New Zealand High Commission Pretoria, South Africa

Statement by Hon Murray McCully to the African Union Executive Council, Addis Ababa, 26-27 January 2012

The logo of the African Union

Statement by Hon Murray McCully to the African Union Executive Council

Warmest greetings from New Zealand to Ministers and Member States of the African Union Executive Council as you meet to discuss the vital issues affecting the countries of Africa and their relations with the wider international community.

New Zealand followed with great interest the open debate in the UN Security Council this month under the presidency of South Africa on peace and security in Africa and the development of the strategic partnership between the African Union and the United Nations. That the Council has devoted nearly half its meetings over the past 21 years to Africa, and mandated 25 operations, underscores the importance for the entire international community in addressing security issues and conflict prevention on the continent. New Zealand has participated in a number of these as well as addressing a number of the conflicts when it last served on the Council, in 1993-1994.

The Security Council debate was timely: Africa’s issues might be many, but it is a continent on the rise. Others are paying close attention to the fact that its growth rates match those of East Asia and that more than half of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies are African. The choice of “intra-African trade” as the theme for this month’s summit is timely: finding ways to increase trade, and reduce the barriers to it, is essential, as it is for African trade with the wider world. New Zealand, as a trading nation, knows full well the importance of reducing barriers in order to lift the returns for its suppliers.

New Zealand recognises that economic opportunity in Africa is growing – and fast. We shall before long be talking about this opportunity in the way we have described China or India in recent years. Last month, The Economist suggested that “Western governments should open up to trade rather than just dish out aid.” We agree, and stand ready in the international environment to help facilitate trade growth and access.

New Zealand shares with African countries a desire to see a UN Security Council that is more accessible and which provides scope for representation of small as well as large, developing as well as developed, member states. New Zealand agrees that membership of the Council should be based on principles of merit and accountability, and not on any presumed sense of entitlement. And whatever form an expanded Council takes it will be important that it provides scope for greater African representation.

It follows from the foregoing that New Zealand intends to engage more closely in Africa. That is a foreign policy priority of the New Zealand Government, and we intend to broaden our engagement out across the continent.

Historically, New Zealand’s engagement has focused on fellow Commonwealth members. There has also, as noted earlier, been a long history of participation in the peace operations on the continent, including Sierra Leone, Rhodesia, Namibia, Somalia, Mozambique and Angola. More recently, we participated in Sudan and today have personnel in the UN Mission in South Sudan. A New Zealander currently serves as the Military Adviser to the UN Special Representative for Somalia.

There is potential to grow our trade with African nations. New Zealand needs the commodities produced here. Our shops stock coffee from Ethiopia, the cradle of Arabica coffee, and chocolate clearly labelled as made from Ghanaian cocoa. The growing African diaspora in New Zealand, that numbers several thousand, could be part of the process of enhancing the economic linkages.

For its part, New Zealand believes it can offer more in terms of agricultural expertise and diplomacy. This will be at the heart of New Zealand’s development assistance. It will focus on agribusiness and support for public-private partnerships, food security, livestock and food crop development – development assistance with a focus on sustainable economic development. New Zealand has established an Agricultural Development Initiative to increase access by sub-Saharan African countries to which it is accredited to New Zealand agricultural services and expertise.

At a time when New Zealand not only faces the global financial challenges that are affecting so many countries, but is also dealing with the impact of earthquakes that wreaked major damage to its second-largest city last year, it is indicative of the importance attached to Africa that the appointment of a dedicated ambassador to the African Union and to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was one of only three new overseas positions established last year. That ambassador will be armed with a development partnership facility to support activities identified in the course of engagement with the countries of the Union.

New Zealand’s development scholarships are open to countries with which it has diplomatic relations, and scholarships targeted at countries of the Commonwealth are also accessible. It continues to respond to the humanitarian crises facing parts of the continent, notably on the Horn of Africa, with assistance to international agencies, non-governmental organisations and to the private sector. Development efforts last year increased to around $NZ50 million.

As member states look towards celebrating 60 years of a continental regional organisation next year, New Zealand looks equally to enhancing engagement with the Union, with the AU Commission, as well as with its member states. On the occasion of my first visit to the seat of the African Union, I convey the greetings of Prime Minister John Key and the assurances that the New Zealand Government is committed through the programmes above, and others, to developing the people-to-people, economic, development and political ties that will work to our mutual benefit.
 

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