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Independence and inter-dependence in Africa – Address by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland

Below are excerpts from President Higgins’ address to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on November 5th, 2014.

“Today Africa is at a critical juncture of its development. The discourse is shifting away from war and disadvantage to debates about vindicating human rights and the nature of citizenship. As Léopold Sédar Senghor put it, ‘Africa is not an idea, it is a knot of realities’ – realities that can be shaped in order to deliver human progress and sustainable development. African leaders working together within the African Union, civil servants in organisations such as this Economic Commission for Africa, civil society activists across the continents are wise in taking the lessons from hegemonic models of economics that have failed, both here and in our countries, and in endeavouring to produce their own forms of thinking – alternative models of development that are socially, culturally, and ethically grounded.”

“This issue of food security concerns all of our countries, who are involved in the global infrastructure of commodity trading, governed by powerful global financial markets. And the question of knowing if speculation on food commodities is an acceptable practice is, I believe, one whose resolution cannot be led by the whims of the market. It must, rather, be the object, of multilateral regulation based on a shared ethical consciousness of the special status of farming and food products upon which hinges the survival of many.”

“We must, urgently, seek alternatives to the reductive, narrow imagination of mainstream models of development such as de Soto’s. Land tenure has been the subject of too many disastrous experiments in engineering, both physical and social. It is now time, I believe, for us to turn to Africans to imagine and craft inclusive agricultural development policies that are grounded in recognition of the need to feed and expanding regional population, while also taking care of fragile and exhaustible natural environment, and taking on board the heritage of indigenous wisdom and the wealth of practices and conceptions that connect people to their land.”

“Today this public world is threatened by the upsurge of intolerance, here in Africa, and beyond. This is not a new threat. In his speech to the Union of African Unity, in 1963, Léopold Sédar Senghor said: ‘We must begin by rejecting all fanaticism, whether racial, religious or linguistic. Then, and then only, can we define our aim lucidly.’

The scale of the contemporary challenge is reflected in the presence on African soil of so many soldiers from the rest of the world who are engaged in preventing hotbeds of conflicts from flaring up.

Many of these conflicts thrive on poverty and a new geography of inequalities, which sees the path of prosperous African centres – many of them connected to the maritime trade routes of our contemporary globalisation – diverge from that of interior regions, enclaves of misery and revolt that are plagued by unemployment and lack of opportunities.”

“Indeed in our interconnected and complicated world, cooperation, the pooling of resources, a recognition of our interdependence, offer more secure and fruitful grounds for our mutual relations than any absolutist version of sovereignty.

In the decades to come, then, Africans are invited to find their singular voice, a voice of freedom but also a voice of fidelity to their rich history and traditions.”

To read the full address click here.

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