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AU’s Kwesi Quartey calls for a strong, united Africa



Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, says a united and integrated Africa is a boom for all Africans & the rest of the world. CNBC Africa’s Chris Bishop spoke to him on the sidelines of the EU-Africa business forum.

I think that people have tended to see Africa from different perspectives to King Leopold Africa was a piece of cake to be cut up. To president Sarkozy, Africa had no history at all to speak of. For us, Africa is our home that I hope to develop and to live peacefully and we believe that a united integrated Africa is a bone for all Africans and for the world. We have to work at it.

What do you think is missing on both sides when it comes to investments?
I think we are probably looking at it from a different angle, you know if Africa is hoping to be able to take an investment you need a literate and a numerate Africa. You need an Africa where every child is in school and each child is studying. That’s the basics. If we are a literate and numerate Africa you can begin to process and imbibe technology and receive capital. Africa will then begin to become a manufacturing post. It will begin to add value to its products and it will cease selling raw materials that are in their raw state. Processing itself is what is going to give Africa its drive forward and that depends on education, sciences and technology. An Africa that is borderless. That is what the whole business of the African union is about. The African union is seeking basically to disentangle the ties that Africa was put into; knots that were tied in 1845. That is at the basic essence of it all.


How far away are we from that in 2017?
We’re slowly, slowly, getting there. We are beginning to have all the people with us. European investors are beginning to see the potential value of an integrated, united, educated, liberal Africa. An Africa which has the worlds largest population of youth. Now, this could be a crisis or an opportunity. When the youth remains untrained their empty minds can be filled in by religious fanatics, by ethnic chauvinists and when they are trained, working together they become a cultural intellectual force. So it is a crisis as well as an opportunity and then with that they can ensure good governance because they know what is going on, they going to vote positions out, they going to hold politicians accountable they going to become the driving force for the future. So education I think is at the base. Apart from that science and technology, integration, freedom of movement for goods and capital. You’ll find less Africans seeking to cross the Sahara on foot looking for an inexistent el dorado in Europe. So it is the interest of Europe and Africa to make sure that Africa puts hands together and the basis in my view is education. You only have to educate the people, they become creators of capital, the become value which add value, that is capital.

We’re here to discuss the European Investment plan, to try to put in a system where we get more investment into Africa. What do you think of that?
I think it is a very generous proposal; it is very kind of Europe to seek to plan an investment program for Africa. Only snag, Africa has not been consulted as far as I know. Its like someone coming to modify a house, and not bothering from you how you want your house to be modified. So apart from that it’s a great idea.

Do you expect Europe to work this out and consult Africa?
I believe, I believe that without assigning any motive – I know that the motive is generous and it is grand, I had a chat with the general minister for social development, his motives are laudable but it’s probably a thing from the past. You know they are not accustomed to consulting Africans but that can be learned, you know Africans can give you their opinion. They’re waiting to be involved. They are waiting to be mobilized and with an educated population it’s amazing what we will be able to do for the world. Can you imagine a Nelson Mandela without an education? Education is the key, but it depends on the type of education. There is a need for Science and Technology, and vocational training. We need educated people who can provide jobs, not people who are waiting for government to provide jobs for them. That is the Africa we want.

One last thing, very sadly Mohammed Ali died this year and you were one of the very few Africans ever to have met him face to face in the flesh. Just tell us exactly what happened when you met him.
I happen to have been at a school that was built in the same vein as the traditional British public school. Co-Educational, you do O Levels in 5 years, A levels in 2 years and then you go to any university you want. We were in school one morning when Mohammed Ali arrived in Ghana. The school was so prestigious that important people came to speak to the students often. When Mohammed Ali arrived, we were told and 800 of us rushed to that Assembly Hall in our short sleeves. He was a big guy. I had never seen a guy so big but so calm and quiet, and then he started to speak.

This was 1964 so he had just become World Champion.
He had just beaten Sonny Liston, he even had a poem for Sonny Liston he said he is going to knock him and send him into space and you’d see the first living space craft. And that was Mohammed Ali. So I was very sad when we heard that he died.


What was it like for you young Ghanaian Children at that time when you saw him face to face?
He was just inspiring, absolutely inspiring. You felt as an African, as a black person that impossible is nothing. That all your dreams were achievable.
One of the people from your school in the audience that day was the future head of state, Jerry Rawlings.

Jerry Rawlings was a couple of years my senior and he too loved boxing. He was an excitable young man. He said that he followed Mohammed Ali all the way to his hotel room. His mother happened to have been in the domestic part of the institution so his mother got him to visit Mohammed Ali in his room and he talks about it to this day. Jerry Rawlings became Head of State and he was a very interesting young man. I remember in school, one time, there was commotion in the dining hall, a snake was in the dining hall, and he caught the snake with his bare hands and put it in a bottle and took it to the laboratory. That was Jerry John. That’s what we called him, J.J Rawlings.

And he was a lot thinner those days?
He was a young man of about 16. A very excitable young man so when he became president we were not surprised because he was very fearless and daring and he was also very kind hearted, and soft. We loved him all the time and we think that the kind of peace and stability that we enjoy in Ghana today, we owe to him. He was a military leader who seized power and he handed over power not once but twice. He anchored Ghana into the world of democracy and rule of law.


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