Mandela’s words echoed at AU opening meeting

2014-01-27 15:59

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Nelson Mandela’s words were used as a rallying cry as leaders called for an “agricultural revolution” in Africa.

Speaking during the opening of the African Union (AU) executive council meeting in Addis Ababa this morning, UN under-secretary-general Carlos Lopes quoted Mandela, saying countries on the continent seek to achieve “an Africa where there would be work, bread, water and salt for all”.

He said despite the more than $15 billion (R166 billion) spent in agricultural aid in Africa over the past two decades, the continent has still not dealt with basic malnutrition.

“We do not need to say more to finally realise we need to change tack and speed. We need an African agricultural revolution,” he told the council, which consists mostly of foreign ministers from the continent.

The theme of this year’s AU summit is agriculture although it is likely to be overshadowed again, as has happened so often in the past, by talks about peace and security.

The current conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan are likely to feature high on the agenda. The establishment of the African Standby Force is also a pressing issue. This force is meant to have the ability to intervene in conflicts and to lessen Africa’s reliance on foreign armies to help.

President Jacob Zuma last year convened a special summit in Pretoria to talk about the establishment of an African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises in the interim, but it is unclear whether that got off the ground before the end of last year as it was meant to.

The meeting of the executive council is meant to set the tone for the meeting of AU heads of state which will take place on Thursday and Friday.

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