Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The new female leader of the African Union

The African Union is celebrating the appointment of its first female leader in the organization’s fifty year history.  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma rose to the title after years of cleaning up South Africa's home affairs department. Dlamini-Zuma is credited with cleaning up the crime and corruption that have long plagued the department. She now moves on to the AU which has its own share of mismanagement that needs to be cleaned up.

From the Guardian, writer Elissa Johnson interviews Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma says the biggest challenges facing the continent are underdevelopment, poverty and the inequitable distribution of wealth. Since taking over as chairwoman in October, she has repeatedly stressed the need to ensure that peace and security issues – which she believes take "a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of resources" – are balanced with development.
"It's important to understand that development is not a 'nice to have', it's essential for peace, for stability and for progress in the world," she says. "To me those are two sides of the same coin – if you don't develop your country, if people don't feel [there is] an equitable distribution of wealth, you are actually threatening peace."
"If you look at Africa today," she says, "we have more than a billion people, and more than 60% of those are young people; that has certain implications." Those "implications" were clear on the streets of Tunisia and Egypt almost two years ago – the high level of youth unemployment was chief among the triggers of the Arab spring. Africa's population growth means that 1m new jobs are needed every month and, like many of the leaders she now serves, Dlamini-Zuma is conscious of the problems that could lie ahead if the continent's youth don't have access to education and the skills necessary to earn a decent living.
Infrastructure is another priority. "We have to get roads, rail … our transport on the high seas [and] we have to get telecommunications infrastructure – everybody's going broadband and Africa should not be left behind," Dlamini-Zuma insists. This, she believes, will enable African states to trade among themselves and develop inter-continental tourism.
At the same time, she'd like to see the continent explore ways of accelerating the process of industrialisation. "Our GDP is growing but its growing mainly on raw materials – and that's not sustainable growth," she says, adding that Africa needs to export more processed goods "so that we can get more value for our products".

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