Blue economy discussed at AU head’s State House visit


President Michel welcomes Dr Dlamini-Zuma at State House

This view was expressed by the newly appointed chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma when speaking to the media on her visit to State House yesterday.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma spoke to President James Michel about a wide range of topics, including the need for Africa to continue in its efforts to mobilise the ‘blue economy’ in order to benefit from resources hidden in the oceans.

President Michel welcomed Dr Dlamini-Zuma and thanked her for the support that she has expressed to the island states of Africa, with a great understanding of the specificities and complexities of those states.

"We appreciate your efforts to sensitise the African continent to the needs of the small islands states of Africa, as well as the role that coastal states can play in developing the blue economy of the continent,” said President Michel.

“I would also like to congratulate you on the new dimension, dynamism and efficiency you have introduced to the African Union, and I am confident that you will take the Union to new heights."

Dr Dlamini-Zuma was accompanied on her visit by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, who said that regional political issues such as the upcoming elections in Madagascar were also discussed during the meeting.

Said Mr Adam: “Seychelles has strongly reiterated its support for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and African Union position, which is a strong position designed to send a clear message to those who do not want to respect commitments already made, that there is no other way, that they have to respect the paths that have been laid out by international partners and particularly the African Union.”

The minister added that the three-day official visit of Dr Dlamini-Zuma, which forms part of the National Day celebrations, was one that demonstrates how proud Seychelles is to be a member of the African Union.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said she had told President Michel that Seychelles should share its experiences and successes with other countries, especially on its efforts to preserve the environment.

“I was also mentioning to the President that in the Assembly, it was very nice to see the different hues of the people of Seychelles in the House – the different ages, the different sexes, and it was really quite impressive,” said Dr Dlamini-Zuma.

She added that her goal as the newly appointed head of the AU Commission was to energise, mobilise and galvanise the continent towards working out a roadmap for the economic development and prosperity of each member state.

“My tenure started at a historic moment, when the Organisation of African Unity /African Union was celebrating 50 years, and I think it gave us an opportunity to actually pause for a moment and reflect on what has happened during the last 50 years, where we are now and more importantly where we should go,” she said.

“So it is important for all the member states, including Seychelles, to discuss this issue and saying where we want Africa to be in 50 years, and what the steps and targets we need to set in order to get there. Even before 50 years, Africa should be able to describe itself as a prosperous continent at peace with itself, and that will also give it a much stronger voice internationally. So we are waiting for all your inputs to draw this roadmap, which we will present to all the heads of state in January,” she added.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said food security remained a concern for Africa, and said it was a “tragedy” that the continent spent more than US $20 billion a year on importing food while 60% of the available arable land in the world was situated on African soil.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said it was a priority of the AU to ensure that the poor benefitted from mineral resources in Africa, not only when looking at how much profit remains in the continent but also in ensuring that the people who work for those companies are well paid.

“To wake up and go to work and still say that you are poor – that shouldn’t be acceptable,” she said. “You will find the same companies in other parts of the world, they pay five times or even more for the same work, so we must now make sure that the companies pay proper wages and have proper working conditions for people and that we also benefit from the profits they make.

“We also know that a lot of the resources that leave the continent illegally are from those companies who are not paying their taxes through not declaring what they are actually taking out. In fact, what goes out in illicit funds is three or four times more than what we get from donor aid. So we also have to be a bit firm when dealing with these companies, it must be a win-win situation. They can’t win while we lose if the resources are on our continent.”