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Distributed October 2, 2003
Contact Mark Nickel

José Maria Pereira Neves
Text of the Ogden Lecture: The New Horizons for African Leadership

José Maria Pereira Neves, prime minister of the Republic of Cape Verde, delivered a Stephen A. Ogden Jr., Memrorial Lecture Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2003, in the Salomon Center for Teaching. The text of Neves’ address follows here. (See also news release 03-029.)

President Ruth Simmons,
Distinguished Guests,
Faculty, Students, and Administrators,
Fellow Cape Verdeans,

I would like to thank Brown University for this invitation. I am very honored to be here at this highly prestigious institution that is so well regarded both within the United States and internationally. One of the top universities in America, since its founding, Brown University has built a reputation for academic excellence, for which I am pleased to congratulate the Brown Community.


New Horizons for African Leadership
José Maria Pereira Neves, prime minister of the Republic of Cape Verde, visited Brown Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2003, to deliver a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. Memorial Lecture.

The Republic of Cape Verde is proud to be able to have amongst its most qualified cadres former students from Brown University. Numerous students from the Cape Verdean community have attended and are attending the University. Thus, allow me to greet those who are present in this room and, through them, the whole Cape Verdean community here in the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Globalization has intensified at the end of the 20th century. It is an undeniable phenomenon of our time.

Africa cannot stay on the sidelines. It is therefore crucial for Africa to find the best ways to strategically insert itself in the global community and marketplace in order to both seize the opportunities and minimize the risks and threats that globalization affords.

At the international level, and namely in the framework of World Trade Organization negotiations, the nations of the African Continent must develop common positions and defend their interests in order to ensure fair and equitable trading systems that allow Africa to achieve effective and sustainable competitive gains.

The emerging global economy is highly competitive. Africa has no other choice but to become an active participant in the global marketplace. This challenge calls for new forms of African leadership.

History has taught us that when we had leaders in tune with their time, Africa progressed. We won the struggle against colonial domination, against the indignity of not having a name, a history or a destiny. Leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Mohamed V, Amilcar Cabral, and Nelson Mandela were able to mobilize the energy of their colleagues and people in order to transform the dream of dignity into a reality. And they won!

I must admit that in the construction of postcolonial states, African leaders have often defrauded the hopes that the people legitimately placed in them. With rare exceptions, the exercise of political power within these states became an exercise in power rather than reason.

We witnessed the emergence of dictators who clung to power for years with iron fists, repressing liberty, hopes and the energy of their people, all the while cloaking their actions in arguments for order and national unity. In many countries, excessive repression resulted only in economic stagnation, low productivity, outdated technology and infrastructure, and in a knowledge base that has proven inadequate for participation in the new economy. Corruption became one of the worst cancers afflicting African regimes.

Fortunately, at the beginning of this millennium, there is a new enthusiasm among African leaders that is being translated into action in multiple ways. In recent years, and despite those conflicts and recurrent wars that still prevail, several countries have laid the foundations for democratic governance. There is more room for dialogue and an increased intensity in the search for peace. Regional blocks are gaining ground and there is a renewed political determination and will to build the African Union. NEPAD provides key evidence of Africa’s collective will to take its destiny in its own hands.

These developments provide me with motive for satisfaction and hope. But we have to be vigilant: These gains are still fragile. Much more remains to be done.

The African Union itself will become stronger as each of its members, in its own right, becomes a space in which the State functions credibly and fulfills its responsibilities to its citizens and the international community.

Aside from economic and social development, I believe that the construction of the Democratic State in Africa is the great challenge for African leaders. The democratization of the continent is progressing. Albeit slowly, progress is being made. There are cases of success that provide signs of an encouraging future for the continent. But this should not lead us to forget the many cases where leaders have failed to ensure smooth democratic transitions. Some of these cases have led to bloody conflicts and to instability, which, today, still drag on, painfully. Some examples come to mind: Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, among others. We cannot but attribute the responsibility for these failures to the leaders of these countries.

Elections are being held in many places, although not always with the necessary transparency, it is true. However, for me, the most important thing to note is that there are clear signs that a democratic culture is emerging in many African societies. Aspirations for liberty are evidenced in people’s clamor for social and economic justice. Citizens have increasingly demanded that leadership have a legitimate basis, derived from fair elections and practicing good governance with irreproachable ethical and moral standards.

These are, for me, strong signs that society is gaining greater control over the exercise of political power. New African leaders must take into account the new relationships between society and political power. Accordingly they should not, as in the past, only strive to conquer power and to take advantage of power, but should, above all, strive for principles, starting with the principles of democracy, liberty and development for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I believe in the future of my continent, Africa.

It is crucial for Africans and African leaders to believe in the future of the continent. We need to be optimistic, but above all we need to be proactive. We have to be able to ensure Africa’s transformation. To do so it is crucial to maintain a sense of African ownership over the process of transformation. At the same time it is equally important for us to build a culture of efficiency and of results in Africa.

And I know that believing is the necessary starting point for action. I am referring to action that transforms, that is driven by results and I am speaking of a framework of accountability. I am talking of action that responds to principles and norms of transparency.

We confront a problem of attitude that demands that we take a different stance towards the problems that are afflicting the African continent. We need leaders who are willing to recognize the roots causes of their problems, who are capable of identifying robust solutions and who can mobilize their societies in the service of building a better future.

I am convinced that the conditions exist that can allow us to put an end, once and for all, to an era of frustrated expectations, betrayed hopes, disillusionment, and pessimism on the continent. Obviously successive African leaders must take responsibility for much of the past state of affairs. I am referring not merely to those leaders who did not produce results but, also to those who limited themselves to reproducing cycles of plundering within their own countries, draining them of both material resources and no less importantly of vital intangible resources such as credibility and stability.

In my opinion, the greatest tasks ahead lies in the hands of African elites. They must accept the fundamental responsibility to lead. They must ensure that the values of democracy, good governance, and ethics are embraced in order to build the foundations for liberty, and for social and economic development in defense of human dignity.

And I underscore human dignity as a universal value, that must be adhered to by all states regardless of the stage of their development.

As we move into the future, African leaders need to affirm two essential principles: first, their love for the continent. This must be more than a merely declared or rhetorical love but rather a love that is translated into a fervent defense of African interests and in selfless work for the future of Africa; second, African leaders must regain the confidence of their people. This involves the daily affirmation of a pact of truth and honesty between each and everyone. A leader is, above all, a trustworthy person.

It is urgent to consolidate social and political institutions and to strengthen our civil society; cultural and ethnic diversity must be approached with a logic of respect, tolerance and open-mindedness; democratic culture must allow for and have everyone’s buy-in and must become rooted in our every day life; the state and its agents must become promoters of the common good and themselves comply with their own constitutions and other relevant laws; peace must be upheld as the utmost value, and avidly pursued both internally and in interstate relations.

I strongly believe that democracy is a crucial factor for development. But I should add, and I believe this is important, that democratic values will take root and become legitimized only if the system is capable of producing responses, in a timely fashion, to the demands and needs of citizens. That is to say, if the citizens’ living conditions are indeed improved. This is one of the main problems in Africa, a continent where millions of people live in poverty, if not indeed in extreme poverty. Under such conditions, immediate preoccupations with mere survival undermine the values of citizenship and place stability and social peace at risk.

That is why Africa must win the battle for development. Placing Africa on a track to sustainable and durable development that is for the benefit of all is the main challenge that is faced by new African leaders. And while I emphasize the primary responsibility of African leaders, it is no less true that the international community must also assume its responsibilities by increasing the flow of resources to Africa and creating the conditions that will permit the continent to increase its own participation in international trade.

I would like to stress that, in today’s world, clear-minded African leadership should abide by good governance. Good governance should not be seen as an external imposition but, rather, as a strategic resource that can drive internal development. Good governance should be anchored on solid moral and ethical principles, on the State’s rigorous and transparent management, on fostering the participation of society, on stimulating partnerships, and on a serious commitment to citizens.

We must formulate robust macroeconomic policies, yet also implement a social agenda that translates into positive improvements in the lives of citizens, in vital arenas such as health and education, in poverty reduction, and in the prevention of pandemics such as AIDS and malaria.

There is yet another concern that seems to me to be fundamental for Africa in this era of globalization: the need to invest in our people and build their capacity. African young people have to be effectively trained so that they can master new technologies and engage modernity. In this, what I would like to stress is that the States are not merely structures, but also institutions whose vitality depends on the consistency and capacity of their human component.

Africa has the resources and the conditions to succeed.

In Cape Verde, a small country made up of ten islands off the West African coast that achieved independence in 1975, we are resolved in our efforts to prove that this is possible. Despite the fact that we are a small island economy, with significant territorial dispersion, facing adverse natural conditions and persistent droughts, and despite the fact that Cape Verde has no known mineral resources nor any non-renewable energy sources, we are determined to transform our society so that it fulfills our vision of our future.

I must say that we are far from achieving our goals. But, in the short period of 28 years since independence, the fact is that we have made significant progress, having inherited a catastrophic situation that was the product of centuries of colonial domination and that led international experts at the time to conclude that our country was not a viable one.

We were the first country in Africa to initiate a democratic transition process, back in 1990. Many observers are of the opinion that ours was the most democratic of these transitions. Both legislative and local elections are held regularly in an environment of liberty and tranquility. Political changes in the government have occurred peacefully at regular intervals since then.

The multiparty regime is functioning. The opposition is duly recognized and its rights acknowledged and respected. These developments bear highlighting in light of the fact that intolerance, a lack of respect for difference, the non-recognition of minorities, and the State’s overall inability to manage cultural and ethnic diversity has been at the root of the failures of many democratic initiatives elsewhere in Africa.

We have managed to make substantial progress in building a state that abides by the rule of law in Cape Verde. The Constitution establishes the separation of powers. The citizens’ individual rights and liberties are guaranteed and respected. Institutions have credibility. The justice system maintains its independence from political power. Freedom of the press is a reality.

Moreover, we have developed initiatives that have enabled democratic values to take root by fostering the free participation of our civil society. Cape Verde’s decentralization is unique in sub-Saharan Africa. Power decentralization is a reality that is already deeply rooted in society and that has been an important factor in local development and in the promotion of citizen participation in public management. It has thus strengthened citizenship itself. There is no legal discrimination against women, who are visible as participants throughout all levels of society.

In Cape Verde, our successive political leaders have sought to plot a viable path towards our country’s economic and social development. It is true that we have not yet achieved our goals but the results to date show that we are on the right track. It should not be taken for granted that Cape Verde today has one of the best economic and social indicators in all of sub-Saharan Africa. And we are confident that we will achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Our population’s living conditions have improved significantly. Per capita income has gone from a little more than $100 in 1975 to more than $1,200 today. The economy has registered continued growth since independence – on average about 7 percent annually. All our children attend school – the schooling rate is 96 percent. It is worth mentioning that there is parity in school attendance between boys and girls, something that is rare in Africa. Adult illiteracy was reduced from more than 60 percent in 1975 to 25 percent in the year 2000. Key health indicators – such as our life expectancy of about 70 years and our under-five infant mortality of about 28 per thousand – are the best on the continent. In the recent 2003 UNDP Human Development Report, Cape Verde ranks third among sub-Saharan African countries.

Cape Verde is preparing itself to face globalization and the newly emergent world economy. Its rapid and profound transformations require leaders who are able to build a vision of the future and capable of mobilizing their people and of re-thinking the strategic paths that must be pursued.

We cannot not afford to be passive and as such have chosen a proactive approach that is dynamic and that allows us to identify and take advantage of the opportunities of globalization. In fact, we have no other choice. Ever since its discovery by Portuguese colonizers, Cape Verde has been a country open to the world, and its weak resource base and small domestic market demand that it continue to be so in the future.

Pursuing a participatory approach, that involves civil society and the private sector, we have outlined a shared vision and a long-term strategy that is based on consensus, and that will allow us to take advantage of the emerging global economy so that we may transform our economy and our society.

Good governance in Cape Verde has been recognized by both bilateral partners and international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank.

Good governance requires that new African leaders place particular emphasis on the moral aspects of development. Managing the country with rigor, transparency and equity, promoting fair and just social policies, and improving the living conditions of all, are the values that we seek to abide by in Cape Verde.

In Cape Verde we often say that our people are the main resources that we have. Our capacity to transform the country will depend on the quality of our human resources. Therefore, investing in building the capacity of our people has been one of the top priorities in Cape Verde. A significant portion of public resources is allocated to the sectors of education, training, and health. Poverty reduction likewise factors at the center of our concerns.

In sum, in this global world, Cape Verde is following its own path in its effort to gradually build a country that is modern, competitive, socially balanced, and respectful of the environment. This is our national goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude my presentation, I will return to the initial question: What forms of new leadership does Africa require in the context of the emerging global world? I believe that Africa needs:

  • Leaders committed to democratic principles and values, particularly those of liberty and equity;
  • Leaders that are tolerant, respectful of democratic rule, of difference, and of dissent;
  • Leaders with a vision, capable of positioning Africa in step with modernity;
  • Leaders capable of proposing and implementing social and economic agendas that mobilize society;
  • Proactive leaders, with a strategic sensibility, who are capable of taking advantage of globalization in order to transform African economies;
  • Leaders committed to the interests of citizens and with high moral standards.

In sum,

  • African leaders that promote peace and social stability on the continent.

This is the course that Cape Verde is pursuing.

Thank you.


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