very convivial, and heated fruitful debates during the two days meeting.

In her opening remarks, H.E Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), highlighted concrete actions that must be taken by this generation in order to resolve the African paradox, of” a continent rich in human, natural and other resources, yet its people are poor”. Dr. Dlamini Zuma called on the Ministers to situate this paradox in its historical context and to understand its economic, social, cultural and political dimensions so as to better address the issue why a rich continent like Africa should have poor citizens. She stressed on the importance to understand the local and global circumstances that continue to shape this paradox, saying, there is need for changing mindsets to reverse this situation and make Africans become rich by benefitting from their rich resources. Quoting late Nobel Price winner, Wangari Maathai, the AUC Chairperson said “You cannot continue to enslave a mind that knows itself, that values itself, that understands itself”.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma thanked the Government and people of Kenya for hosting the AU Ministerial Retreat as well as appreciated the high level presentations and frank discussions by the Members of Executive Council on the various thematic issues. She noted that Agenda 2063 will help to address this paradox given that the Agenda advocates for the African skills revolution and the need “to re-orientate our education systems towards sciences, mathematics, technology and engineering, to enable youth drive transformation and innovation across the continent”. The AUC Chairperson further emphasized that the expectations of Africans is that African institutions should lead the way in creating a better life for all African. She acknowledged that while there are advances in infrastructure, education and health and in building inclusive, democratic and peaceful societies, much more needs to be done in order to transform the continent and build a better life for all Africans. She concluded by noting that the ministerial retreats are used to reflect on the strategic interventions that are necessary to move Agenda 2063 forward and consequently encourage critical discussions to spur action for the transformation of the continent. “Nairobi is indeed an appropriate setting to have these discussions - with its rich history founded at the crossroads of the railways that connect the region, its links to cities and towns across the continent, from Addis Ababa, Kampala, and Cairo to Kimberley and Cape Town. It is home to the cultural, ethnic, language and religious diversity of our beautiful continent, and was at the centre of the national movement against colonialism. Today, it represents both the seeds of the Africa we want: a bustling, growing city powered by the creativity and innovations of its entrepreneurs, and artists, its city government and activists; its resilient, men, women and young people, and the African paradox in the contrast between its beautiful skyscrapers, its lush landscapes, fertile soil and its slums”. (See complete speech of the AUC Chairperson on the AU website: )

Speaking on behalf of the Government of Kenya, H.E Ambassador (Dr) Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade welcomed Ministers and participants to the 4th Ministerial Retreat of the African Union Executive Council. She noted that the retreat offered a unique opportunity to discuss at length and at depth topical issues to advance the union. She further noted the necessity of translating the dreams of Africa's development into concrete programs and actions. She highlighted the paradox of the continent's natural resource abundance in the context of its lack of development and she emphasized the need to be able to direct Africa's resources towards the continent's development goals. She therefore concluded by emphasizing the importance of effectively following up on the implementation of Agenda 2063. “The African paradox is a reality that we must confront if we are to achieve the African Union Agenda 2063. We must find a way to free our resources and direct them towards achieving our development goals”. Said Cabinet Secretary Amina. “The important question we must ask and answer for is: how is it that our natural resources have created wealth for others, while we on the continent remain poor? In answering that question we should also discuss what it is that we need to do differently” .

Meanwhile, H.E Amina appreciated Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and her team for the critical role in running the affairs of our Union and its Organs. “Madam Chairperson your dream is gradually translating into programs and action plans. As the only Female President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said 'If your dream does not scare you then it is not big enough'. Concluded the Cabinet Secretary. (See complete speech of C.S Amina on the AU website: ).

The Chairperson of the Executive Council the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Libya on his part noted that the AU Ministerial Retreats has become an important platform for reflection and discussions on important issues aimed at developing the continent, notably Agenda 2063 and its Ten Years Implementation Plan. He congratulated the countries that have domesticated Agenda 2063 into their national development plans and called on the countries that have not yet done so to do same.