ADDIS ABABA, Feb 5– Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, the newly elected Chairman of the African Union (AU) has held talks here United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Executive Secretary Carlos Lopez, focusing mainly on Africa’s economic challenges and opportunities.

The UN agency, which is based in the Ethiopian capital, specializes in economic policy research for Africa, and
plays an advisory role to governments as well the African Union (AU), whose commission also has its headquarters here.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting Tuesday, Lopez said he briefed President Mugabe on the work of the UNECA, and sought his views on how Africa could advance its development agenda. In particular, he said, the UNECA wanted the new AU chairman’s input in formulating a post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda, more so the financing aspect.

The MDGs, adopted by the United Nations in 2000, expire this year, and the world body is expected to come up with a consensus follow-up programme for adoption, possibly at the UN General Assembly in September.

Lopez said Africa was short-changed, as far as financing was concerned, under the expiring MDGs programme, and was now keen to avoid a repeat of his in the mooted Sustainable Development Goals follow-up agenda.

“This is the beginning of President Mugabe’s tenure as the chairman of the African Union, so we were very pleased to brief him on all the various activities we do together with the African Union and in particular the economic and social fields because this is a very important year when there is particular emphasis on development goals, and we want to marry these with the African Union,” he said.

“With the President we discussed how during his tenure he can guide us in terms of implementing some of the recommendations that came from the African consultations,” he added.

At the 24th Ordinary Session of the AU Heads of State and Government Summit here last week, Africa’s leaders adopted an ambitious 50-year development programme for the continent, Agenda 2063, at the heart of which is local control and exploitation of Africa’s vast natural resources.

It seeks to reverse Africa’s current economic model where the continent’s resources are owned almost entirely by investors from developed countries where these are siphoned off cheaply for processing at Africa’s expense.

In place of this, Agenda 2063 seeks to ensure that the resources are locally owned, and processed in Africa to ensure the continent derived greater value. This is a policy change that President Mugabe is a vocal advocate of, and is already being implemented in Zimbabwe via land reform and indigenization.

Lopez, who met President Mugabe for more than one hour, said the UNECA shared Africa’s vision, and would partner the AU to realize the agenda’s implementation. “Not only are we in sync (with Agenda 2063), but we are very much a part of this agenda together with the African Development Bank and (the) Nepad agency,” he added.

“We are the partners of the African Union in conceptualizing and developing the current Agenda 2063 that has been adopted, and we have already published (an) enormous number of research papers and policy recommendations on industrialization. We are the champions of industrialization in Africa so we are in absolute perfect sync with this agenda.”