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DURBAN July 2002


African business delegates meeting during the inaugural African Union summit in Durban pledged their full support for the African Union and the continent's economic recovery plan, NePAD.

In resolutions presented to the AU Heads of State Assembly, business complimented political leaders for putting in place structures and processes "that will take Africa away from its past".

"This summit of African entrepreneurs and business people, cognisant of the fact that the continent is on the threshold of a new and exciting future... hereby pledge our full support and commitment to make the African dream a reality."

The three-page document was handed to South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin at the conclusion of the meeting on Wednesday 3 July 2002 and was put forward for consideration at the AU summit.

"It is an opportunity to give political leaders of the AU something to chew on literally on day one," Dali Mpofu, executive director of South African electronics group Altron told journalists.

About 200 delegates from across the continent met in South Africa's east coast city alongside preparatory talks on the formation of the AU.

Erwin said the three-day AU Business Summit should be seen as a start of the dialogue between business and government on the AU and the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

"What has kicked off here in an exciting way... (is) getting some indication of what business wants right at the beginning of the process." The final form of the relationship between business and the political structures would evolve out of such meetings in the future, he said.

In their final resolutions, the delegates proposed an AU Business Council be formed to better articulate their aspirations and issues.

The council is to liaise with the AU in order to create an enabling environment for African business.

The conference asked that trade and investment facilitation by the AU should be done in close collaboration with the business community and investors, potential and existing.

They also proposed that the AU establish a mechanism through which donor aid packages were designed to minimise crowding out of local businesses.

"The (Business) summit calls on the AU and African governments to require donors to ensure that at least 25 percent of donor funds be spent on local goods and services and at least an additional 25 percent on regional goods and services."

Mpofu said this would help stop business generated from the aid flowing back to the donor country rather than being taken up by local companies. Aid often came with certain conditions that made it difficult for African companies to benefit.

"I think what the recommendation says is that active steps are needed to bring about (local) procurement," Erwin added.