The incoming chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says Africa is well-poised to grow dramatically in the 21st century.
She has challenged its people to utilise the many opportunities available strategically in order to make this “the African century”.
Delivering a lecture on the African Union to members of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said although Africa faces many challenges, it should also harness its potential to improve the lives of its people.
Hitherto South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, the 63-year-old ANC stalwart beat the then incumbent AU Chairperson, Dr Jean Ping from Gabon, in a fiercely contested election held mid-July for the continental body’s top job.
“Africa is the continent with most possibilities and potential, with its vast mineral and natural resources, including sunshine, wind and biodiversity. Amongst others, Africa has about 12 per cent of the world’s known oil reserves and 40 per cent of its gold.
‘‘We must use our natural resources more efficiently to benefit our countries and its people,” she said in the lecture delivered early this week.
Illustrating how under-utilised Africa’s natural potential is, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said while the continent accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s arable land, which is a source of livelihood for 70 per cent of Africans, it currently generates only 10 per cent of global agricultural output.
As a result, she added, Africa imports tens of billions of dollars of food each year. “Using our land resources more effectively will enable us to not only contribute to our economic growth but to ensure we can feed our people ourselves,” she said.
“We will also be able to contribute towards job creation and income distribution.’’
It will also enable us to use the foreign currency which at the moment is being used to import food for other developmental imperatives on our continent. Food security must therefore be something we strive to achieve immediately.”
Dr Dlamini-Zuma says Africans have in the past left foreigners to benefit from the vast mineral wealth on the continent, but says Africa must now develop ways of ensuring that the