SPEECH OPENING CEREMONY MODEL AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT
19 AUGUST 2014
His Excellency Dr Saiff Sall, Ambassador, from the African Union South African Regional Office,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Director General, Mahatma Gandhi Institute,
Heads of tertiary education institutions,
Dear students - heads and members of delegations,
Today you are all here to participate in the African Union Model Summit – you are pioneers as this is the first time that tertiary education institutions in Mauritius are participating in such an event.
I understand that similar Model Summits have been organized in Malawi in 2013, and in Namibia one month ago. When His Excellency Dr Sall made the proposal to us to organize a Summit in Mauritius, we did not think twice and said yes, why not.
I am pleased that we got a very enthusiastic response from our universities and have been able to constitute the 54 delegations within a short time. All the 350 students present today and their mentors deserve our congratulations and a big applause.
This is an activity which will allow students to get a clearer picture of the functioning of the African Union, its role in promoting the development of Africa and cooperation among its member states. It will enable students to work in teams, build confidence and get the chance to know their own potential as possible future leaders.
But most importantly, it encourages students to conduct research on the issues related to Africa and make recommendations through this summit.
As you probably know, the African Union has developed the African Youth Charter that aims to strengthen, reinforce and consolidate efforts to empower young people through meaningful youth participation and equal partnership in driving Africa's development agenda. Young people should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions about the challenges facing Africa. The future belongs to you and you have to think about how to make it better.
The African Union highlights that about 65% of the total population of Africa are below the age of 35 years, and over 35% are between the ages of 15 and 35 years - making Africa the most youthful continent. By 2020, it is projected that out of 4 people, 3 will be on average 20 years old. Thus, it is about your own future that you will be discussing during this Summit.
All the reports on Africa show that there are optimistic trends, with wide scope for growth. The World Bank has pointed out that the economic outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa is positive, with growth rising to 5.3% in 2012, and 5.6% in 2013 and growth is forecasted to rise to 6% this year.
Africa is said to be the continent of the future. By 2040, it will have the biggest labour force equal to the combined labour force of both China and India. It has 30 percent of the World’s mineral reserves. Some of the long term development challenges of Africa are job creation, increasing competitiveness, infrastructural development, climate change, women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, improving health and strengthening governance. It needs to build the professional capacity and skills and invest in research, science and technology to address all these challenges.
Being part of Africa, Mauritius has been advocating for a policy of regional integration through increased trade, exchanges and joint projects. Through my Ministry, we are working towards increasing access to higher education to African students. We are offering 50 scholarships for undergraduate studies every year to African students. 17 students are already here under this scheme and this year there will be another group of 17 scholarships beneficiaries coming to Mauritius. The setting up of an African School of Leadership is in process.
We are working together with South Africa in partnership with seven other African countries on the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project, the largest telescope to be built in the world. We are planning to set up new centres of technology – such as nanotechnology and space science - which would benefit and contribute to research and innovation in Africa.
The IIT Research Academy which we have recently launched will provide opportunities to African students to pursue high standard engineering and science courses at Masters and PhD level in Mauritius. Recently at the Africa USA Summit, our Prime Minister called for increasing trade with Africa.
As delegates of this Conference, you will be called to reflect upon the challenges facing Africa and come up with innovative solutions.
I wish you all good luck. Be bold and frank in the deliberations. You should make of this summit the best in the southern African region.
I wish to thank Dr Saiff Sall for his support. I wish also to thank all the volunteers, the staff of my ministry, the tertiary education institutions and in particular Mrs M. Bhujoharry, who has guided us throughout the organization of this event. Thank you.
Dr R. Jeetah Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology 19 August, 2014