18 November 2005

Secretary-General Calls for Enhanced Regional Integration in Message to Mark African Industrialization Day

NEW YORK, 17 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on Africa Industrialization Day, to be observed on 20 November:

The theme of this year's observance of Africa Industrialization Day is "Generating African Competitiveness for Sustainable Market Access".

Open and equitable trade can be a powerful driver of economic growth and poverty reduction.  Yet Africa today lacks a level playing field to compete in global trade, in large part because rich countries restrict access to their own markets and shelter their producers.

This imbalance must be addressed.  At next month's 2005 World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting, developed countries have an opportunity to eliminate restrictions on exports from the least developed ones.  I urge them to seize it.

Of course, eliminating trade barriers is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for growth in African exports.  It is equally important that African countries achieve the technological, social and economic capacity to take advantage of increased market access.  This can only happen when African women and men alike enjoy the benefits of education and the rule of law, with effective State institutions, transparency and accountability in public affairs, respect for human rights, and a say in the decisions that affect their lives.  The international community can, and must, help them achieve these goals.

African countries must also nurture a business-friendly environment that encourages individual initiative and rewards entrepreneurship.  Enhanced regional integration -- based on the New Partnership for Africa's Development -- can contribute to advancing this process.  By trading among themselves, African economies can diversify their exports, develop the skills necessary to compete in the international marketplace and benefit the African consumer.

Trade is one of globalization's most visible manifestations.  It has proven its ability to deliver jobs and wealth for some.  Today, on Africa Industrialization Day, let us commit to creating a trading system in which jobs and wealth flow not just to the few, but to the many.

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