Transcript of a Press Conference of African Finance Ministers and Governors of Central Banks
April 11, 2003
April 11, 2003
View this press conferenc using Media Player.
Mr. Charles Konan Banny, Governor of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO),
Mr. Benjamin Radavidson, Minister of Finance and Budget of Madagascar,
Mr. Timothy T. Thahane, Minister of Finance from Lesotho,
Mr. Joseph B. Dauda, Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone,
Gerald M. Ssendaula, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: I'm Lucie Mboto Fouda of the External Relations Department of the IMF and I would like to welcome all of you to this press conference of African Finance Ministers and Governors of Central Banks.
As you may know, we have here today some of African officials, who struggle on a daily against debt burden, poverty, conflicts, and several other crises. They are happy to take your questions today and to address some of the issues that you might want to discuss with them.
I would like, maybe before we go forward, to introduce you to our invitees today. To my far left is Minister Radavidson, who is the Minister of Finance and Budget of Madagascar. To his right is Minister Joseph Dauda, Minister of Finance of Sierra Leone. To my immediate left is Mr. Timothy Thahane, Minister of Finance of Lesotho that we all know in the institution and on the other side of the road.
To my right is Mr. Charles Konan Banny, who is Governor of the Central Bank of West African States. To my far right is Mr. Ssendaula, Minister of Finance from Uganda.
Could I ask you as usual to introduce yourself before you ask your questions, please?
Minister Ssendaula you have the floor for your opening remarks. Thank you.
MR. SSENDAULA: On behalf of my colleagues finance ministers for Africa, I would like to welcome you to this press conference. As per tradition, we normally have meetings at the Fund and the Bank during the annual general meetings and the spring meetings. These meetings of course give us the opportunity to exchange notes on the progress being made in each other's country by way of the implementation policy and how we transact business with the Fund.
And it also gives opportunity of people in the offices, because we are of course represented in the Fund as in the Bank, to give reason to our executive directors and the staff on how we are succeeding or fading in getting our business transacted with the Fund.
I would like to say from the offset that we are extremely grateful with the way we have been handling our business with the Fund, and we hope we should be able to get over our problems. They are outstanding problems, as you are indeed aware, that the Fund has a very big role to play in ensuring that countries do benefit from debt relief. And of course there has been very slow progress. There are only eight countries that have so far qualified to get complete debt relief, and of these eight, only seven are from Africa, and they realize the countries that are really stuck because of the burden of the debt, so many have yet to qualify to get debt relief.
Then we have problems generally of poverty, which is caused by a number of factors, drought, sometimes our own internal conflicts, but most importantly markets. We still have a problem of accessing markets as Africa in spite of the number of concessions that have been made.
I am not going to say that some of the concessions sometimes end up a bit contradictory, but there we are. We have to accept the situation as it is. We are all working around the clock to ensure that we can really put commodities on the American market under the AGOA arrangement. But the ones that we expected to be competent sufficiently to be participating would be production of cotton fabrics and so on, but at the same time the American Government give subsidies to the cotton farmers in America. Now, you can see that you obviously can find a contradiction there to some degree.
So it is our wish that we really get sincere approach to access to markets. Same goes even for financial support generally. Those of us who have been around for some time did express concerns that support funds were reduced because much of the funds would obviously go in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Eastern Europe.
But now we are having more conflicts coming up and more countries are likely to come out of conflicts. In the process we have just had Afghanistan, then there is now a war going on in Iraq, most probably to come to an end. Iraq will need to be reconstructed, just as Afghanistan is being reconstructed. The resources will suddenly be required. Our plea to our donors is that we still require support as well, and that is the position, and we hope we will be able to highlight this during the spring meetings when we meet, starting tomorrow.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister. One more housekeeping issue. The ministers should feel free to express themselves in the language they are comfortable with. Translation facilities are available.
QUESTION: You mentioned, Mr. Minister, with the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan, the international finance is much more focused on those two wars regions. Do you think initiatives like the NEPAD will be neglected?
MR. SSENDAULA: I cannot say NEPAD will be neglected off right, because it will be very unfair for me to arrive at that conclusion this early. My appeal to the main donors is that while they should attend to the reconstruction and the renovation of Afghanistan and Iraq, Africa is also in dire need for resources to get rid of poverty, to be able to get safe water, to get education and so on. That is all that I have to say on that.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: On the NEPAD issue, which is key, would any other minister like to express any views? Mr. Konan Banny?
MR. KONAN BANNY: I'm grateful to the minister that made his opening remarks. I want just to say that it is always a pleasure to be here, and it's very useful, this kind of gathering because it gives the opportunity to African leaders, policy makers, to make the voices heard. We would like our word to be transmitted to the world that it is a very important gathering.
And secondly, let me once again say that the African problems are development problems. We have development problems. That means it's long term problems. We cannot say that this year we have solved the problems. Let me tell you that every year we are facing not only the same problems, but the same problem in a different way. We need sustainability. We need permanent efforts to solve our problems.
As you say it, we are struggling. struggling for life. So we don't need to add to our problems. For example, we don't need to have internal conflict. Sometimes we are the ones who bring in internal conflicts. Although some people argue that the conflict are manipulated by outside, but my opinion is that we need a new leadership in Africa, to avoid the internal conflicts, because internal conflicts are not helpful in solving our long-term problems.
Years ago, I was proud to be governor of the central bank of a very stable region. I wouldn't make the same statement today as we are facing a very important internal problem in my own country which is Cote d'Ivoire. So I would like us African, to focus a little bit more on our internal problems.
We are talking about NEPAD. How can we be talking about development and regional integration if we are being in internal conflicts?
So before saying that the African country will be neglected because of the crisis in Afghanistan or in Iraq, we'd better look at home and try to solve our internal problems. I don't think that the development in Africa will come from outside. We are part of the world, but let's do our part.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Banny. Mr. Thahane?
MR. THAHANE: Thank you very much. Let me also add my appreciation to the Fund and those who have organized this press conference, and also to Minister Ssendaula for the introductory remarks that touched on all the key issues which we may probably elaborate on.
Let me make a few comments on the NEPAD. I think it is important to recognize that NEPAD constitutes a framework in which the Africans themselves are going to address their own internal problems and issues, and how they are going to engage with the rest of the world.
What are these issues? A key factor in the NEPAD is the peace, which is recognized as a precondition for sustainable development. And what have the Africans done particularly in the Great Lakes? It has been the Africans who have been leading that process. South Africa, Tanzania and others, they have been involved in that. They recently signed peace agreement in Arusha for Burundi and the Great Lakes, also for DRC. All this shows that even without the rest of the world taking an active part, you do have the Africans taking initiatives.
The countries that have provided the troops, you have South Africa and you have Ethiopia, which does not have much by way of resources, but it has made a contribution towards peace and stability which has been emphasized. And when you look at the problems—I am sure my colleague from Liberia will elaborate on—in Sierra Leone, we also see that the West African States, have all played a very key role.
It is a pity that we do have a few new conflicts emerging such as those in Cote d'Ivoire, but let us not lose sight of the broad direction that the NEPAD framework provides, which is the Africans themselves beginning to address their own problems and issues. Secondly, in terms of looking at the institutions of governance, and in my own country, we did have the SADC countries participating, when we had a crisis.
So although the resources are limited and we have to call on countries that do not have resources to help such as Ethiopia and the case of East Africa and so on, and we should not minimize the impact that the diversion of international attention will have on our development.
Clearly the attention is now on Iraq. Yesterday it was on Kosovo and Eastern Europe, and we still have to struggle for resources, and we still have to struggle for institutions. And development being a long-term process, we do need the support of the international community in general.
MR. DAUDA: I would like to associate myself with the things which my colleagues have said. Coming from a post-conflict country, I would like particularly to endorse the observations made by the Governor of the Central Bank of West Africa from Cote d'Ivoire, to really emphasize the need for Africa to try to resolve some of our conflicts. As the victims of conflict situations, we have had to undergo a series of problems in terms of implementing some of our development policies.
The priority in countries which are going through wars mainly are focused on trying to restore peace and stability, a very fundamental necessity for formulating any economic development. In that case, for example, currently in the West African sub region the conflicts in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire have had very adverse effects on our own development plans. If you take Cote d'Ivoire where the African Development Bank was located, the disruption of the activities of the bank there are having a very great impact on the project implementation in that particular area of the region.
The ongoing conflict in Liberia is also posing a threat to us, even though we in our country have a secured peace and we are building on that, the continued struggle in Liberia is posing a great threat to the sustainability of our security. It is therefore, I believe, of fundamental importance that we concentrate more on trying to resolve some of our internal conflicts as a prerequisite for development, for achieving our development aspirations.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Minister Radavidson, please?
MR. RADAVIDSON: Regarding NEPAD, Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean, and beyond the awareness building among African countries to get out of the current crisis to self-regulate their own development, we see NEPAD as a tool for better integration of all African countries and neighboring countries.
This is a market that's opening, a market that will be more accessible in the future. A colleague has mentioned the problem of accessibility of markets in industrial countries. In that regard, NEPAD for us is a market that's more accessible to our own countries, given the weakness of our economies.
In this regard, I believe that partners of our continent must help us support our efforts in building infrastructure so that there can be more integration among African economies, and in our view, this will give us an additional impetus in building up our economies because we are going to be trading among ourselves.
QUESTION: The recent WTO talk suggests that neither agricultural subsidies or trade barriers are going to come down any time soon. The discussions in Paris a couple of weeks ago, aimed at getting some $400 million for education for about 7 countries only resulted in 200 million. The Bank and the Fund themselves, speaking on things like the Millennium Challenge Accounts and the Global AIDS Fund, say that when it comes to the African region, that African nations fall far short of getting the kind of money that's needed to address some of these tremendous problems. Is there any reason for you all to be encouraged at this meeting that you'll get anything approaching the kind of resources that you need to tackle some of these problems any time soon?
MR. THAHANE: I think you are correct in the observations you have made. Clearly, WTO discussions and the forthcoming meeting in Cancun are critical, but we do see some problems, and the alternatives are just not there. What we have to do is to press on, and during these meetings we do expect to press on the developed countries to show them that there is no way we can achieve Millennium goals if we do not have sustainable access to markets in terms of dealing with our own domestic resource expansions on mobilization.
Second, you have pointed out correctly that education is one of those areas, universal education, but it's very expensive. In the case of Lesotho we have inter-used three primary education up to the fourth year, and we find that this is very. Now, what is the point of agreeing on these universal goals if we cannot put the resources to obtain them? That's one of the messages that we have to bring here as African ministers, that some of this will not be achieved unless all of us begin to put our monies where our mouth is.
And equally, when you begin to deal with the World Bank and the IMF, particularly the World Bank, there are replenishments that have to be made and which are very large, and even if we want to trade among each other, you need the infrastructure to move goods from A to B, and that's where we need the investment money.
The private sector is an alternative, but the private sector does need the infrastructure. We can deal with the legal and regulatory framework, but the ability to move things from A to B, the ability to provide power, the ability to provide telecommunications, those require heavy investments, and it is those kinds of things that we hope to raise at these meetings with the institutions.
Mr. Ssendaula, would you like to elaborate a little bit more on that issue?
MR. SSENDAULA: Let me assure my friend that like with everything else, you don't expect that at that very meeting you're going to get everything that you require. The most important point that's now really getting clearer day by day, that African awareness is getting greater and greater, like the remarks that have just been made. They are very encouraging, that Africa is getting to realize what is making it remain stagnant over the years.
And as we—like every patient, when you get to know what disease you suffer from, then you look for treatment. Sometimes self-inflicted. Then worse, on the one hand it talked about the possibility of solving it through the regional bodies.
And now that we are here at these meetings, we need to take this opportunity to show to the other part, to get them to realize that the people they are dealing with are getting more and more mature and more serious about solving their problems.
So even if we may not get everything that we need at a go, we are here, and we are set to be here, and we are serious to put our case.
QUESTION: In the discussions leading up to the spring meetings, there has been lots of talk of increasing the African voice in the Boards of the IMF and the World Bank. This comes from the Monterrey Conference. One such proposal was to increase the number of Executive Directors, so there would be at least three representing the African countries.
It seems now that we understand that there will be no such proposal at these meetings, that there will be no more African Executive Directors, only perhaps some more administrative capacities for the two directors which now represent more than 40 countries. Are you satisfied with that?
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Governor Banny, would you like to take that question, please?
MR. KONAN BANNY: I think the international community has to be consistent. A few years ago the international community was—and especially the international financial community wanted to make the IMF and the World Bank universal institutions, and among the achievements of the past years, we can say that these institutions today have actually become universal, and if indeed they are universal, I think all parts of the world, all countries of the world must participate in decision-making instances, and there comes the inconsistency. How do you bring all countries in the world to participate in decision making in universal institutions?
We have to take definitive commitment for this to happen, so we have to know that the world is governed also, for better or for worse, by conflicting forces. So we have to be realistic and try to find a solution. If we are realistic, we are going to find a solution, but let me stress the fact that to participate in decision making, will not only happen in the organizations that represent us. It is not only a matter of the number of votes that we have. So another way to participate in the decision, we have to add some value and intellectual value added.
There's also a problem of capacity building, of training. African representatives, even if they represent weak countries economically, we have to add enough intellectual value, and that's what the minister was saying. We are here and we are participating in the decision making on the intellectual front because we are bringing something different, something more. So we have problems of education, of capacity building that have to be taken into account so that we can participate. We can be the best intellectually if we have the capacities and the intellectual power that we need.
So these meetings are very interesting, because through you it make us talk about Africa so that the world knows about Africa. You can tell your readers or viewers that there are people who are talking about Africa, saying serious things, interesting things. Even if they don't have the power in those institutions, they have something nice and interesting to day.
QUESTION: It has been nearly a year since, with considerable fanfare, the African leaders at a meeting of the G-7/G-8 presented NEPAD. One doesn't get the feeling that there has been any significant progress.
I wonder if you could give a report card on, if we can call it this first year, of NEPAD, as endorsed by the G-7, and what we can expect in terms of progress over the next 12 months, in this process of peer review, institution building, et cetera.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: On the progress of the NEPAD, Minister Thahane is volunteering, and then I will maybe ask Mr. Ssendaula, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Caucus, to elaborate.
MR. THAHANE: I think maybe the question should be put to the G-7, G-8, about what they are doing to implement their undertakings in Kananakis.
But let me tell you what we are seeing from our side. Yes, there is a lot that has been done. There was a meeting in Abuja where the issue of the peer review was discussed, which is part of NEPAD. I think about 14 countries were identified and are ready, and to the 14 I can add Lesotho, so it's 15 countries—and there may be more—which are ready to go on the peer review.
Second, there have been meetings to deal with regional cooperation, and there have been meetings in the sub region in SADC where we have also been looking at how to mobilize investment from the regions and also identifying other elements.
I have already told you about the conflict resolution, where the Africans are taking an initiative. Clearly, this is the year in which we all are setting the framework, building the institutions and the processes. For the Kananakis, I am aware from the least developed countries that Canada has granted duty-free access to the LDCs, in which there are many in Africa. Most of them are in Africa.
There is also the EU, which has made some concessions. There are also some things that have been done in terms of trying to move aid from the projects to the programs by some of the bilateral in the G-7.
Now, I cannot tell you what has happened because Kananakis at each of the G -7 will work bilaterally. They will not work collectively. It is only when you come to the next summit when there's a review that each one will report how much they have done. But we are hopeful that there will be cooperation and that they will come to the party, and deliver on their promises.
MR. SSENDAULA: Thank you very much.
What progress has been made last year? There has been a lot of progress in that we are developing a new institution, a new institution which can be with a lot of new innovations. For example, the idea of peer review. Even if you look to the developed world, peer review was not something they have used in the past. It is coming up for the very first time.
I have attended most of the heads of state summits on NEPAD on behalf of my President. I attended one in Dakar which brought together most of the heads of states, plus other people, who wanted to know more about NEPAD. Then we added two meetings in Abuja. But at each of these meetings there is progress accorded.
It is accorded when you are seeing that we are now moving an extra step to put in place an institution, which was not there, and which, of course, as new components that are commonly known to most people. For example, we have made progress on the peer review, which is actually the central point under which most of the developed countries are keen to buy into NEPAD.
We have identified institutions that will be able to develop the necessary areas for peer review, because we want to know what is it that you're going to be looking for. What amount of argument are you going to bring across?
Of course, what has been happening generally when the IMF teams have been coming, they more or less have been doing peer review indirectly, in that they have been touching several things on governance and so on. But most people are not that excited on the one hand, but when you put it together on paper and do realize you are moving away from a situation where we had an OAU charter which stated you should never interfere in the internal affairs of other states, but you are introducing now an arrangement that is going to allow peer review into other states. So you have to be very accommodating in seeing that you move the people gradually. So there has been progress.
I can tell you that soon we should be able to come up with more or less a final blueprint on those countries that have accepted to be peer reviewed and under what conditions, so that you signify that everyone knows. But here we should have a blueprint for each member country which has accepted to be peer reviewed, and they have signed to say yes, you will be free to look into governance, accountability. You will be free to assess me on A, B, C, D and so on and so forth.
At the next African Union meeting, which is due to be held in Maputo, definitely there will be a final word from the African leadership on NEPAD.
MR. KONAN BANNY: Allow me to add a few words to what Minister Ssendaula just said, and indeed, confirm, because I, too, was involved in several of those meetings dealing through this year and next year to the implementation of NEPAD. I can assure you that yes, indeed, important progress has been made. Some have already been mentioned.
But what I would like to add is that NEPAD is not just peer review. That is one of the pillars, yes, but NEPAD also involves a whole series of projects and programs to promote Africa's development.
On this particular issue, industrial countries in the context of the G-7/G-8 have made certain commitments and, indeed, they are entitled to ask African countries what are the project and the programs that they will submit so that, together, we can reach the goals, the millennium goals.
On this particular point, as far as the whole region is concerned, I can assure you that the Avian summit to be held, I believe, in June, will see us present proposals of projects and programs in the field of infrastructure, among others, and at that point I am convinced that our partners will be able to implement the commitments they made. Progresses have been made.
QUESTION: HIPC has been taken off the agenda for the meetings, the current set of meetings. Is that something that concerns you?
The second question, are any of your countries currently on track to meet the Millennium Development goals?
MR. THAHANE: I think Minister Ssendaula indicated there was a review by the Africans of the countries in Malawi recently. They looked at the progress, and the issues have been clearly identified. The question was simply what value can be added at this meeting beyond what has been--it was in March, I believe, that we reviewed this in Africa.
So you are beginning to see, given the shortness of time, what are the items that we can add value in. They have reached the decision point, if you want to use the same phrase.
Our concern is not the item not being on the agenda. It is the resources and the financing and the sustainability. Those issues we will press, whether it's on the agenda or not on the agenda. We will continue to press ahead, seriously, because the commitments have been made and our people are expecting some results. And we must deliver. So whether the item is on the agenda or not is not the issue.
Now, the second question was meeting the millennium goals. The millennium goals, it's very difficult to say this is due to be met by 2015, and we are at 2003, which is the beginning. So many countries in Africa are examining the institutional and the policy frameworks for beginning to address those.
I mentioned that we started before the millennium, before the Monterey conference, on primary education. While I can say yes, we have made a start, I cannot say that we will meet or not meet those goals, because it's a function of resources on the one hand. Equally, if you are talking about water and sanitation, you have to review your budgets and see how much you are allocating, if there is room for redirection, and where do you take it from. So I think most of the African countries are in the process of reviewing their budgets, looking at their priorities, and looking at their financability over time.
But what has become clear for many countries, in terms of their review, is that the resources are not sufficient, especially given the HIV/AIDS pandemic that we are having, which is threatening to reverse the development gains we have made. This is a very serious resource-intensive and intellectual and manpower and financial, and we need to address that one.
Second, we are dealing again with the issues of famine in southern Africa. That also distorts our budgets, So some of the millennium goals are long term, but in between we have these factors which arise from the weather, some which arise maybe in the case of Cote d'Ivoire, where we will say the conflict has intervened. But the effort and the commitment to do something is there.
But it is not been driven by the millennium goals. It is because we, as Africans, consider them priority areas. We consider them necessary. That is what we're engaged in. It's a process that must take us on to 2015.
MR. KONAN BANNY: Let me add just a word.
You can say the African countries are still committed to the millennium goal, but the African countries are on track. They are not off track; they are on track to meet the millennium goals. This is the message I think we should give, and it's a very important message. We are on track. That's why we are here. By coming here, we want the international community to help us to meet the millennium goal.
Ms. MBOTO FOUDA: Before we take some further questions, I would like to bring one clarification. This is on the HIPC. I would mention that, as of today, the HIPC is on the agenda of the IMFC meeting which is to take place tomorrow, along with the PRGF and other key issues. We should be very clear on that.
QUESTION: The issue of NEPAD, it is not being seen largely as Africa's program.
I want to find out from you what specific legislative framework has been made in any African country to ensure that if people leave government, NEPAD will still be sustained.
Secondly, on the issue of development in Africa, we also know there has been this problem of free movement of troops and people across borders. I know in West Africa the Central banks are very enthusiastic about the West African monetary union. But from the political leadership, there has not been that enthusiasm. So what exactly are you looking forward to achieving in terms of integration and regarding the movement of people and goods.
MR. SSENDAULA: I would only answer on the ownership of NEPAD. Movement of goods in Africa, that one I tried to overrule the lack of frustration that would bring us together. That's what I think we need to achieve, or aiming at achieving, if we were to implement programs and NEPAD.
It is very difficult. For example we are trying on dairy products in Western Africa from East Africa's point of view. People in Nigeria found that the price of milk was almost four times it would possibly be in eastern Africa and Uganda. A liter of milk is about four times the price in West Africa. But then can we get the milk from East Africa to West Africa, and how fast could we do it, if we are ever to do it.
The same goes for a number of commodities. In fact, some states buy the same commodities from Europe. The same African goods are exported to Europe and then another African country imports the same goods from Europe. This is unfortunate. But under the NEPAD program, we hope that will possibly be worked on and improve our infrastructure, so we can reach each other. You have to appreciate that even as we call for the developed world to open up their markets for us, we need to open our markets to each other within even Africa itself.
Now, NEPAD ownership, I think you really can accept that the ownership is all shared. Apart from those you have mentioned, the initiators, the rest of Africa is endorsed in NEPAD and all the programs that goes with NEPAD. We have had about three countries operating or having members running a day seminar on the objectives of NEPAD, what is intended to be achieved under NEPAD.
For example, in Uganda last week, we had the entire secretariat of NEPAD talking to the Ugandan parliamentarians, a one-day workshop on NEPAD. So really, the foundation is strong for NEPAD and I think it has come to stay. It is another program that certainly is going to embrace those things that requires us to really embrace.
QUESTION: Mr. Banny, we're talking more and more about a possible devaluation of the CFA franc. Are these rumors, or are these decisions that your institution will have to take soon, this issue of devaluation of the CFA franc.
MR. KONAN BANNY: It's a rumor at least. I'm sorry, but it hadn't reached me so far.
See, there you are. You're talking about it. You're the journalist and you're the one talking about it, so maybe we should ask journalists.
No, this is a serious topic. I am delighted when I meet the press, provided that such meetings are useful. Our problems are already complicated enough. So when things are going well, why is the press always trying to make things more difficult, thus making the work of Africans more difficult? We have fragile economies. For once, in Africa, we have a currency that is convertible, that is well managed.
Yesterday that question was asked to President Wade, who was speaking in Paris. I got a phone call this morning and somebody said to me, "President Wade congratulated you and the BCEAO on your monetary management," specifying that the Governor of the Central Bank is so precise in his monetary management that our currency is a solid currency. It is not automatically tied to any future severe crisis.
Let's look at fundamentals here. Earlier I mentioned intellectual contribution. We need to abide by some fundamentals and not think that because we are Africans it means economic fundamentals or other elements have to be looked at from a tropical perspective. I am totally against this approach. Look at the fundamentals, and I'm convinced that tropic perspective and tropical press will not be able to impose things we do not need to worry about this, from a financial or economic point of view. We do not have to worry about this for now.
QUESTION: I want to make sure what kind of support you would like to have from the international community and what kind of progress you have made. Another question is that the Minister mentioned that there is a need for a new leadership. Could you please talk more about that? Do you mean international leadership?
MR. KONAN BANNY: Yes, we need new leadership. Here you have new leadership. You have concretely a new leadership, people who are coming from Africa, who are aware of the difficulties that the countries are facing, and the commitment is clear--to solve them.
Some years ago we didn't hear the same sound. It was different. Some years ago it was failing us as being responsible for African problems. Now it's different. This is new leadership.
We need a new leadership on the political scene as well. I guess this new leadership will come from what I see here. I am certain of that. It is very important. And a new leadership comes from the institutional framework, a strong institution, political and economic institution, stability. That's the new leadership.
The institutional framework in Africa has been sometimes too weak. We should go beyond the ownership, you see. One of your friends says what will become of NEPAD if the president in no longer in office. This is not the way I see the problem. It is not a personal issue. It's the institution. The ownership for the people, that's what I call the new leadership. This new leadership is emerging in Africa.
That is why we say that our participation through the international decision should come from the added value and, intellectually, this comes from the new leadership. These are some of the ingredients of what I call the new leadership of Africa.
MR. SSENDAULA: What is it we need? I think it has been very clear over the years as to what we need. We have clearly stated over the years that we have a problem of debt. We have inherited a very large debt stock. In some of the countries, servicing the debt costs them as high as $80 for every $100 they earn. So that is something that needs to be addressed.
There are going to be questions as to what happened? Where did the money go? When you contracted the debt, that stayed. Well, we are not very competent in answering most of the questions and providing detailed accountability, but again, when you consider the harsh times of trade, they have also contributed in making it difficult for us to pay the debt. It is possible that some of these debts were contracted under a pure understanding that our commodities which we export were not as much, so then we contracted the debt to either put the debt in infrastructure, put the debt in improving our position in whatever form. But now we are not in a position to pay. So that is point number one.
We are saying, given that we are being condemned for the position we are in as poor, our neighbors are with us when they are having this poverty in their midst. So we are saying to our rich brothers and sisters that we need assistance to improve on our infrastructure.
We also call upon them to come and participate in economies, so that we are able to have added value to our products we are exporting. On the one hand, that is also an impediment on each occasion. Then we are also saying that we need money to meet the millennium goals which we consider to be extremely vital.
You are not going to get rid of poverty unless you are getting good drinking water. Every day you're in a hospital, the diseases will be catching up with you every time. So you really need good water. That is a millennium goal.
You need education. It is vital for you to even know the simplest medical prescription, so when it says two by two, you don't misunderstand it to mean something else.
Then you also need to be able to come forward and give your position with the rest of the world. So there is another millennium goal. We are saying, these millennium goals, we need to meet them. They are properly conceived and we are seeking assistance to see that we meet these.
Of course, of late there has been a drop in support of finance infrastructure. As already stated, can we even trade within Africa? We have been talking about benefiting from regional integration. Yes, we have formed these bodies. But then within themselves, when you're looking at SADC, you look at the West African and eastern central COMESA can we even trade with each other? Can we reach each other? So we need more money to be injected into the infrastructure so that we can reach each other.
We need it from everybody. We need it from China, as we need it from any other country.
MS. MBOTO FOUDA: Thank you, Mr. Minister.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for coming. Thank you, Mr. Ministers, for your time.
[Whereupon, at 12:10 p.m, the press conference adjourned.]