Message by Nelson Mandela at Rome Conference on Africa

April 2004

Your Worship Mayor Walter Veltroni
Delegates to the Conference
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for your kind invitation for us to participate in this very important conference. First prize for us would have been to attend in person in order to demonstrate our sincere appreciation for the efforts to foreground the continent of Africa and to strengthen the ties between Africa and Europe.

We tender our humble apologies for not being able to attend. As you will no doubt be aware South Africa held its third democratic elections at exactly this time and we needed to be in the country.

These elections coincide with our celebration of a decade of democracy in South Africa. We can never celebrate the achievement of freedom and democracy without deeply remembering the role of our international solidarity partners across the world in helping to bring about that change. Without their moral and material support we could not have achieved freedom in the manner and in the time that we did. South Africans will always remain indebted to the international community for its participation in the struggle against apartheid.

We are now in the equally challenging process of transformation, reconstruction and development. We are humbly confident that our democracy is sound, healthy and well established. We have a constitutional order enjoying the support of all South Africans, irrespective of background and historical differences. Our great challenge within that democracy is to build a better life for all of our people, especially the poor and the marginalized.

We have placed our own developmental needs and programmes firmly within the framework of African development. We are an African country and our fate is closely inter-linked with that of our continent. Our leaders have played a key role together with others from the continent in the search for the regeneration of Africa. The input of President Thabo Mbeki into the New Plan for African Development (NEPAD) is generally recognised.

Our celebration of a decade of democracy in South Africa is, therefore, at the same time a celebration of the efforts of the leaders and people of the continent to work for the African renewal and regeneration.

Once more the support and partnership of the international community, and particularly the developed world, will be crucial. NEPAD envisages a partnership with the industrialised North as a central aspect to its realisation.

It is essential for our common future on the planet that the marginalisation of Africa be ended and that all parts of the world be accorded equal attention and focus within our globalised world.

This conference speaks of the will and determination amongst some of the leaders of the North to address those issues and to focus on Africa. We cannot commend Mayor Veltroni and his colleagues strongly enough for this initiative.

We hope that your deliberations will be fruitful and that its outcomes will contribute concretely to the development of Africa and its people. It is fitting that the African Renaissance towards which African leaders are working so hard finds a supportive partnership in this city and country that had been so central to the European Renaissance.

I wish you well and thank you most sincerely.


Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation