|Inauguration Of Economic Commission For Africa|
Dec. 29, 1958
|... Concerted action, co-operation, co-ordinated policies -- these, honorable delegates, are not |
just words, but great and noble conceptions. In them, and in what they stand for, can be found
the key to fulfilment of the longings and the hopes of millions of Africans.
|It is with great pleasure that We, on behalf of Ourselves and Our beloved people, today extend Our |
warmest greetings to the delegations of the Economic Commission for Africa who have gathered
here from all over this great continent, and, in particular, to The Honorable Dag Hammerskjold,
Secretary General of the United Nations, who is Our honoured guest on this occasion. We welcome
you all to Our capital.
The opening session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is truly a most historic
and significant event for the great African continent. But a short half-century ago, only the most
far-sighted individuals dared predict that within fifty years Africa would have so far progressed
along the path of political and economic progress that a conference such as this, where
representatives of nine independent African nations, as well as representatives of several other
African countries have gathered together in solemn conclave to consider the common problems of
Africa and the African peoples, would be possible. And yet this has come to pass, and today we are
assembled here for this very purpose. Our heart overflows in the attainment ofthis moment.
Only a few years ago, meetings to consider African problems were held outside of Africa, and the
fate of its peoples was decided by non-Africans. Today, the tradition of Berlin and Algeciras has
been repudiated, and it is thanks to the Conferences of Accra and now of Addis Ababa that the
peoples of Africa can, at long last, deliberate on their own problems and future.
|The political growth of the peoples of Africa, a development which has come to fruition within the |
lifetime of every one of us here present, is one of the most striking and extraordinary evolutions in
the recorded history of man. The political coming of age of the African peoples is ample testimony
that we are witnessing the inauguration of a new and splendid period in this continent's history.
The number of African states which now enjoy their independence is only nine, but this number
will grow in the future. In 1960, additional states will emerge into the brilliant sun of freedom,
clear evidence that the political growth, which in a few short years has transformed the status of so
great a number of the African peoples, has not yet finished, and that it will not come to its end until
the goal toward which this movement has steadily and inexorably progressed has been totally
Political independence, however, is but one part of the complex of problems which face the African
peoples in their struggles to achieve their rightful place in the world. It is potentially the richest of
continents, large numbers of her people still lead an existence that can only be regarded as
sub-standard. A major cause of this lag in Africa's economic development has been the lack of
education of her peoples. Let us not be too proud to face these facts and to recognize Africa's
deficiencies and defects. Let us face honestly and frankly the fact that by the standards of the
modern world, the African peoples today are poor. Our poverty need not cover us with shame.
Africa, despite the predominately agricultural basis of her economy, produces only a small percent
of the world's foodstuffs. Indeed, Africa produces scarcely enough food to support her own
peoples. The average wage of the African worker compares unfavourably with that of other areas
of the world. The average African may, if fate has smiled upon him, receive the minimum amount
of nourishment necessary for physical survival, but rarely more.
|Among the reasons for the poverty and hard life of the African peoples must be numbered the fact |
that heretofore most Africans have not enjoyed the freedom which they are now attaining. In
addition, the lack of the capital essential to the development of their economies and the shortage of
technically qualified personnel have severely limited Africa's capacity for economic growth.
But, just as we must not be too proud to recognize the facts fo Africa's economic situation as it
exists today, so we must not be cast down or discouraged by the magnitude of the problems which
face us. For Africa is potentially rich. She has enormous deposits of raw materials, and the total
extent of her wealth is by no means yet known. Africa produces large quantities of several of the
world's basic minerals and metals. She produces large quantities of various agricultural products
such as palm oil and cocoa. The fertility of much of her land is potentially high in the extreme. The
fertility of much of her land is potentially high in the extreme. A tremendous potential for the
production of hydro-electric power and the irrigation of her land is found in the lakes and rivers of
this great continent.
The vista that opens before the Economic Commission for Africa in fulfilling the weighty
responsibilities laid upon it by the United Nations General Assembly is vast. The tasks are
immense. Much labour and toil will be demanded, not only from those who will constitute the
permanent organization, but also from the governments of all countries and territories in fulfilling
the commitments and discharging the responsibilities resting upon its members and associate
members. The economics of the African states have too long existed as separate, self-contained,
isolated entities. African countries have for too long been forced to nurse their own economies and
puzzle out their complicated problems by themselves, or else have them handled haphazardly for
them by others. We are all only too well acquainted with the difficulties and barriers that the
African peoples have had to overcome in coming together to deliberate on matters of common
interest. But it is impossible to believe that individual countries, working alone and isolated from
their neighbours, can ever achieve their objectives, and the African peoples must therefore work
and co-operate together if the economic development of this continent is to be furthered.
|The Ethiopian people in particular, long isolated socially and geographically, have had to plough a |
lonely furrow in many fields of economic endeavour, lacking the right and the facility to draw upon
the experience and knowledge of others who were attempting to solve almost identical problems.
Now, however, as almost every paragraph in the Charter of this Commission emphasizes, the goal
on which Our eyes have always been fixed as a primary goal for Our people -- the raising of their
standard of living -- has become the declared objective of the Governments of the member-states
whose representatives are gathered here today, to be sought, in every way, by concerted action.
Concerted action, co-operation, co-ordinated policies -- these, honourable delegates, are not just
words, but great and noble conceptions. In them, and in what they stand for, can be found the key
to fulfillment of the longings and the hopes of millions of Africans.
Our task, the task of all gathered here and of those other African countries who are not numbered
among the representatives at this first session of the Economic Commission for Africa, is to
improve the economic lot of all African peoples, to raise them to a standard of living comparable to
that enjoyed in the most highly-developed regions of the world today. This is a task and a
challenge which must be met. And because this touches all of us, all must labour and work for
success in this endeavour.
When the Commission comes to consider specific problems in the course of its deliberations, We
ardently hope that it will give serious consideration to finding ways and means of extending
immediate economic assistance not only to all African nations which are in need of such aid, but, as
well, to those territories which are on the threshold of independence. It must constantly be borne
in mind that the economic problems of some of the younger African states and of those areas which
are on the verge of statehood are most pressing and serious. The United Nations Organization and
the older States are, consequently, under a grave moral obligation to alleviate the economic
difficulties of these your States and territories, and to help them found their economic structure
upon a firm basis that will maintain and assure their political independence. Political and
economic progress should go hand in hand.
|There are other grave and important matters to which We trust the Commission will not fail to |
direct its attention. Among these are the implications of the involvement of African nations in
regional preferential trade agreements with nations of other continents. The Commission could
well take concrete steps to explore the possibilities of establishing statistical bureaux where none,
now exist, and of co-ordinating and unifying the statistical methodology to be employed in
common by all member states. A programme of close co-operation between the Commission and
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to study the possibilities of increasing food
production in areas where people are under-nourished, and of wiping out cattle disease, problems
of great importance to African countries whose economies are predominately agricultural, would
fulfil a long-felt need.
In view of the great influence of public health problems upon the economic development of African
countries, the exploration and recommendation of solutions to such problems by the Commission,
in collaboration with the World Health Organization, would aid immeasurably in accelerating the
tempo of the economic development of the African continent. All African countries depend on their
export trade and a amanifest need exists for the promotion, stabilization and diversification of
exports of the ECA member countries. The Commission should give serious consideration to the
prevalent transportation and communication problems which have a considerable influence upon
the development of all African countries, and seek resolutely to find solutions to the difficulties
which perplex us all in these fields. Solving these problems would contribute much toward the
economic development of Africa. In undertaking such a study, due consideration should be given
to the desirability of establishing closer connections between the various national transportation
systems, thus encouraging closer economic and commercial relations among member states.
It is appropriate that this gathering today is held under the sponsorship of the United Nations. The
United Nations is a living and tangible testimony to the value of co-operative efforts among all men
to improve their way of life and preserve peace. We believe that the African peoples, too, can
co-operate effectively for the common good, for their own good and for that of all men. But this
requires singlemindedness and an unswerving devolution to the cause of Africa and the African
peoples. In your work, you must take into your hearts and be guided by the principle expressed in
the Holy Scripture "Love thy neighbour as thyself."
|Africa is not the first geographical area to be embraced by a regional Economic Commission. This |
We do not consider a disadvantage, since the experience gained and the lessons learnt by its
predecessors in Europe, Latin America and Asia and the Far East can be drawn upon. But many of
the economic and social problems are new, and the paths untrodden. In your task of finding the
answers and the way, honourable delegates, not only the eyes of all Africa but of all the world will
be upon you. We, for Our part, pledge the highest endeavours of Our Government and people in
aiding and speeding your work, not only for this meeting of the Commission, but for the efforts and
objectives of this organization in the years that are to come. May Almighty God prosper that work,
and grant that it may be pursued in peace, in peace of mind and of circumstance unhindered by the
fact or threat of war.
This land, of which you are the honoured guests, has known and suffered from the horrors and
brutalities of war. The threats of armed conflict, the obsession with war and armed might, are evils
yet to be eradicated form the minds of men. So long as they survive, progress towards the high and
noble objectives to which this organization is dedicated will be handicapped and enveloped in
darkness. In the mobilization of economic resources, in the search for ways to improve the lot of
man, whether African or not, the threat to peace stands as a grim obstacle. The essential
prerequisite for economic and social contentment is world peace, and without such contentment,
the weeds of discontent luxurate, and threats to peace develop.
We pray that peace may be vouchsafed to all men, that the labours of this Commission may ever be
conducted in an atmosphere of harmony and co-operation.
|Haile Selassie the First - December 29, 1958|