Speech Delivered on The Launch of Africa Human Development Report 15.5.2012
H.E. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Mr. Eugene Owusu, UN Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator, and UNDP Resident Representative, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me at the outset express my sincere appreciation to the UNDP for inviting me to jointly launch the first-ever African Human Development Report 2012. The report under the theme “Towards a Food Secure Future” is indeed important as it addresses one of Africa’s profound problems of food insecurity and helps us to consider where we are currently, what have been our major challenges and best experiences, what are the pitfalls a head, and what should be the sequence of next steps towards a food secure future for Africa.
The launching of this report at a time when most countries in the Horn of Africa are still struggling to mitigate the effects of last year’s drought, and famine in some parts of Somalia, makes it even more relevant and timely. As we all of us know, this part of Africa has been prone to drought, famine and other natural calamities which, in most cases, led our region to experience acute food insecurity.
In the world of food surpluses, sub-Sahara Africa unfortunately remains the world’s most food insecure region and has been repeatedly exposed to hunger and malnutrition. In this context, what occurred in the Horn of Africa in particular in Somalia last year and in the Sahel region of West Africa this year are dire reminders of the necessity of addressing the common challenge of food insecurity.
The report has indeed been beneficial in terms of providing us deep analysis of the various factors which prohibited Sub-Sahara Africa from achieving food security but also in exploring the paradox of why hunger and malnutrition continue to be so prevalent and pervasive in the continent. Furthermore, it suggests policy options and technical solutions in four critical and interrelated areas that need especial focus on enhancing agricultural productivity in sustainable manner, introducing an effective nutritional policy, empowering communities, rural population and women.
Despite some economic growth, food insecurity is yet critical in most of the African countries, in particular in Sub-Sahara Africa. There are different reasons for this. Today’s challenges differ from the past when food insecurity often understood and associated only with lack of economic growth which has still a major bearing on the efforts to secure food self-sufficiency. Today, African states are faced, in addition to economic difficulties, with new threats and challenges. These include extreme poverty, contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, climate change, internal violence and conflicts, terrorism, transnational organized crimes, human trafficking, corruption-to cite a few.
These challenges underline the need to critically look at our economic policies and development strategies, the over-all direction of good governance, the fight against corruption which endangers economic and social development, the rule of law and social equality in Africa. Another equally important area, which is mentioned in the report but needs to be stressed more, for achieving sustainable food security, is to refocus our priority on gender equality. This is especially true in Africa where women account for half of the population and represent an important untapped source of economic growth and development. The African countries therefore should fully mainstream gender into all dimensions of development plan, including food security strategies.
Africa should be assisted to reduce its venerability to climate change that is generally affecting the agricultural production which is one of the main sources for ensuring food security. In this regard, it is essential to place emphasis on the fact here that, although responsibility rests with all nations, but more responsibility rests on the shoulder of those countries who polluted our planet, to effectively implement international agreements on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.
We believe that, these issues, among others, need to be considered in analyzing the fundamental root-causes of food insecurity and in the continued efforts to be exerted in effectively addressing this challenge.
We, in Ethiopia, having recognized that poverty, which, among other factors, exemplifies food insecurity and with a clear paradigm shift from policies of previous regimes, have mobilized all of our resources to address poverty, lack of democracy and good governance as they are critical issues of survival as a nation. In fact, we did not wait until the issue was raised in 1996 World Food Summit in Rome where poverty was identified as goal number one of the Millennium Development. We were indeed proactive in taking appropriate measures to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by starting the fight against poverty from a very high level with close to 49.50% of the total population under the poverty line in 1994/1095. As you are well aware, according to the Interim Poverty Analysis Report, released last March, the poverty level had declined to 29%.
Our economic growth, which is 11% of GDP per annum over the past eight years, and the fair distribution of incomes as well as the effective implementation of our economic policies, programmes and development strategies which focus on enhancing the productive capacity of small holder private agriculture users, expansion of service sectors, addressing poverty in urban areas by promoting pro-poor projects and creating job opportunities for the youth are major contributing factors to this very positive outcome. Although much remains to be done in overcoming the existing challenges, we believe that, with this very encouraging economic performance and fast pace of poverty reduction, we are on the right track to fulfill our target of reducing poverty by half in 2015.
We are fully committed to our strategy of ensuring food security and believe that at the heart of this strategy lies in achieving sustainable economic and social development goals. We are also convinced that a prime responsibility to realize these goals rests with us. We need, however, more support in finance and capacity building, including in the form of technology and know-how transfer from the international community, to further enhance our productive capacity in the pursuit for sustainable development.
For such support to be meaningful and fully realized, the existing partnership and development cooperation between the government of Ethiopia and development partners needs to be further strengthened and consolidated. In this respect, I wish to express our gratitude to our development partners United Nations Funds, Programs and Agencies as well as bilateral donors for the development assistance extended to us.
Before I conclude my brief remarks, allow me to take this opportunity to commend the administrator of UNDP, Her Excellency Mrs. Helen Clark, and all of her senior and other staff for producing this report, which is the first of its kind, and which has also a paramount importance to Africa’s efforts towards ensuring its food security in the years and decades ahead.
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