Ad Hoc Experts Group meeting on Land, Identity and Socio-Economic Transformation in Southern Africa-AU-SARO Official Speech

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Statement delivered by the African Union Regional Delegate to Southern Africa, SADC and COMESA Secretariate, Dr Leopold-Auguste Ngomo, during the occasion of the official opening of Ad Hoc Experts Group meeting on Land, Identity and Socio-Economic Transformation in Southern Africa, Livingstone, Zambia, 28-29 November, 2018.

  • VIDIANAND LUT CHMEE PAR SAD, Principal Secretary and Senior Chief Executive Officer, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Republic of Seychelles and Chair of ICE Bureau,
  • Professor Said Adejumobi, Regional Director of UNECA Southern Africa Regional Office
  • Representatives of Southern Africa member States here present
  • Representatives of International Organizations and Institutions
  • Representatives of Media
  • Distinguished guests; Ladies and Gentlemen
  • All protocols observed;

 

GOOD MORNING AND WELCOME TO ZAMBIA,

At the outset, I wish to express, on behalf of the African Union Commission, our heartfelt appreciation to H.E. Edgar Lungu, the President of the Republic of Zambia, and the Members of his Government as well as the Zambian people for the hospitality and the cordial reception given to our delegation since our arrival in Zambia.

It is for AUC and AU-SARO a privilege and honor to be invited by UNECA-SAR for this important meeting and to have the opportunity to address this august assembly.

The subject to be discussed is very sensitive and important for all of us: LAND, IDENTITY AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA.

Professor Said Adejumobi, thank you for this opportunity offered to African Union Commission and my representational office AU Southern Africa Regional Office to be part of this meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For African Union, the southern African region is well known as the land of rich mineral resources but also as the region of the agro-based economy. And who said agriculture said land.

This region is also known as a region of various and strong cultural identity rooted in the land exploitation through livestock, small household farming. For many southern African nations, lands is the central place where the community is forged, is built.

Unfortunately for historical reason, the original communities of southern African were disconnected from their historical lands and more harmful, disconnect from the more productive part of their native lands.

With the research of business opportunities, by various individual and communities, the development of the economy, the renaissance of the cultural identity and the need to recover the lost endured during the recent history, part of Southern Africa is currently under an important wave of lands claim. This absolute tension can be considered as Land crisis. Land management being a very important subject in the region in particular and Africa in large, allow me to just focus on this land crisis, because it has inside many negative seeds which, if badly managed can seriously compromise the development of our region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear participants,

Southern Africa Region is currently facing one of its major crisis in post-apartheid era: Land redistribution versus land economic exploitation. It is clear that land exploitation is not in phase with the sociology and cultural reality of the region. This situation is a source of tension, revolt, and sometime murdering, legal or illegal expropriation, and loss of confidence and doubt on the future of living together in the same nation.

This Southern African land crisis is not a simple one, because this crisis carry with it, the negative charge of the past history of the region (spoliation, colonization, humiliations, defeat, abuse by the African white community Vis a Vis of the native African communities), this crisis also carry the charge of the disconnection of cultural identity for some Africans.

In various intensity, this land crisis is spreading along the region. It already hit Zimbabwe and now advancing in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and some whispering started to appear in Malawi. The land issue bring indeed some critical questions:

  • Why should the minority (mainly the African White Community) should detain more than 70% of the more productive land of the country?
  • Why should this status-quo should be maintained?
  • Should we change this reality? And How?
  • Can we change the redistribution of land and at the same time protect the real agro-business advantages of the region?

Ladies and gentlemen, dear experts

How do we make this land redistribution an inclusive process instead of an exclusive process? How do we bring together all the components of the nation, that history divided and opposed, under the same national roof?

All Southern Africans should understand the new reality post-colonial and apartheid herite by all of them. Contrary to the rest of the continent, colonization in southern Africa was a colonization of occupation while for the rest of Africa, a part Algeria, it was mainly for exploitation of the natural resources. It means that foreigners who came in southern Africa came here to stay. And you can observe that generation after generation they are still with us. With their arrival in our lands, southern Africa stopped to be a one color land to become a rainbow region. The last community to settle in our region was the White African Community and like always in the history of the continent, they take their place by force and try by all means to impose themselves to the other communities.

And as the Pan African Parliamentarian Julius Malema said and I quote: ‘They are now among us, they are in no way to go back and we should not allow them to go back. They should stay with us and work with us’. This new community, like all the community, have many interests to protect and promote.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mismanagement of this land crisis can bring many critical risks for our nations:

  • Risk of splitting more the nation and reinforcement of racial separation between the different communities
  • Risk of real secession
  • Risk of losing the agro-business impact and creating an economic crisis which will result to loss of jobs and economic recession
  • Risk of capital flying and competence disappearance.
  • Risk of regional de-localization and de-industrialization

But, ladies and gentlemen, this land crisis can also be considered as a real opportunity for all our southern African nations to turn off, properly and forever, the scares of the apartheid era. And to bring all the component of the nation together around a shared vision, values and create a new path.

This crisis can also bring to the region a unique opportunity for innovation: innovation in terms of technology. Instead of fighting the small cake of the arable land available why not expand the size of the cake? By transforming piece of Sahara desert in arable land, former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi did show us the way to go about this innovation.

Innovation in terms of agro-economic model, instead of assigning Land to individual farmer, why not by community or by cooperatives where the current owner of the land will be part also?

We should also think how climate change will radically change our agriculture map and our land realities.

And when we are busy fixing our internal problems, we should not forget to manage the new entrants who also want to exploit our arable lands: partners like Multinationals, China…

Dear participants

In these ongoing discussions or negotiations, it is important to remind all our southern member states that they won’t start from scratch. Inside the Agenda 2063, you already have some solutions, which can of course be improved. For instance, Aspiration 1: A prosperous Africa, goal 5 talk about a modern agriculture for increasing productivity and production. Through CAADP, AU Land Policy, National Agriculture Investment Plans it is possible to clearly promote some concrete solutions for this land crisis.

It is also in my duty to remind you of Aspiration 6: An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children. In this aspiration, through goal 17: Full Gender equality in all spheres of life, you took the decision that 20% of rural women will have access to and control productive assets including land.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, we should remind ourselves that ‘A crisis is an opportunity for growth, an opportunity for change’. In our context of land crisis, it is a huge chance to remobilize all the components of the nation to rally behind a common vision.

As usual we have the choice concerning the way we want to deal with this land crisis:

If badly managed, this crisis can bring to us many other crisis: Identity, nationalist, racial, economic, financial, food insecurity, deindustrialization…

But if well managed, the land crisis will become an opportunity to federate all the components of the nation, develop a common vision and a common ambition.

This initiative, coming from UN ECA SA office, is really welcome and come at the real opportune time. A time where Namibia is already moving on this Agenda, where Zimbabwe is now appreciating the results of its previous decisions, where South Africa is preparing itself for the land reforms and redistribution.

The debate on land reforms, passionate by nature because of historical linkage, cultural influence, should be quickly dispassionate and de politicized. If not it will become a platform of expression of frustration, a platform of revenge and fight for power.

Africa can be distracted too easily but we should remain focused on our main objective. Our population is massively increasing, climate change is already impacting on us; we need to transform and develop our economic and agriculture and bring peace into our cultural identity.

No events, no claims, no problems or challenges should move us from our main objective clearly presented in our strategic plan Agenda 2063 and the UN SDG. We should focus on one vision: TO CREATE THE AFRICA WE WANT for us and for the next generation.

I wish you successful deliberations

God bless you, God bless Africa,

I thank you for your attention!

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