The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, is on his way to Heiligendamm to take part in Friday’s outreach talks at the G8 Summit.
But Thabo Mabaso says it’s worth remembering that the G8 isn’t the only global forum where decisions about Africa are made.
This week at the Alternative G8 Summit in Rostock I talked with Hassen Lorgat, a well-known NGO lobbyist in South Africa.
He mentioned an important, yet little acknowledged fact: while African nations and groups recognise the importance of bodies like the G8, there is growing discomfort that this club of rich nations does not speak for everyone, especially the African continent.
Most importantly, he added: “We recognise that nothing can happen for us without us”.
Africa faces what to some may seem to be insurmountable problems. HIV and AIDS, poverty, the effects of climate change, underdevelopment. The list is long. There have been countless attempts to try and sort these problems out. But these have failed dismally for various reasons.
The one thread that seems to bind all these efforts is a complete disregard for Africa itself. The dictatorial communiqués from such well-known bodies as the IMF and World Bank - in the form of structural adjustment programmes - have, if anything, worsened the socio-economic status of Africa.
This time around, however, Africa has taken steps towards being the master of its own destiny. Initiatives like the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) call for the engagement of the continent in all efforts to improve the lives of its economies and people.
Conceptualised and led by South African president Thabo Mbeki, the NEPAD initiative is an important departure from previous efforts. Besides pressing for development of the continent, the initiative also recognises that that a number of non-negotiable criteria need to be met before development can take place.
It talks about the need to establish institutions of good governance on the continent, the respect for human rights, the holding of regular free and fair elections. Through the initiative the people of Africa have also loudly and clearly said that nobody can or should “talk about us without us”.
While it’s important that people like Thabo Mbeki become part and parcel of the deliberations about Africa at the G8 summit, forums like NEPAD provide a welcome Africa-led alternative.
Gone is the era when a group of old colonialists sat around a table and divided Africa among themselves as if it were a piece of cake. Africa acknowledges that we have problems. To solve them we need the input of all, especially our citizens.
[A version of this article will appear in die tageszeitung newspaper on 8 June 2007]