Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very pleased to see you all here at the launch of this year’s Africa Progress Report.
We have all, I am sure, been watching Africa’s recent impressive economic growth with fascination. Average incomes have risen by one-third, exports are booming and foreign investment is on the rise.
This progress is laudable. However, disturbing increases in inequality and poverty are a cause of great concern.
After all, Africa is a continent of great wealth. It has an abundant wealth of natural and human resources.
Despite this wealth, Africa’s share of global poverty, malnutrition and child deaths are continuing to rise.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As we demonstrate in this year’s Africa Progress Report, “Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s green and blue revolutions”, Africa’s political leaders have an extraordinary opportunity to guide their nations on better, fairer growth paths.
To reduce poverty faster, and inequality too, African governments must boost their agricultural and fisheries sectors. It is precisely these two sectors where the vast majority of Africans are working, predominantly as smallholder farmers.
These sectors are still woefully under-performing, under financed and has very little interest for most governments.
Low productivity, chronic underinvestment, and regional protectionism mean that Africa must import too much of its food, as much as US$35 billion in 2011.
This is money that our farmers could be earning.
When Africa’s leaders decide to invest time, effort, and money, then they will see quick growth in their agricultural sectors.
With the launch of this year’s Africa Progress Report, we are calling on African governments to roll out a “uniquely African green revolution”.
The global community must also play its part.
It must certainly tackle tax avoidance and evasion, which takes a heavy toll on us all, but especially on Africa, as we showed in last year’s Africa Progress Report. The global community must also tackle the issue of anonymous company ownership, which continues to facilitate corruption.
This year, we cast the spotlight on the plunder of Africa’s forest and ocean resources, which also takes a toll.
Illicit logging costs Africa US$17 billion each year.
And in Africa’s coastal waters, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing has reached epidemic proportions. This plunder destroys entire coastal communities when they lose opportunities to catch, process and trade fish.
Commercial trawlers that operate under flags of convenience and unload in ports that do not record their catch, are engaging in organized theft disguised as commerce.
That is why our report calls for a multilateral fisheries regime that imposes sanctions on fishing vessels that do not report their catches.
If we do nothing to stop the plunder, then we will all suffer the consequences. Not today perhaps. But tomorrow. And the day after that.
As well as losing money through natural resource plunder and financial mismanagement, Africans are short-changed on money transfers from abroad. The continent loses an estimated US$1.85 billion a year because money transfer operators are imposing excessive charges on remittances.
This type of issue should be investigated by the financial regulators (such as the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority) to protect African citizens against restrictive business practices.
Africa is standing at a crossroads.
Every day, throughout our continent, Africans prove time and again their resilience and creativity.
From artists and musicians through to policy makers, humanitarians, campaigners, we have millions of individuals with wells of physical and moral courage. Our continent has no shortage of human talent.
If Africa’s citizens can freely use all theirs talent and creativity, then Africa can truly be prosperous, stable, and fair.
If the international system puts in place tough measures to halt the plunder that robs our peoples, then we can generate jobs and incomes for years to come.
If Africa’s leaders act now to reduce poverty and inequality, invest in their agriculture and fisheries, and protect their people from criminal business, they can leave a legacy of justice, prosperity, and peace.