From: Patrick A. Firempong, GNA Special Correspondent, Cotonou
Cotonou, April 22, GNA - President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday called on African Governments and donor agencies to focus more attention on the development of locally conceived poverty reduction programmes for implementation. He said this would enhance the sense of ownership required in the struggle against poverty.
President Kufuor made the call when addressing the Plenary Session of the Second Session of the Labour and Social Affairs Commission of the African Union (AU) in Cotonou, Benin. The Commission deals with all issues relating to labour, employment, migration and children.
It meets once a year and this year's meeting is also one of the preparatory meetings towards the Extra-Ordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation scheduled for Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso in September. Issues discussed at the Cotonou Meeting included, Social Policy Framework for Africa to structure a framework that would give the necessary priority to social issues.
Migration Policy on the framework to be presented to the ministerial meeting on voluntary and involuntary migration, brain drain and issues on the family, in view of this year being the United Nations (UN) Conference on the 10th anniversary of the family. Africa is expected to provide a common stand on the family at the Conference.
President Kufuor said the meeting would provide the Heads of State and Governments, the best forum to discuss the twin problems of employment and poverty openly and to explore various Employment Generation Strategies on the African Continent. "This should prepare us adequately for the forthcoming AU Summit in Burkina Faso in September", he said.
President Kufuor said although the private sector had been touted as the main engine for economic growth, left to its own devices as it pertained in Ghana, it could not put together the resources of know-how, capital and other requirements to substantially and effectively take the initiative to become the engine of growth. Therefore, in Ghana, he said the Government had taken it upon itself to promote the private sector with soft-term loans, technical advice, facilitation of acquisition of land and processing plants.
President Kufuor said this was to enable the sector to operate effectively within a time-action framework for the realization of its business objectives, adding, " by this means, Government is being a catalyst for the diversification of the private sector". Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said the African Continent was richly endowed in human and natural resources, a land of plenty and hospitality, however, there was hunger, unemployment and poverty. He said there was unemployment in Africa because efforts to create jobs were not scientifically coordinated.
President Obasanjo stressed the need to march all the resources, synchronized and harnessed collectively. He said a major source of poverty in Africa was lack of ideas on job creation due to the lack of the political will to implement decisions taken by individual countries or collectively on how to evolve new ideas to reduce poverty.
President Obasanjo called on the participants at the meeting to focus on the best type of education for Africans to enable them to have the ability to create jobs to reduce unemployment. He called on the Heads of State and Governments to have a collective political will to ensure that decisions taken on poverty reduction and their implementation were in line with the United Nations (UN) Millennium Goals and aims and objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
President Obasanjo said African Leaders should endeavour to involve the private sector and the people in the designing and implementation of poverty reduction strategies. He said there should be an intensive investment in the well-being of the people from government-dependent job seekers to job creators.
Other Heads of State and Governments that attended the meeting were, President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique who is also the AU Chairman; President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso; President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo and the host President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin.
The meeting, which began on April 19, is expected to end on April 24 with the Ministerial meeting of Ministers of Labour, Employment and Social Issues on Friday, April 23 to Saturday, April 24. Mr Yaw Barimah, Minister of Manpower Development and Employment, is already in Cotonou to participate in the meeting.