Speech given by H. E. Chief Dr Jewel Howard Taylor at the 2021 AFRICA ADVANCEMENT FORUM in Accra, Ghana on August 20, 2021. TOPIC: THE AFRICA WE WANT
Officials of the Ghanaian Government present,
Organizers of the 2021 Africa Advancement Forum 2021,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the Fourth Estate,
All other protocols duly observed
I am grateful this evening to be a part of this august event, being hosted by the Africa Advancement Forum, in this beautiful city of Accra.
But before I make my comments, kindly permit me to firstly give honour to Yahweh, the life giver; who has made it possible for my delegation and I to be present at this occasion.
To him alone I give glory, honour and praise; for his bountiful mercy and grace towards us.
And secondly, to express my gratitude to the Africa Advancement Forum’s Family for the invitation extended me to participate in this 2021 Forum; and for selecting me as an Award Recipient for the 2021 AWARD FOR INTEGRITY IN PUBLIC SERVICE.
I am truly humbled, especially when I look back at how far I have come.
As an African female from humble beginnings, coming from a lineage where my grandparents did not have an opportunity to obtain an education.
One whose life has taken many twists and turns; from an ordinary citizen to the First Lady of my Nation, to an elected Senator twice of the 3rd largest constituency in my Nation; and then becoming the first female Vice President of Liberia.
Today, finding myself at this juncture in history; being awarded a title of: “One who is a point of reference for selfless leadership, excellence and the upliftment of democratic norms and values.”
I am indeed truly humbled this evening.
Please accept my deepest gratitude for this award, which has set a higher bar for me to continue to live up to. May Yahweh grant me the fortitude to continue on this path; being a positive role model for others; as we work towards building a better Africa.
Excellencies, Officials of Government present, Special Guests, Fellow Honorees, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; the apt theme for this year’s Forum is:
“THE AFRICA WE WANT.”
Which resonates in every facet of our societies, with both the great and small.
Let me admit, that there is no better time to discuss the long sought after AFRICAN DREAM than now; especially as Africa faces its greatest threat yet- the Covid-19 Pandemic and its devastating effects across our Continent and the World.
Though this pandemic has created challenging times for ALL, it also offers many opportunities for African Nations and Governments to:
“ OPEN THEIR EYES, RE- FOCUS THEIR ATTENTION, RE-SET PRIORITIES; and RE- ALIGN THEIR ACTION PLANS TO MAKING THE AFRICAN DREAM FINALLY COME TRUE.”
I believe that it is possible; keeping in mind, the shared, collective future of our ONE RACE.
Howbeit, the glaring fact is that this topic is not a new one; and each generation has had to deal with it in many ways.
Some generations have talked about it, others have ignored it, others have fought over it, others have been imprisoned for it, others have died for it; and still here we are today, another generation- grappling with it; as have leaders past and present.
If I were to kindly ask each of you to, for a moment, just close your eyes and imagine the AFRICA YOU WANT; I believe it may be okay to say that each one here in this hall will have the same dreams, and a laundry list which probably includes- a good life, security, available opportunities, equality, inclusion and a chance to become the best they can be.
So if our dreams and aspirations are similar, the critical question to answer then is-
“ WHY HAVE WE BEEN UNABLE, UP TO THIS POINT, TO BUILD THE AFRICA WE NOT ONLY WANT, BUT THE AFRICA WE DESERVE?”
There are many answers to this question, depending on who one speaks with. But may I ask that we change focus from the blame game; to putting together clear plans, strategies and actions needed to achieve our shared dreams?
For the dreams of the AFRICA WE DESERVE can be summed up as:
“An Africa which is PEACEFUL, INNOVATIVE, PRODUCTIVE, CREATIVE, EQUITABLE, INCLUSIVE, INTEGRATED and CORRUPTION FREE. WHERE LEADERS UNDERSTAND THAT THEY ARE THE SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE; AND NOT THEIR RULERS.
IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THE CONTENTIOUS POLITICAL ISSUES ARE NOT ABOUT POWER, GREED AND SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS; BUT ABOUT THE GREATER GOOD OF THE MAJORITY; AND THE SUSTAINED EMPOWERMENT OF OUR PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY THE YOUTH OF AFRICA.”
THIS IS THE IDEAL AFRICAN DREAM. BUT IN ORDER FOR THE RHETORICS TO CHANGE, OUR CONVERSATIONS AT ALL LEVELS MUST ALSO CHANGE. AS WE DEAL WITH THE CRITICAL ISSUES OF HOW TO CREATE AND SUSTAIN THE AFRICA WE DESERVE.
Excellencies, Officials of Government present, Special Guests, Fellow Honorees, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; permit me to use this occasion to sound a caveat- “there is no more time left for day dreaming and empty talks; the time for concerted efforts and actions is NOW.”
For in a few years, Africa will have the largest youthful population in the World; who have been misused, taken advantage of, disappointed and discouraged, and are no longer willing to WAIT. There is a wind blowing across our continent of youth discontentment; which can be harnessed into one of transformation or one of destruction.
So the real question for US this evening is – HOW DO WE BUILD THE AFRICA WE DESERVE?
I hope you will agree with the suggestions I will reiterate tonight; as they are not new ones, but being restated for the ongoing conversations.
1. We must accept the fact that our destinies as Africans, are tied together. So we rise or fall together.
2. We must accept the responsibility that each one has to work towards building this collective dream.
3. Africa must Unite, thus becoming the Worlds largest and most profitable economic zone in order to fully utilize the remaining 40 per cent of the Worlds human and natural resources at our disposable for industrialization and sustained economic growth and development.
4. We must engage in inter African Trade and Commerce.
5. We must fully integrate our systems and remove all barriers which keep us apart.
6. We must seek economic freedom for our people; which entails allowances for the free movement of labour, capital, goods, and services within our Continent.
7. We must stop begging for and depending on Aid; and instead, industrialise thus adding value to the God-given natural resources abundant across our Continent.
8. We must eliminate corruption from our governance spaces and instil systems of good governance and upholding the rule of law.
9. We must maintain and protect access routes between land-locked countries and outlets for trade.
10. We must encourage political arrangements which support investment in continental infrastructure development which provides better growth, trade, and commercial opportunities.
11. We must provide new age educational and skills training opportunities for the Youth of Africa, to give them the knowledge and leverage needed to access opportunities around the resources we have.
12. And last but never the least, we must ensure that women are given the opportunities for equal representation, equal pay, equal opportunities for inclusion at all levels.
Excellencies, Officials of Government present, Honorees, Special Guests, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; the bottom line is that we, as Africans must find the political will to see beyond the I, me and myself mentality and move into the mentality of US. For indeed together, standing shoulder to shoulder; as our Forefathers did to bring us Liberation from our oppressors; we can do the same to bring economic Liberation for our people. And in so doing build the AFRICA WE DESERVE.
In closing, I am assured that the AFRICA WE DESERVE is possible, in this time and this season. As we gather this evening, let the voices of our heroes past and present ring loudly; awaken our consciousness to the possibilities of a new day; inspire each of us to RISE UP AND BUILD THE AFRICA WE TRULY DESERVE.
Permit me to leave you with the following quotation, by Aden Ousman, Former President of Somalia; which further emphasizes the point. And I quote:
“In dealing with our problems, it is necessary that we heed the lessons which history has taught us. We must bear in mind that the interests of Africa will best be served by those who belong to Africa, and whose primary loyalties lie with Africa. It would be prudent to remember that the African States share a common destiny and that no state can hope to prosper in isolation. We must be resolute in our efforts to build and maintain a united front, and to counteract all attempts at the establishment of permanent rival political blocs or grouping in our continent.”
It has been an honour to add my voice to this conversation, which should be transformed into points of action for the benefit of our common patrimony. Keeping in mind that – the time is NOW.
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