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African Union summit

African Union summit

Published on February 1, 2011
Speech by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic

Addis Ababa, January 30, 2011

It’s a great honour for me, and for France, to be invited to join you today. This is the first time since 1963 that a French head of State has been invited to address this forum, which symbolizes the identity of the African continent and where your unity and role on the international stage are reaffirmed.


France is assuming the weighty responsibility of the presidency of the G8 and G20. I promised to do everything to involve Africa as closely as possible in this double French presidency. I have been convinced for a long time now that Africa hasn’t had its rightful place in international governance. So, since the President of the United Nations General Assembly and Secretary-General are here, I want to say to them:

reform the Security Council this year. Don’t wait. France will support you. Don’t make speeches, make decisions. Expand the number of Security Council members; acknowledge the rightful place of a billion Africans and France will support you.

We have been talking about the reform for 30 years now. I propose that we do it this year, in 2011. The elements are on the table. We know that we need to increase the number of Security Council members, no doubt with an interim reform phase. Let’s not create a working group, let’s engage in debate and fulfil the promise of allowing Africa, Latin America and other partners to join the Security Council.

And at that point there will be no more rival organizations. If the Security Council represents the world in all its diversity, then we won’t need other organizations. And if other organizations have been created, it’s because we didn’t manage to end the deadlock with respect to Security Council reform.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The period of emancipation and organization has been followed by a period of ownership; ownership by Africa of its own destiny. You are experiencing profound change and now is the time to cast aside the misconceptions. And among these misconceptions there is this one:

Africa has not failed economically, Africa is making remarkable progress. Its level of growth – higher than its demographic growth – has been considerably greater than the global average over the past 10 years.

Direct foreign investment in the continent has increased sevenfold over the last eight years. If Africa has no future then why are so many non-African powers investing in your continent?

The demographic dynamism of Africa is formidable. Africa represents the world’s youth at a time when many countries are dealing with ageing populations. Your domestic market is rapidly expanding. You are rich in natural and mineral resources. Everything is in place for the economic takeoff of the African continent.


But this momentum in Africa is not limited to the economy; good governance, democracy, and respect for human rights are all values for which your organization is fighting every day, and which you are successfully promoting. These are the fundamental aspirations of all our peoples, as the events in Tunisia and Egypt have so dramatically demonstrated. France stands alongside the Tunisians and Egyptians with friendship and respect in this period that is absolutely critical, not just for these two countries, but for the world.

On this sensitive topic, allow me, in the name of the fraternal bond that unites the people of Africa and the people of France, to speak with an open heart. I want to do so as a friend, a sincere friend, because one owes one’s friends the truth. I want to do so because events render it necessary; because in the face of innocent victims, one’s conscience can’t remain indifferent; because violence, regardless of where it comes from, is never a solution; because it elicits nothing but violence; because it generates, on all continents, only grief and suffering.
France respects the sovereignty of States and the right of peoples to self-determination. She has no desire to lecture, nor to seek to impose a model. By what right could she do so? But there are values that are universal: those of the United Nations Charter and the Constitutive Act of the African Union; those too of dialogue, listening and openness, which each nation, through its own particular means, must endeavour to respect and promote.

All men, all peoples, aspire to this. No one, in the world we live in, can be deprived of this aspiration. Ladies and gentlemen, new means of communication have made the earth a village. Worldwide public opinion and universal consciousness have become realities. They reunite all peoples, who at all times share the same information, the same emotions. All political leaders must reckon with them, with the values they convey. You and I must take this into account in our way of governing.

In today’s world, one can no longer govern the same way as in the world of yesterday. Either this change is inflicted upon you, in which case you leave the door open, one day or another, to violence, or you anticipate and guide it, and it can take place without clashes, without rifts, and without opening the door to all kinds of unpredictable events. France wants this peaceful change.


If there’s one area in which Africa is making progress, it’s with respect to the peaceful resolution and prevention of conflicts. We must pay tribute to the African Union, its Commission and its Peace and Security Council.

Of course, things are far from perfect. There is terrorism in the Sahel, piracy in Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea, and trafficking of all kinds. Conflicts are dragging on. I’m thinking of the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo; I’m thinking of Somalia; I’m thinking of Côte d’Ivoire, where the will freely expressed by an entire people in an election meant to seal the return to peace is being treated with disdain. France resolutely supports the efforts of the African Union, ECOWAS and the UN Secretary-General.

However, the number of serious conflicts on your continent decreased considerably during the 2000s. And never have so many multi-party elections taken place as over the last 10 years. This is progress in Africa that should be stressed.

Ladies and gentlemen, who would have said a year ago that the referendum in Southern Sudan would be conducted in an atmosphere of calm? Who would have thought a year ago that, after 50 years of dictatorship, Guinea would for the first time freely elect her president – our friend Alpha Condé? Let’s hope that Niger and Madagascar will swiftly embark on this same path.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The world needs Africa, since it is Africa that will provide the springboard for the growth necessary to its prosperity. The world needs an organized Africa. The world needs an engaged Africa.

Our destinies are intertwined. There are 12 kilometres between the African continent and the European continent. Your failure would be our tragedy; your success will be our opportunity. Our destinies are intertwined. We share the same values. We will fight to ensure that you are given your rightful place in international forums. And we must ensure that you have the means to carry out your development.
In Seoul, the G20 adopted an ambitious action plan on development. My first job will therefore be to implement it, notably with the help of South Africa, whose role is so crucial.

Food security. A food crisis is looming once again. A billion human beings are malnourished. We must boost agricultural investments.

There has been progress, but it is insufficient. Agricultural production must rise by 70% if we are to have a hope of feeding the nine billion people who will inhabit the planet in 2050. 70%. That means there is room for African agriculture, American agriculture and European agriculture, but we must work together.

But there’s a real scandal that I want to denounce here in your presence: excessive volatility in agricultural prices, which have risen threefold in 20 years; financial speculation on agricultural markets, which provokes hunger riots; and food organizations that purchase staple goods at speculative prices to help you feed your people, some of whom have nothing.

Ladies and gentlemen, when there are no rules, there is no market. The market doesn’t exist when a financial operator can buy masses of agricultural commodities without paying for them and resell them at a profit even before he has paid for his initial purchase. That’s no market. That’s not agricultural development. That is looting and speculation. None of your people can stand up to that. France believes in the market, but speculation will bring hunger to the people and deregulate the market. What kind of future, what kind of predictability will there be for African small farmers?

This is the year we must act.


Then there is the G8. I was keen to strengthen its partnership with Africa, and I will ask both the G8 and the G20 the crucial question, which was examined so well by the Ethiopian Prime Minster: that of innovative financing.

Ladies and gentlemen, in Copenhagen Europe offered you a partnership. $100 billion a year beginning in 2020. We made this commitment in agreement with Mr Meles Zenawi and a number of leaders. But who can believe that this money will be made available if we don’t opt for innovative financing? Who can believe that?


As I prepare to conclude, I would like to correct a misunderstanding. For France, innovative financing is not aimed at replacing ODA, official development assistance. Innovative financing is aimed at supplementing it. We all have budget deficits. Maintaining our commitments is a huge effort, but without innovative financing, there will be no financing to fight climate change or to give you the infrastructure you need for Africa’s growth. If you Africans want innovative financing, you have the strength to impose it.

France will make this topic a major issue at the G20. Not for the years to come, but right now. I’ve been thinking about the best kind of innovative financing, the tax on financial transactions, for a long time. After all, it was the financial world that plunged the entire world into an unprecedented economic crisis, as a result of its excesses. It would be morally right for those who contributed to the crisis to pay a little to enable the world to emerge from the crisis.

But France will not make the tax on financial transactions a precondition. Meles Zenawi proposed other forms of innovative financing. Should there be a tax on tobacco? A tax on arms shipments? A tax on containers? The imagination is boundless, but France is drawing a line: by the end of the year, there must be innovative financing in order to benefit the poorest countries, and first and foremost, Africa.

I would also like to tell you something: France is not naïve; she sees the principled and sometimes ideological arguments against innovative financing quite clearly. So if I came here to give this speech and told you, “France will wait for everyone to agree on innovative financing”, you might tell me with good reason that we might be waiting a long time. France’s position will therefore be to place this subject on the table at the G20, to ask Africa to support us with all its might in demanding this type of financing, and France will be prepared to implement innovative financing, even if other countries don’t want to.

Because there are speeches and there’s the example you set. I will spare no effort to ensure that a small group of pioneer countries adopt innovative financing that benefits Africa and the poorest countries, convinced as I am that once we’ve done so, the others will have to follow suit. Because international public opinion exists, and it perceives the disparities in wealth that exist between various countries.


Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by saying that you have done us a great honour, but the speech I delivered on behalf of my country is not simply one of friendship, of a shared and sometimes painful history; it expresses my conviction that Europe and Africa must increasingly adopt common political positions.

We’re not as far apart as is believed. Yes, there was colonization, yes, there are disagreements, but today geography brings us together. If we want to control migration flows, combat terrorism, we must help you succeed in your economic development. France is convinced of this reality.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You are stronger than you imagine because you’ve taken charge of your destiny, because human rights and democracy are moving forward, because economic development is a reality. Speak out on these issues. Assert your weight in international bodies and the world will be forced to take the words of Africans into account.

Destiny and opportunity placed France at the head of the G8 and G20. I am thrilled about this, because it will enable France not only to give speeches, but to take decisions. And France hopes with all her heart that Africa will support her.

Thank you./.

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