"The Venue" was an odd place to interview one of the world’s former top diplomats. It is a rent-by-the-evening nightclub in a swanky area of Johannesburg. The room set aside for the interview had a decadent, rather naughty vibe. Our first challenge was to shoot the interview without the picture looking like we were sitting in a B-movie set. So, for a start, our crew removed the velvet cushions and the fake, red plastic candelabra.
It appeared to be an incongruous setting for a man like Kofi Annan, who is a small-framed, gentle- voiced Ghanian who once headed up the United Nations. He now chairs the Africa Progress Panel along with former Nigerian President Olusagan Obasanjo, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other world luminaries.
They launched their report on "Africa’s progress" at The Venue, but while they offered their musings on the state of the continent, I wondered if their offerings – along with all the other international lists and panels giving guidance to African leaders about the "State of Africa" – was really worth the paper it was printed on?
After all, it seems like my inbox is continually getting new "reports" and "progress panels" and "leadership prizes" about African leadership, corruption and business readiness. Who bothers to read these papers, never mind actually implement the policies?
I put that question to Kofi Annan. “Why,” I asked him, would anyone implement the African Progress Panel’s recommendations when he and all the other former leaders on these panels were no longer in power? And why would anybody listen to you now when you have no power?’ His response showed he was a skilled diplomat, with little defensiveness or aggression in his answer.
In fact, Annan was quite honest when he said: “I think quite a few of us did our best and did, I hope, make some contribution but your point is a good one. We are ordinary citizens, who are using our experience and whatever influence we have to focus attention on African issues and share ideas with the African leaders."
So the question is, Do you think Robert Mugabe, Paul Kagame, Jacob Zuma, Goodluck Jonathan or any other African leader would read the African Progress Report and think, 'Hmm, I must implement these recommendations immediately?'
PS. I am told there was no other suitable venue – because of the football World Cup, all the classy places were booked.
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