Addressing the Johannesburg +2 Conference, a follow-up event to the WSSD held in South Africa two years ago, Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, chairperson of the New Partnership for Africa's Development's (Nepad) steering committee, stressed that Africa is serious about sustainable development.
He commented that the resolve of African countries, to deliver in the areas of economic and social development and environmental protection, is getting stronger.
Nepad, Nkuhlu argued, is a fitting platform for implementing sustainable development in Africa, as it embraces the principles of economic growth and social development, based on the 'millennium goals', as set out by the United Nations' Millennium Declaration.
He also praised the “sterling efforts” on the continent during the last two years, including the opening of the African Parliament, which Nkuhlu said was an “important step towards sustainable development”.
In addition, some 22 countries have now implemented the African peer review and the World Bank has approved $500-million for research and development in Africa.
In an effort towards achieving the objectives of the WSSD, African nations have agreed to increase investment in agriculture and food production to 10% of their national budgets, Nkuhlu pointed out, and added that the African Union has already detailed several plans and projects related to conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
“This is only the beginning of a long-term investment, but it is a foundation. However, this foundation is very weak and, to strengthen it, we need to support capacity building through partnerships, in line with Nepad objectives,” he said.
Commenting on economic growth, Nkuhlu argued that Africa is moving in the right direction, with the continent's economy growing by 3,7% in 2003, compared to 2,9% in 2002.
More African countries' economies are now growing at a rate of over 5% a year, he stated.
“The tide is turning, and Africa must be applauded and supported. But the greatest challenges remain speedy action, capacity building and mobilisation of resources,” he added.
“It is important to note that we can't sustain improvements unless we enhance the material resources of countries. While Africa can also do more, the international community must meet its commitments. Development assistance must start flowing.”