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Address by Dr. Akin Adesina, Member of the Technical Committee of the Partnership and Rockefeller Foundation Representative in Southern Africa

Summary of African Consultation Process

I am here as a son of Africa, to stand here today at the threshold of what I consider a historical moment in U.S./Africa relations, to substantially cut hunger and poverty in Africa. I work for the Rockefeller Foundation. Iím a member of the Technical Committee of the Partnership to Cut Hunger in Africa. The Rockefeller Foundation clearly and very strongly endorses this partnership to cut hunger in Africa. But I am here today, not as a speaker on behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation because, in fact, my boss is here, Robert Herdt, the Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation. He can make that strong a comment about what the Foundation thinks. But Iím here today to speak and add my voice as an African. I, like many here today, had a chance to rise out of poverty and have a world-class education because of opportunities.

But hundreds of millions are not as fortunate. Hunger and poverty restricts potentials for improved lives and livelihoods. The task, therefore, to cut hunger and poverty in Africa is enormous, especially given the challenges posed by the ravages of HIV/AIDS on the continent. As Africans, we are here to add voice to the need to help Africans achieve significant reduction in hunger and poverty. The challenges are clearly, no doubt, enormous. The battle is not for the faint of heart. We must remain undaunted in the face of challenges of hunger and poverty we see on the continent. The challenge we face is to turn things around via renewed support for an agricultural approach for reducing hunger and poverty and accelerating economic growth and development in Africa. I believe five principals are critical to this partnership to cure hunger and poverty in Africa.

First and fundamental, is the need to have a new attitude change towards Africa. How one attacks the challenges is determined by the way that one sees the problem. It will determine what we do, the breath and the depth of what we do, the speed of our response, and the courage with which we pursue the response to achieve our noble goals. We need to use new lenses to see Africa. We need lenses that see opportunities. Lenses that see potential. Lenses that see possibilities, not impossibilities. We need lenses that allow us to see that development of agriculture offers the most effective, long-term strategy for reduction in hunger and poverty in Africa.

Secondly, there is a need for decisive leadership. Our success depends on having solid leadership, trust and commitment at the very high levels in the United States and also in Africa. President Jimmy Carter, who we have just heard from, is one of the solid leaders of our time. Clearly one with unquestionably great results to see the problems of hunger and poverty reduced in Africa. The leaders of this initiative, President Konarť of Mali, President McPherson of Michigan State University, Senator Bob Dole, Congressman Hamilton and others are truly inspiring leaders. The African heads of state and high government officials, present at this meeting, by their presence at this meeting send a very important message. The message is very clear that government matters in our collective drive to cure hunger and poverty in Africa.

To address the challenges of reducing hunger and poverty, new roles must be found for governments. To work strategically in partnership with civil society and the centralized local authorities closest to the poor, one thing is very sure: you can trust this new African leadership.

Thirdly, the framework and plan of action for achieving this partnership must be inspired together with Africa, and then grounded in Africa. A partnership vision to cure hunger requires a framework for dialogue that is collective. It must be one that reflects the hopes and the aspirations of Africans themselves, and one that inspires the U.S. to commit. It must be a partnership based on common understanding, mutual self-respect and collective thought. It must be one based on exploring opportunities and expanding economic possibilities, not economic conditionality.

Fourth, there is need for a clear African voice. A voice which reflects the hope and aspirations of millions of our people in Africa. The development of the draft framework for this Partnership has, in fact, been a highly participatory and consultative process. Very early, as President McPherson said, it was decided that it was critical to build this partnership strategy with voice from Africa. After all, Africa is the target audience. The initiative started by actively listening to the voices of the hungry and the poor in the five-case study countries. These five-case study countries, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique and Uganda represent countries where governments have shown progress with democracy to governance with strong commitments to agriculture as a prime engine of broad-base economy growth and poverty reduction. You can call them countries on the move with agriculture on the move. The President of Mali, President Konarť started this process with consultations with other African heads of governments. There was a strong endorsement by the presidents. The heads of states then commissioned national consultations, led by very senior policy makers to review and to discuss the goals and strategies of this partnership. This process brought the faces of the poor and excluded to the table and clearly to the attention of national leaders and senior policymakers. The process also involved extensive consultations with African leading academics, scientists and civil society organizations. The excellent drive of the partnership paper by Jerome Wolgin of the World Bank was based on extensive review of previous work in Africa and builds on area dialogue in Africa. The drive documents were, and continue to be, debated by Africans. Yesterday, eminent technical experts from Africa debated this document and the U.S. response to it, in what was clearly a very transforming, frank and productive dialogue.

It seems to me that a true partnership is emerging, but as an emerging collective consensus. You will hear from the African National Coordinators of this initiative on their perspectives. You will hear from them that we mean business in Africa. The issue is no longer whether Africa claims the 21st century, the issue is Africa is ready to claim the 21st century, but with strategic partners. Africa sees the U.S. as its strategic partner in its effort to cut hunger, reduce poverty and post a broad-base, agricultural-led economic growth.

Fifth and finally, in the context of globalization, there is need for a fast-track approach to development to improve the access and competitiveness of Africa in global markets to accelerate the access to science, communication and information technologies. Africa is a continent with an area mass that can easily fit within it, China, U.S., India, Europe, Argentina, and New Zealand. It is a continent where U.S. stands to make strong economic partners. An Africa that is economically strong, with substantial increase in food security, income and education, health infrastructures is good for the U.S. It makes sound economic sense for the United States to invest in Africa. But when all this is said, and when all this is done, we need to have faith and hope in Africa.

Today we are planting the seed of hope to cut hunger and poverty in Africa. As we bury poverty, we can be sure that if we plant the right seeds of change, stay with it, with a commitment for the long term, what will emerge is a new field of prosperity in Africa. It will be an Africa where every person is able to reach his full potential. With access to food, education, health and new income streams for buying even more goods and services. Itís the right time to sow with Africa. Let us sow the right seeds. Let us, with new strength of purpose and resolve, and commitment, stop hunger and poverty in Africa. Let us see an Africa where kids can run around well-fed, healthy and with opportunities to reach their full potential. Hunger is real and poverty is real. Agriculture in this new Africa offers the most effective strategy for ending hunger and poverty on a long-term basis. Let us arise and take bold and decisive steps in this partnership to cure hunger and poverty in Africa. Let us vote for agriculture to cure hunger and poverty. Let us renew major U.S. support for agriculture in Africa.

Thank you. God bless America and God bless Africa.

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