Michel Camdessus
Michel Camdessus  

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Gabon and the IMF

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Farewell to Africa

Concluding Remarks by Michel Camdessus
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund
at the Summit Meeting of African Heads of State
Libreville, Gabon, January 19, 2000

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Mr. President,
Heads of State and Government,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your undeserved praise, your kind words to me during our closed door sessions, your comments in the Libreville Declaration, and all the generous expressions of your friendship and affection, oblige me here to take a bit of a risk, or at all events do something unusual for a Managing Director of the IMF, namely to take a moment to speak from the heart.

Allow me to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for 13 years of trust and unwavering support. Over these 13 years you have never...never—and I am immensely proud to say this—never failed to back me with all your votes. I've come out on the losing side on occasion, with you by my side; and I have enjoyed victories, which we won together. And your unanimous support today for the IMF's new instruments to assist the poor countries is sweet recompense indeed.

Mr. President, Heads of State and Government, thank you also for your generous words of thanks for my efforts. In my case, I think you have been too generous. After all, it is true, as you yourselves have observed, that I never contracted the virus of Afro-pessimism. I am but one man who has taken Africa to heart. Not some theoretical Africa, I hasten to add, but the Africa of its men and women, of its children's smiles, of the markets I've visited, of its villages, its songs, its dances, its ebullient laughter: this laughter whose secret has been lost by the world of the wealthy. Your kind words are justified, however, as regards the work of all those who have so generously provided me with their inspiration and support at the IMF over these 13 years. There are so many people to mention:

  • all of you here, and, among you, all these great leaders of Africa with whom I am so proud to have become friends, beginning with you, Mr. President;

  • all of you, your Excellencies, but permit me also to add those great Africans who have represented Africa at the IMF: its Executive Directors, and how could I fail to salute first the most eminent among them, President Festus Mogae, my friends Barnabas Dlamini and Omar Kabbaj, and your current representatives, Mr. Morais, and the No. 1 architect of this Libreville conference, Mr. Barro Chambrier, a man your country may take legitimate pride to count among its own;

  • and also these other great Africans, these men of immense stature, who have headed the African Department over the past thirteen years: Alassane Ouattara, Mamoudou Touré, Goodall Gondwe; and no one will be surprised when I cite, alongside them, Akis Calamitsis and my friend Stanley Fischer, whose African roots are known to all. Simply put, Mr. President, I owe everything to their wisdom, their vision, and their courage.

Thank you as well for what will become part of our history: the Libreville Declaration. Believe me, it will serve as a bible guiding our action over the years to come, and embodies the core of the guidelines I will be passing on to my successor in a few weeks' time. It is not just another one of those rather formulaic communiqués, not at all; instead it is a declaration by Heads of State cognizant of the fact that, as the Vice President of Ghana put it so aptly, "the solution is in their hands." It is your declaration. We are indebted to you for it, and we will honor it.

Your Excellencies, you have yet again shown us the way and opened up new avenues. Many speakers here have stressed the historical nature of this summit. While I am always reluctant to use that word, let us say at least that it is sure to be long remembered. It will be because the future course of world history is in the balance, and globalization is both the new century's opportunity and its challenge. History is hesitating between globalization's risks and the possibilities it affords. Many regard globalization primarily as a threat. But they are wrong, because globalization that is well managed, managed together by all countries, is first and foremost an extraordinary opportunity for the fraternal unity of the globe, an extraordinary opportunity for the world's poor.

But it is also a battle, and it is in Africa that this battle is being waged. It is in Africa that the future of the world is being played out, because it is in Africa in particular where the poorest of the world are found. And above all it is in Africa, as General de Gaulle might have said, that forces that have yet to make their contribution are found: wealth in economic terms, and wealth in human terms—and here I am thinking first about all that the women of Africa can and must contribute, so long as they are given opportunities to do so. In any event they will take such opportunities.

Yes, your Excellencies, the world economy must be integrated with Africa and Africa must be integrated with the world economy, in a partnership able to change and to humanize globalization. Mark my words, I am firmly convinced that it will be Africa that humanizes globalization. It will because Africa is the cradle of the human race, it will because Africa has a special gift for humanity, and because Africa is the homeland of that richest of humanisms, the humanism of diversity, of creativity of artistic expression, and of solidarity—the solidarity of the generations, and the grassroots solidarity of your towns and villages.

Your Excellencies, each of the most recent centuries aspired to illustrate a great universal value: in the 19th century it was liberty; in the 20th—without much success—it was equality. For a unifying world, the 21st century should be the century of fraternity. And this will make Africa the continent of the 21st century because, notwithstanding all the conflicts still tearing at its core, Africa wants to remain, as it must, the continent of fraternity.

* * * * *

Your Excellencies, my dear friends, with all my heart, both personally and on behalf of my wife, Brigitte, whom you have so properly included in your praise, I extend my warmest thanks to you all.


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