New Partnership for Africa's Development
Delivered to the General Assembly by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 25 October 2013
Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
No one would argue that the countries of Africa have had more than their fair share of difficulties. Despite their many challenges, the continent is rich in talent, energy and hope – the building blocks needed to unlock the continent’s vast potential.
My understanding of Africa does not come from Hollywood movies or stories in National Geographic. I speak from personal experience. As a young child living in what was then Tanganyika, I recall the warmth and sense of community of the African people. I also vividly remember the feeling of excitement that followed when nations earned their independence.
In the 1950s and 1960s, dozens of African countries pulled down the flags of their colonial powers and raised their own. Since then, nation after nation has begun the difficult transition from war towards peace, from dictatorship towards democracy, and from poverty towards economic stability.
We are here today to discuss the progress in Africa’s development. NEPAD is an initiative led by Africans for Africa. It provides unique opportunities for African countries to take control of their development agenda, to work together, and to cooperate more effectively with their international partners.
From Zululand to Yorubaland and from the Nile River to the Niger River, NEPAD is helping to advance Africa’s common goals. You could say that NEPAD is the launching pad for Africa in the new millennium.
The nations and people of Africa have made tremendous progress on the path towards greater prosperity. Yet for all the promise and opportunity on the horizon, there are still daunting challenges including extreme poverty, drought, famine, conflict, and gender disparity.
In Burkina Faso, the average working day for men is 8.5 hours, but for women it is 14 hours. In Gabon, women perform 95 percent of farm work and usually work 15 hours of day. In contrast, even during peak agricultural periods, men spend only about 2 or 3 hours a day on agriculture. Studies show that if African women were given the same access as men to vocational training and technology, the Africa’s economy would expand by at least 40 percent. This is a staggering figure – and one that cannot be ignored.
It goes without saying that the African nations have primary responsibility for their social and economic development. But the international community must do all it can to support their efforts.
In its earliest days, Israel was a fledgling state barely able to provide for its own. It was surrounded by enemies and struggled to cope with the absorption of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
In 1958 then-Foreign Minister, Golda Meir, travelled to the African content and saw the many challenges shared between the African nations and Israel. She said (and I quote), “Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to live together, and how to defend ourselves.”
Driven by the Jewish value of tikkun olam - the obligation of every person to play a part in making this world a better place - we launched an ambitious program to share our nation-building knowledge with the newborn countries of Africa.
Today, Israel is an oasis of innovation in an otherwise arid region. We have more start-up companies than many of the world’s wealthiest countries. Our doctors and researchers have made medical breakthroughs that have saved countless lives. We lead the world in green technologies like solar power and desalination. And our scientists have found innovative ways to vastly expand the yield and quality of crops.
Israel has been eager to share the secrets of its success with the rest of the world. Through MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Cooperation, we are sharing our innovative solutions with countries throughout Africa and around the world.
Israelis are helping save lives through organizations like Save a Child’s Heart that provides pediatric cardiac care to children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease. This organization has helped thousands of children around the world including from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and Angola.
An Israeli irrigation company introduced low-pressure, low-cost drip irrigation systems for subsistence farmers, providing them with enough water to raise crops year round. In the Kenyan village of Kitui, farmers began using this system instead of hauling water from wells. They saw a 140 percent increase in harvested yield and a 200 percent increase in income.
Israeli scientists are also helping overcome many of the most pressing problems faced by African farmers. After discovering that 50 percent of every grain and pulse harvest in the developing world is lost to pests and mold, Israeli researchers designed inexpensive bags that protect crops from water and air. These bags are being used by countless African farmers to keep their grain market-fresh.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is what NEPAD is about - Africans forging Africa's future, together.
A new wave of optimism is sweeping through the plains, mountains and savannahs of Africa. But in order for this optimism to take hold, every child and every family and every community must have the opportunity to build a brighter future.
So let us pledge to empower the people of Africa. Let us commit to ensuring they have equal opportunities. And let us strive to ensure a brighter future for all of Africa’s people.
As musical superstar Shakira says in her song, “This time for Africa:”
Today’s your day
I feel it
You paved the way
This time for Africa!
Thank you Madam President.