The Tana Forum, one of Africa’s foremost think tanks on peace, security and development, will devote this year's edition to one of the most crucial topics confronting us today, namely the governance of our continent's natural resources. Along with various stakeholders, including political leaders and experts from various fields of study and work, we will attempt to find answers to the many critical issues that we must tackle to transform our economies, and to preserve and judicially exploit our natural resources to enable the people of Africa to live in a peaceful and sustainable environment.
The strategic and comparative advantages that Africa holds in natural resources, including hydrocarbons, minerals of all kinds, and arable lands, must be managed to ensure that Africans have full ownership. The success of the Forum will depend on the capacity of African leaders to reflect on strategies that will find an answer to one of the most vexing paradoxes of our time: how can the people of a land so rich live in squalor? This question has been facing us for decades and will continue to haunt us for generations to come if we fail to find the right answers. This urgency makes this year’s Forum a most important one, especially at a time when our universe is threatened by resource scarcities that will eventually lead to a global hunt for everything that Africa possesses, both on and under its land.
The Tana Forum fills a knowledge sharing gap among African leaders in politics, academia, the private sector and civil society. Tana 2017 will create an environment where we can share our ideas, find similarities across different activities and set up long term strategies for the wellbeing of our people.
Today, around the world, Africa is the last frontier of development; a land of hope, opportunities and possibilities where humanity can find new solutions without repeating the mistakes of the past. The knowledge base exists, what is missing are the linkages that can only come through dialogue. If Africans fail to share their experience and neglect to carry out research on the issues confronting them, peace, security and ultimately human development will continue to evade us. We can and must strive to turn our natural wealth into palpable benefits for the people of Africa. This can only be possible if we meet in a setting such as the Tana Forum where our brightest minds will assemble and devise theories that will serve as guiding lights for our collective peace, security and development.
A strong wind is currently blowing throughout the continent. A new governing process in almost every country on the continent - where leaders are now accountable to the people - is the surest guarantee for peace and security. Democratic governance is taking root in the continent and we must ensure that it is sustained and reaches into every part of every nation. This process can only be strengthened if we set a clear path to guide us.
Just last year, world nations adopted a new development agenda at the United Nations called Agenda 2030, replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015. Africa played a key role in crafting that framework. Amongst the many universal goals of Agenda 2030 are a few of extreme importance to our continent: safe societies built on justice and fairness; national resource mobilization to meet the needs of the people and break away from the exploitative dependency syndrome that has slowed our progress; and finally, partnership amongst nations and people. We invite everyone to participate in these issues, which lie at the very core of our livelihoods.
The African Union (AU) Summit held in Addis Ababa in January was a harbinger of where the institution is headed. It is no longer a talking shop where long and sometimes inflammatory speeches prevail. Internal assessments have led to clarity of purpose, resulting in Agenda 2063, which sets forth the aspiration of the African people for a future they want.
The Summit was swift in adopting important measures and devising solutions to fund its programmes and projects while standing as the clear voice for Africa on all issues related to peace, security and development. The Tana Forum will serve as a venue to discuss the practical and implementable solutions to our continental issues.
The Tana Forum (22-23 April in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia) is the place for leaders to meet and devise solutions on Africa’s strategic and comparative advantages when it comes to natural resource governance. We look forward to witnessing participants make genuine efforts to build on our progress and craft a roadmap for sustainable peace, security and development on the continent.
By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Nobel Prize Laureate, and Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the Board of the Tana Forum and former President of Nigeria.