In Nigeria, Annan says recent signs point to strong foundation for healthy Africa

In Nigeria, Annan says recent signs point to strong foundation for healthy Africa

Kofi Annan with President Olusegun Obasanjo
Africa's new moves towards greater integration and economic recovery, which have garnered support from developed countries, all point to the continent's potential for increased stability and growth, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in Nigeria.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday in Abuja, where he is on an official visit, the Secretary-General hailed the recent birth of the African Union but cautioned that a broad-based effort would be required to realize its potential. "It was a moment of celebration and of hope but it will require lots of hard, hard work and we will have to have stamina and iron political will," he said, adding, "I hope that the peoples of Africa and private sector, and the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] will all become involved in the development of our Union."

Referring to the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), Mr. Annan said what "excited" him about the initiative was the fact that it was based on respect for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, transparent government and a determination to fight corruption. "If we can really build on that, we will be laying very strong foundations for a healthy Africa," he said.

He also called attention to the results of the recent "Group of Eight" (G8) Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, where leaders of industrialized countries committed themselves to working with Africa in offering additional development assistance, debt relief, and above all, encouraging investments in the continent. Mr. Annan emphasized that African leaders sought trade over development assistance. "In fact, if markets are open, and we have free access to the world market, we will gain many times more than the amounts we receive in development assistance," he said.

At the same time, the Secretary-General observed that "AIDS is still very much with us and is a major tragedy for Africa" as well as a global problem. He urged African leaders to speak out and take action against the disease, but added that they could not do it alone. "The entire society would have to get involved and we should engage all sectors of society from community leaders to women's groups to NGOs to youth movements and resist this disease," he said.

Mr. Annan pledged to do his part to encourage donors to contribute to the global fight against AIDS. "African governments have also been encouraged to improve their own budgetary allocation for health," he added.

Asked about his meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General said they had discussed conflicts around Africa, AIDS, the development of regional organizations, and issues of direct concern to Nigeria as well as the country's relationship with the UN.