Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma confer at ANC conference in Polokwane, South Africa.
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A united Africa begins at home
The countries of Southern Africa should forge a regional economic community as the first step towards the establishment of an African Union government. This was one of the resolutions of the ANC 52nd National Conference, held in Polokwane in December last year.
The conference gave in principle support for the idea of a continent-wide government as a step towards the strategic goal of the unification of Africa. However, it said the process must be informed by a developmental agenda emphasising regional integration with an immediate focus on building regional economic communities.
The consolidation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the integration and diversification of the economies of its member states was seen as a critical component of this process. Conference said a SADC parliament should be established as a way of developing a common approach to these and other issues in the region.
Delegates also agreed that the strengthening of the African Union (AU) and all its organs could serves as a catalyst towards the formation of the African Union government. It agreed to strengthen the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and promote the harmonisation of laws in Africa. The ANC would need to initiate a debate on the future of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), and whether it should have legislative powers.
It confirmed that the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as the developmental blueprint in the continent, and that it should be strengthened through mobilisation and promotion of programmes.
South Africa would need to be proactive in the debate around the African Union government, including the mobilisation of the progressive forces and governments towards a common strategic plan.
This requires that greater attention be paid to party-to-party relations particularly among former liberation movements like SWAPO in Namibia, MPLA in Angola, FRELIMO in Mozambique, ZANU PF in Zimbabwe, PAIGC in Guinea Bissau, CCM in Tanzania, SPLM/A in Sudan, and others. This should include structured support of the former liberation movements in the region must be pursued. Conference decided an audit be conducted to establish a better understanding of the ideological orientation and character of the parties in the continent and identify those that share the same political vision as the ANC.
A deliberate effort be made to strengthen relations with all progressive and like-minded parties in the region, continent and the world. Relations with other ruling parties in the continent that might not share the same vision with the ANC must be promoted and such relations could be based on common interests.
The conference recognised the role that South Africa could play in the economic development of other parts of the continent. It noted that the advent of democracy has created new opportunities for South African business, both in Africa and in the world, particularly in the retail, mining, construction, engineering, banking services, communication services, agricultural, and agri-processing sectors. These opportunities, while welcomed, brought with it new challenges in the relationship between South Africa and other African countries.
South Africa should strengthen the capacity of its embassies to assist South African businesses to gain access to available business opportunities abroad and on the continent; at the same time to encourage African countries to engage in intra-African trade and take advantage of positive economic developments on the continent. This will encourage trade and investment among African states and countries of the South.
“The ANC, through government, should ensure that the intensification of economic diplomacy leads to changes of colonial patterns of economic relations, and creates possibilities for equitable and balanced North-South relations, transformation and beneficiation of African natural resources, sustainable flows of foreign direct investment (FDI), market access for products from the South to generate employment, and contribute to poverty eradication,” it said.
Business code of conduct
The conference noted concerns about the practices of South African companies doing business elsewhere on the continent. It called for the development of a code of good business practice, which should be complied with by companies trading in different parts of the continent.
It was therefore resolved to give in principle support for the development of such a code, which would need to be legislated and regulated without restricting the competitiveness of those companies. It said that in the development of the code of conduct South Africa needed need to encourage partner countries to strengthen their labour and trade laws, encourage the private sector to comply with the standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and that South African business should project local experience of good practices in the countries in which they operate.
The code of conduct should have general standards that guide it, such as prohibition of child labour and discouragement of bribery. Those who practice such actions should be prosecuted. The standards should include, among other things, the encouragement of recruitment of local labour and imparting of skills, prohibition of child labour, and contribution to the social responsibility programmes of that country.
Delegates to Polokwane agreed that Africans in the diaspora also had an important role to play in the development of the continent. Africans in the diaspora are those people whose origins are in Africa, but are in other parts of the world due to forced slavery and long years of migration but who continue to identify themselves as Africans and are making efforts to reconnect with the continent.
As a result of this consciousness, identity and reconnection move, programmes are unfolding to take advantantage of the developments. Most of them have skills which they have acquired in their countries of residence and naturalisation that can benefit Africa.
“The ANC notes with keen interest and resolves to support initiatives towards a summit on the African Diaspora, which we are hosting as South Africa. We should share perspectives and policy considerations that will be debated in the summit,” the resolution said.
It called on all members of the ANC and mass democratic movement to debate and understand the concepts and the resolutions that emanate from such conferences as the Summit on African Diaspora.
** This is the fourth in a series of articles on the outcomes of the ANC’s Polokwane Conference.