H.E. SHEIKH PROFESSOR ALHAJI DR. YAHYA A.J.J JAMMEH,
2nd AFRICA-SOUTH AMERICA SUMMIT
IN ISLA MARGARITA, BOLIVARIAN
REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA
26TH - 27TH SEPTEMBER 2009
I will begin by thanking the Almighty Allah for according us the opportunity to meet in this beautiful Isla Margarita for the Second Africa South America Summit . On behalf of my delegation, I wish to thank His Excellency President Commander Hugo Chavez Frias, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Government and people of Venezuela most warmly for hosting this important summit and for the warm welcome and hospitality since our arrival.
Since our first summit in Abuja three years ago, we have made progress in strengthening the bilateral ties between Africa and South American countries. The volume of trade has expanded over the years and the number of diplomatic missions doubled, with Venezuela alone having 47 African missions out of the 53 African countries. Three years ago we declared plans to increase greater cooperation between African and the South American Community of Nations in the economic sector and expand cooperation in the political and cultural areas. Amid plan to stimulate South-South Cooperation, are the setting up of, an Africa South America Bank, and the adoption of common positions in World Trade Organizations (WTO) and Doha Round of negotiations as well as other multilateral organisations.
Our World is going through difficult times - from the food and the energy crisis, the financial meltdown, and the current recession of the world economy. The current economic predicament, though having origins outside the metropolis of the Southern hemisphere, has a direct adverse impact on the livelihoods and the development opportunities of millions of people in the so called developing countries of the South. This current recession has made it all the more imperative for us to promote and strengthen the spirit of South-South cooperation and to create the conducive environment for trade and investment. It is only through such a measure that we can do away with the status quo of the exploitation of our vast natural resources.
The politics of unilateralism, protectionism, deregulation and double standards prevailing in the international area, and which, as countries of the South we have so vehemently condemned, have partly if not wholly, resulted in the current global crisis.
Looking at the historical and cultural ties between our two Regions, we have a common heritage that we cannot ignore. Bearing in mind the collective efforts of the populations of African descent in the development of South America and that of South American countries in the political independence and development of the African continent, I strongly believe that coming together is the only viable option in tackling the present challenges we face in common. Sustained economic growth and development of our two regions can only be fostered and realized through South-South Cooperation. In so doing, we must not forget to push for a reform agenda at the International level which will not thwart the aspirations of millions of people in the developing world; our solidarity and collective resolve will put an end to unilateralism and exclusion, and provide an opportunity for all countries of the South to achieve meaningful socio-economic development for their respective peoples. It is against this backdrop that The Gambia fully supports initiatives undertaken at the level of the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) where, as developing countries, we feel we have the strength and unity of purpose to push against the current threats posed by globalization, unilateralism, and marginalization. In my view therefore, an Africa-South America Cooperation will provide a stronger platform not only to push for a reform agenda at the global level, but to pursue common objectives for the common benefit of the people of our two regions.
If we are to learn lessons from the recent food crisis, it is of utmost importance to bear in mind the need for preparedness for food security. The crisis came at a time when most countries south of the globe were not adequately prepared to absorb its hocks, with the resultant consequences of millions of people going hungry. We must therefore all endeavor to enhance the development of Agriculture, Water Resource and Energy. It is imperative to come up with articulated policies allowing for food security, particularly access to food. Cooperation through exchange of experiences will in no small measure boost food production and enhance full utilization of our water resources for the benefit of our peoples. Therefore, my delegation fully supports the revitalization of agriculture to boost social and economic development and achieve nutritional and food security in Africa through the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP), which is the starting point for cooperation in the area of agriculture and agro-industry. Agriculture is the backbone of the Gambian economy and as such, persistent awareness campaigns are launched aimed at getting all Gambians to understand the rationale behind the nation being self sufficient in food, particularly in staple foods such as rice and vegetables. Through our cooperation therefore, the ideas which will provide adequate food for our peoples and promote sustainable use of water resources for agricultural and industrial purposes must be promoted and harnessed for universal benefit.
Given the double standards employed in the implementation and negotiations of trade policies, I am sure everybody here present will agree with me that our two regions have to fully cooperate in trade matters if we are to maximize the gains from any benefits accruing from the Multilateral Trading System. Our trade Ministers have recognized that fostering South-South trade and investment have the potential to enhance opportunities and contribute to the growth of our developing economies. Therefore this forum should provide the opportunity to reiterate the need for South-South trade relations in both agricultural and industrial goods, and to discuss ways of developing transparent, non-discriminatory, fair and undistorted trade. We must create a solid Trading block. Trade between our two regions also has the added advantages of reducing our dependence on the developed North as well as creating employment for our peoples and thereby assisting in income generation and reducing poverty. It will also lead to reciprocal investment in both regions leading to sustainable growth and development in the long term. We therefore stress the need to coordinate the positions of our two regions to promote the interest of developing countries giving particular attention to the peculiar challenges faced by the Developed Countries. We urge for the resumptions as soon as possible.
The recent energy crisis and the fluctuating price of oil compels all our countries to consolidate our efforts in order to exchange experiences and good practices relating to the wise and sustainable use of energy sources. With assistance from endowed countries in both regions, we should cooperate to develop energy saving technologies bearing in mind the escalating high cost of energy on our economies. It is my firm belief that clean, renewable, and alternative energy sources will be of vital importance if we are to meet our economic and social development objectives. The Government of The Gambia, being well aware of this fact has, albeit growing challenges and the capital intensive nature of the energy sector, put in place policy objectives particularly in the electricity sub sector, which are guided by the cardinal principles of providing reliable, efficient, and affordable electricity and water services to all Gambians. There is some registered progress in the provision of these services. However, due to high costs, my government fully supports the earlier mandate for AFREC and UNASUR to elaborate an energy strategy to promote sustainable development.
Education, Science, and Technology will guarantee a bright future for our countries and peoples. The current knowledge based economies of developed countries operating within the ambit of globalization have managed to lock out most of our countries away from the benefits of economic development and, in the process, hampered our opportunities for growth. In order to free ourselves from the plight of underdevelopment and deprivation, we must invest in education, science, and technology, particularly information technology. Our two regions must cooperate in these fields and exchange experiences. We must also come up with joint initiatives aimed at building capacity especially among our youthful populations. What I call the IT generation will be the driving force behind our nations in years to come. The capability to innovate cannot be overemphasized in this venture. Hence, African and South American Scientific Communities have to fully interact and exchange scientific-technical knowledge and foster the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), which, together with other technologies, will elevate human development in our regions. My Government has taken giant strides particularly in the education sectors. Enrolment rates have risen significantly and the University of The Gambia is positively contributing to knowledge and capacity building in the public and private sectors. Our cooperation will therefore reduce the digital divide, bring our peoples closer through the sharing of information, and facilitate innovation and exchange of ideas for development.
Given the global challenges we currently face, we should all leave Isla Margarita with greater resolve to speedily implement the Abuja Declaration as well as a firm commitment to strengthen inter-regional and South-South Cooperation which are the only viable routes towards the effective safeguard of our sovereignties, the beneficial management of our natural resources, and the development of our peoples.
I wish you all a fruitful summit and may Almighty Allah guide and protect our cooperation.
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