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Wednesday, October 11, 2000, updated at 21:45(GMT+8)

Future of Africa Is Bright: OAU Chief

The future of the African continent is "certainly bright," said secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Salim Ahmed Salim, who is in Beijing attending the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, which began Tuesday.

Mr. Salim, who has held his current post for 11 years, recalled that, when he first came to OAU, the African continent was still suffering from colonialism and imperialism, and today, "Africa is totally free," he said.

He did not conceal his pride as he talked about Africa. "It's a rich continent endowed with rich resources", he said. "But this rich continent has the poorest population."

Now that the African people have gained independence and freedom, they are facing more arduous tasks, he said.

"The challenge now is how to make the best use of our rich resources for the betterment of our people", he said.

To reach this goal and meet challenges posed by unequal international trade, Salim said it is crucial to push ahead with political and economic integration of the African continent.

The intended African Union will be the right medium for such continental integration, Salim said, the objective of which is "to have greater cohesion and greater solidarity within the continent and for the continent to have a common voice to the outside world."

The African Union is expected to be able to channel the energy and resources of Africa for the betterment of all African countries and put the continent in a better position when dealing with the rest of the world, he said.

Up to now, 30 OAU members have signed the Draft Constitutive Act of the African Union, and the new organization can hopefully be founded in the coming few years, he said.

Mr. Salim, who served as Tanzanian ambassador to China in the 1960s, has special sentiments for China.

He completely agreed with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the need to establish "an equitable and just new international political and economic order", saying the new order shall be constructed with joint efforts from China, Africa and all countries of the world.

"The African people are striving to achieve this goal," he said.

As human society is entering a new millennium, he said "China and Africa need to build a new partnership and fully tap the immense potentials for cooperation, in a bid to make full use of opportunities brought by globalization. Such a partnership is undoubtedly to our mutual benefit," Salim said.

When asked to comment on the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, Salim said it is "unprecedented and meaningful."

He said the meeting is "a very constructive and timely initiative," for the two sides have group dialog on future cooperation.

"The participation of heads of states, foreign ministers and trade ministers from so many African countries is in itself indicative of a better tomorrow for Africa and China," he said.

The OAU chief said he expected the forum to promote China-Africa cooperation and mutual understanding not simply in terms of improving trade relations and technical cooperation, but also in such areas as how the two sides can work together in international settings and worldwide negotiations to meet the challenges of globalization.

He therefore proposed that the two sides establish a bilateral mechanism to "translate what is agreed here into concrete action" and further expand Sino-African cooperation.

Sino-African Cooperation Guidelines for Economic and Social Development, due to be endorsed at the forum, will constitute an effective part of such a mechanism, he said.

In response to the reporter's question on how to help the younger generation in China and Africa to have an objective view of history, and how to inherit and carry forward the traditional Sino-African friendship, Salim said both China and Africa have a long history and ancient civilizations. "The younger generation must not forget history", he said.

Salim stressed China and Africa must educate their youth on the need to preserve what is good in history, because "they are the ones who can ensure the continuation of great civilizations."

In This Section

The future of the African continent is "certainly bright," said secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Salim Ahmed Salim, who is in Beijing attending the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, which began Tuesday.

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