Kaunda: Poverty Blight’s Africa

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African  governments must be at the forefront of the struggle to liberate their nations from wrenching poverty and under-development, Zambia's founding former president Dr. Kenneth Kaunda said. He told participants at a seminar held in Salzburg, Austria recently, that the continent cannot expect to develop on the basis of donor handouts alone.

The seminar which attracted senior business executives had a theme titled: "Poverty and Development in Africa: the impact of HIV/Aids. "It has been observed and rightly so, that African poverty and stagnation is the greatest tragedy of our time and that poverty on such a scale demands a forceful response," the veteran African nationalist said.

Dr. Kaunda who has since retirement become a vociferous voice for the poor on the continent, says malaria, tuberculosis and the HIV/Aids scourge posed a major challenge to Africa struggling against the rising number of orphans living on the streets, illiteracy and ignorance. He urged donor nations to support Africa's development initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

But the revered Pan-Africanist cautioned against the wholesale reception of donor aid.  "I would like, however to advise that as a people living under conditions of poverty, e know our needs better," he said. "We should therefore, be allowed to prepare our development plans upon which we negotiate with our co-operating partners." This, he said, was critical for African countries to retain ownership and to re-direct the movement of their development programs.

"We are at a critical stage of development and the decisions we make today and not the chances we take will help guide our destiny as a people," Dr. Kaunda, affectionately known as KK, noted. "Our governments are fully aware that if we have to achieve growth in our economies, there are a number of thins which we must do on our own. We must take deliberate decisions to invest in the important sectors of our economies for we cannot expect to develop on the basis of donor handouts alone."

He noted with concern that after more than four decades of independence, most African countries have not reached acceptable levels of development yet the thrust of the independence struggle was to attain economic and social development. Agriculture, Dr. Kaunda said, was the main cash cow for most African countries owing to the existence of vast tracts of land that required careful planning and sufficient budgetary allocations.

He said Africa could also benefit from the development of agro-based industries through the creation of jobs. Africa, he said, needed a "green revolution in order to defeat hunger and poverty." In addition to this, he said the manufacturing sector on the continent needed to be developed in order to process products into finished goods that could be exported.

He urged African countries to invest heavily in the tourism and transport sectors to boost their gross domestic product. HIV/Aids had decimated workforces adversely affecting productivity and the welfare of many families on the continent. "Unfortunately, due to the collapse of our extended family system, most orphans end up on the streets, where they face the harsh realities of being homeless," KK said. "They do not attend school. Some of them turn to crime and prostitution to survive. This is unacceptable. We need to make every effort to take these children off the street and to give them the skills necessary for them to grow into responsible adults."

Dr. Kaunda, now 80, has after a political career spanning more than four decades devoted his life to resolving African conflicts, championing democracy on the African Continent and leading the fight against HIV/Aids, poverty and hunger. He is one of the oldest African statesman, an ardent freedom fighter and activist with a passion for humanity –the poor and the disadvantaged. He has received numerous awards both at home and abroad for his service to Zambia, Africa and the liberation struggle in southern Africa.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe. For more reports please click on “subscribe� or call (212) 481-7745 to order the newsstand edition of The Black Star News the world’s favorite Pan African news weekly.

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