June 3rd, 2010
12:01 PM GMT
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"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.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. the US and its allies

    continue to rape the continent.

    egypt and south africa need to rise up and lead the continent in the brave new direction away from the global capitalist overlords.

    June 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  2. Tinashe

    Kofi Annan betrayed Zimbabwe over a decade ago when he attended the Hague Appeal in May of 1999 in The Netherlands. A Zimbabwean delegate had the opportunity to have a conversation with him. Discussed Zimbabwe's state then, and where it was heading. Signs were evident that the once thriving Southern African country was heading for a catastrophic melt down with Mugabe and his regime clinging to power at the expense of the masses, human rights abuse, land seizures, you name it.
    Annan was invited to Zimbabwe then, so he could intervene but his response was that, he trusted Mugabe to be that foolish to derail a once thriving economy, let alone bringing an end to democracy.
    Now Annan is concerned about Zimbabwe?? He hopes Mugabe will implement the recommendations African Progress Panel??
    What makes him think that he can influence Mugabe yet he did not have the balls to face him when he was Secretary General of UN.

    June 7, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  3. Erma Williams

    I would hope that the Progress of Aufrica would be emplemented immediately, it is certainly needed. If the Aufrican's would stop looking @ other world leaders (WL) & do their own thing, how much better they would be. I am a part of the Black Race of people even though I was born in America, my foreparents were somewhere mingled into the Africa soil and brough to America as Slaves. All of American's bron are not retarded. We still love Africa this is our Father's Land & America is our Mother's Land.

    God Bless America.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  4. Antonio Bure Simango

    My understanding is that Koffi Annan can better influence African Leaders to implement the recommendations of his African Progress Panel now rather than he could before. As UN Secretary, he had seen Africa as one of the continent under his agenda among other continents. Now it is easy to share his experience with his people for the sake of progress. But the only problem with african leaders is almost the same. They are being monitored from a distance by IMF & world Bank. The bottom line is always a messy, because they dont listen to the hidden voices of their humble people. Once they get the power, they easily forget the grassroots. I support those former leaders who after retirement they commit themselves to the community development without considering the policies of the governments. Governments change, but community remain the same.

    June 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Altaf Hirani

    Absolutely, these are our past leaders, they have huge experiences, and it would be wise to benefit from it, the elders of any community are it's big resource for a better future.

    June 14, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  6. Marieme Jamme

    Another institution that is failing Africa I will say!
    I personally think Koffi Annan needs to be challenged! He has too many President friends and sometimes he misses the reality to be Honest.
    Nice and calm talks will not change the continent.
    Be closer to the grass-roots Mr Annan, you will see more!!

    Best Wishes

    Marieme Jamme

    June 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  7. Chief Ayuk Arrey

    African Leaders don't consider that Panel should be a serious one.
    Firstly, Former Nigerian Leader Olusegun Obasanjo was a former Dictator who also committed Atrocities like present Africa Head of states.

    Secondly Koffi Annan might be sounding soft and Gentle but he was never honest when African affairs were concerned. while as S.G of UNO what did he do for Africa in Democratic reforms. His response on the Southern Cameroon issue was very poor and other Maginalised African little states.

    How many issues did he resolved in Africa as S.G, very little on the Bakassi land dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria. but failed to address the issue of the Illegal annexation of Southern Cameroon by La Republique du Cameroun.
    This same Koffi Annan illegally attended a sham Cameroon festival of Independence which is not recognised by the International Community according to International Law.

    Koffi Annan should shut up becos his mandate is Over. We don't trust him becos he is not Honest on issues concerning his friends who are Democratic Dictators.

    The African problem is just Greed and Selfishness by its Leaders.
    African True Compatriots are not yet born. With time Africa will change for good. when France will have no more place in African affairs.

    June 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

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