- July 2001 (Creation)
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Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour to have been invited to participate in this strategic planning session of one of the best known global companies of all times.
In fact, one can say that long before the concept of globalisation had become current and fashionable Coca-Cola had already been a living embodiment of a global commercial presence.
I am both honoured and intrigued by the question as to what such an established and world renowned brand may think it can gain in its planning from the inputs of an African country boy who spent a third of his life locked away on an island where he hardly had access to fresh water, leave alone Coca-Cola.
I am not complaining, though. It is not every day that an unemployed old pensioner gets the opportunity of a free cruise on the Mediterranean. I thank you very much for the invitation.
The privilege I feel is not only due to the fame and reputation of Coca-Cola. It is also that I am provided the opportunity to reciprocate in some small measure for the generous friendship the company and many of its office-bearers have demonstrated towards South Africa and many of its causes.
I understand that a major theme of this gathering will be the manner in which the company conducts its
operations in Africa. It is very apt that a great corporation like Coca-Cola should be giving in-depth consideration to the place of Africa within the scheme of its global operations.
You will be aware that African leaders are with increasing intensity applying their minds and spending their energies on addressing exactly questions of that kind.
The Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme, initiated by the Presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria, is an important and groundbreaking venture in this regard.
This Programme is seen and presented, and I quote, "as
a pledge by African leaders based on a common vision, and a firm and shared conviction that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. It is anchored on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world."
The leaders also make the telling point that the poverty and backwardness of Africa stand in stark contrast to the prosperity of the developed world, and that the continued marginalisation of Africa from the globalisation process and the social exclusion of the vast majority of its peoples constitute a serious threat to global stability.
The contemplation that you will be doing about your African operations is therefore very timely and extremely relevant. One cannot but take very seriously the injunction quoted above, viz that to continue the political and economic marginalisation of Africa poses a threat not only to the well-being of the people of our continent. In this interdependent world, our joint future as humanity is threatened by the persistent neglect of some.
What distinguishes the current efforts on the part of African leaders is that the emphasis now falls on self-reliance and self-help. The appeal is not for one-sided aid, but for mutually beneficial partnerships between the developed nations and those of Africa.
African leaders are facing up to the problems that are self-created and are putting into place measures to address those. It is acknowledged that a lack of good governance, a neglect of human rights and the concern of ordinary citizens often lay at the heart of developmental problems. The continuance of war, violent conflict and political instability is recognised as a central problem and today you will find that African leaders condemn these occurrences and are using the collective mechanisms of the continent to combat them.
One of the most encouraging signs on the continent is the emergence of so many leaders of quality and vision who put the goodwill of the people above all considerations of power. In spite of too many conflicts that still beset the continent, the overall picture is one of the consolidation and expansion of democratic rule.
The Organisation of African Unity has succeeded in holding together a continent that emerged out of colonialism with its traditional boundaries radically altered. Today we see the Organisation moving towards its next definitive phase with the coming into being of an African Union. All of these stand as signs of the consolidation of good governance and continental co-operation.
I am personally involved in the Peace Process in Burundi, one of the countries in the conflict-plagued Great Lakes Region. In spite of the picture that may be presented of uncontrolled and spiralling strife, I can assure you that progress is being made and that we are close to a decisive breakthrough. Even in those circumstances of division and hostility one was impressed by the quality of leadership. What was required was for the conditions to be created where these men and women could sit down together and talk to one another as compatriots rather than enemies.
The same can be said for the Democratic Republic of Congo where under the leadership of President Joseph Kabila the commitment to peace has found new expression. All over the continent the voices of peace and stability are sounding out louder than those of strife and destruction.
Also on the economic front the signs are encouraging. More and more the market economy is coming into its own, freeing up the energies of entrepreneurship and the possibilities of wealth creation. Many parts of Africa had been experiencing quite healthy growth rates over the last number of years.
It is within that context that the investment and participation by global corporations like Coca-Cola become so crucially important.
I am aware of how Coca-Cola partnered with indigenous concerns in South Africa, building capacity and facilitating the development of a patriotic business sector in our country. One cannot over-emphasise the crucial importance of this form of capacity building and transfer of skills. We trust that this will be the pattern all over the continent.
One of the great problems faced by emerging entrepreneurs in Africa is the scarcity of financing capital. One hopes that such problems are also being addressed in these forums and that mechanisms are found ensuring that the business people of the developing world can acquire independence to participate as full and equal partners.
Let me conclude by congratulating Coca-Cola for its achievements in globalising its activities to also include Africa. And to wish them well as they recommit themselves to the continent and its people. This demonstration of faith in Africa, coming from such a leading world-class company, can only serve to inspire others to follow that lead.
I thank you.