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Address of H.E. José Manuel Barroso at the Summit 2022 and Leadership Conference

I'm delighted to participate in this UPF event and to address the topic of Africa's potential to contribute to the world. Africa is a great continent: 54 countries; 1.4 billion people; the most diverse continent from a genetic point of view; the median age is 20 years.

By the end of this century, we estimate there will be 4 billion people in Africa: the most dynamic demographics on this planet. This is certainly a challenge in terms of the growth necessary to generate employment for all these people. But it's a great asset from an economic point of view, because Africa will be one of the biggest markets in the world—but also from the point of view of a pool of talent, because all these new generations, if there is proper education and training, will be able to give a great contribution to the future of their countries, to Africa as a whole, and indeed to the world.

I believe I can say I know Africa relatively well. I'm a European, I'm not African, but I've been very much involved in African affairs since the 1980s, when I was a young state secretary for foreign affairs and also minister for development cooperation. I visited 35 countries in Africa. I was especially involved with the Lusophone countries—Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe—but also in other countries in Africa.

In Angola I was the official mediator that brought together for the first time the parties in conflict. And I was leading the process that would culminate in the democratic elections, the first free and fair elections in Angola, as recognized by the United Nations. I also was supporting the peace process in Mozambique and very close to the process of the end of apartheid and the transition to multiracial democracy in South Africa. I will never forget the first time I met Nelson Mandela some months after he left prison, when I met him in Windhoek on the day of Namibia’s independence. And one thing I understood about Africa is the great qualities of its people.

I really admire the resilience, the creativity, the ingenuity of the African people, their capacity to work under sometimes extremely difficult circumstances, their spirit of sacrifice, but also the joy of life, humor and that capacity to overcome great obstacles. We are used to hearing about the great natural resources of Africa, but the most important natural resource is Africa’s people.

But let's be honest: Problems remain, and they are serious: namely, the problem of inequity. When we compare Africa with the rest of the world, the reality is that in terms of wealth, of social, economic and cultural development, Africa remains behind the most developed parts of the world.

One example I know well—because as chairman of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and also leader of COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access], I've been following it very closely—is the issue of vaccine inequity. In COVAX, we were able to provide great assistance to Africa. Of the 860 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines received by African countries, 546 million—more or less 63 percent of the total—have been provided by COVAX. While COVAX has delivered globally around 1.6 billion COVID-19 vaccines, 35 percent of those were delivered to Africa. But in reality, this was not enough to solve the problem of inequity because of export restrictions and also excessive stockpiling of vaccines by some countries. The reality is that Africa received fewer vaccines and later. This is one example of what we need to correct when it comes to Africa. We need to transfer more know-how; we need to support local production in Africa; we need more investment in Africa. 

Of course, when we speak about Africa, we cannot ignore what's going on in the global context. And that global context is challenging, dangerous. We are living not in the global order, but global disorder. And so, when we see this decoupling, we have to ask ourselves: What can be the contribution of Africa? In the past, during the Cold War, we saw the attempts of the most important powers then to try to have some clients among the African states. So Africa was more reactive than proactive. The question now is to know if Africa will be able to come [up] with its own solutions. 

First of all, to achieve its unity and—instead of being on the receiving end of this global order or global disorder—to be able to contribute also to the proposals for a more just world. I think the current situation creates more incentives and conditions for this development, because in this fragmented world we are seeing that globalization is becoming increasingly regionalization. 

Regionalization is the new name of globalization. So, for instance, while Europe is making some steps for more integration and other parts of the world as well, it seems that it's now the time for Africa to assume its unity and also to come and give those contributions. Because the reality is that, in spite of those very deep political differences we are seeing today in the world, we still need it open at least to solve some global problems, like for instance, climate change or food security or the issue of public health. We need this work for the common good. And Africa can also give a contribution if it stands united and active to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of the clash of civilizations. So we need Africa for a global order, or at least to avoid such a global disorder.

Let me conclude with a warm word of appreciation to UPF and its founders, especially now that UPF is commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the passing of its co-founder, Reverend Dr. Moon. I believe it's appropriate to say how grateful we should be to UPF for its remarkable contribution to global dialogue, especially to dialogue for the reunification of Korea, such an important issue for global peace. I believe the Seoul Resolution signed in February [2022] in Korea at the World Summit was and remains a very important contribution for this goal. I thank you all for your kind attention.

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