Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: SOWETAN
Former president Thabo Mbeki. Picture: SOWETAN

AFRICA is failing set its own terms for tackling security challenges and economic development on the continent, with a lack of adequate leadership evident in its response to both Libya and Mali, former president Thabo Mbeki said on Monday.

Speaking to students enrolled in the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at the University of South Africa, Mr Mbeki said the continent had in the past few years fallen off the international agenda and, when challenges arose, it lacked the ability to dictate the global response.

This was evident in the New Partnership for African Development — a development plan that had received backing from the West — ultimately losing the support of the Group of Eight, he said.

Mr Mbeki also pointed to the recent intervention by French military forces in Mali, despite it being "quite clear that Africans wanted to solve … this crisis on our own". However, a lack of leadership prevented African forces from being mobilised quickly enough, he said.

A three-week French offensive in Mali is drawing to a close, with a final rebel stronghold in the far north of the country the only hold-out of the al-Qaeda-linked rebel forces. French President Francois Hollande said at the weekend that once the 3,500 French troops in the country had restored the Malian government’s authority, the United Nations-backed African military force of about 8,000 troops would take over operations.

The rebel forces had also occupied Timbuktu in the north of Mali for almost a year, raising fears for the safety of more than 300,000 ancient Islamic manuscripts in the city, some being stored or restored at the South African-sponsored Baba Ahmed Institute.

The R60m library at the institute was opened by then acting South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and Mr Mbeki in 2009, and South Africa’s support for the institute stems from a 2001 state visit to Mali by Mr Mbeki.

Mr Mbeki said on Monday that despite not driving the military forces in Mali, Africa was likely to have to deal with the continuing challenges in that country.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African of Unity, which later became the African Union, and Mr Mbeki said the focus should be on the state of the continent’s leadership and how it agitated for its own programmes, such as economic development.

Otherwise, he said, the rest of the world would "go back to their own conceptions of what Africa has to do to deal with itself".

With Reuters