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Statement by President Lennart Båge

Fourth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union

30-31 January 2005 Abuja, Nigeria

Your Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union

Your Excellencies, Honourable Heads of State and Government

Your Excellency Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairman of the Commission of the African Union

Your Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations,

Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my great honour and privilege to join this session of the AU.

The Report on the Status of Food Security indicates clearly that Africa is making progress despite difficulties. Your Excellencies, IFAD mobilises resources from donors around the world. Their use is designed in partnership with your government and local communities. Implementation is by you to ensure ownership and sustainability.

Today, IFAD continues to spend about half of its investments in Africa – which to date has been for almost 4 billion dollars. Of our ongoing work worldwide, 52% is in Africa . With more than one hundred active projects in Africa , a positive impact on more than 50 million poor and vulnerable rural men and women in Africa is made.

We are further increasing our commitment by expanding IFAD field presence in eight countries in Africa . Presence in the field will further supplement our efforts and provide technical and policy support to accelerate African governments' contributions to achieving the MDGs. It is expected that this programme will be expanded to cover more countries in Africa , in order to further enhance results and increase impact.

Your Excellencies, Africa has demonstrated that it has the potential to feed its people: cassava production has quadrupled during the past ten years, making it the world's largest producer; under favourable climatic conditions, millet and sorghum has recorded bumper harvests, with possibilities for substantial food grain reserves in Sahelian countries. In IFAD we are proud to have been associated with these successes. Also, despite persistent and new challenges, cotton production has reached new heights, although the international trade regime continues to disfavour poor and hard working African farmers.

Your Excellencies, IFAD is pleased to be associated with the continued increasing level of commitments of those of you in this room – particularly your commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development despite the high debt burden faced by many African countries. I welcome the increased emphasis placed by world leaders on radical debt relief to free resources for more focus on poverty reduction in Africa . We will continue to be active partners in African debt relief.

For sustainability, we are broadening and deepening our partnership not only with African governments, the African Union and the NEPAD, but also with African regional institutions engaged in the development, review and implementation of poverty reduction strategies in countries such as Mauritania , and post-conflict development programmes in Congo for example.

Moreover, we fully recognise the valuable work of agricultural research and development institutions and we will continue to provide grants to institutions that support African initiatives to counteract and overcome pest and disease threats, such as the recent locust plagues in Sahelian countries, and developing and implementing activities to increase crop and livestock yields.

Although IFAD's annual programme of work is growing – it has increased by almost 30 per cent since 2002 - we want to see it continue to grow in the coming years. With your encouragement and support we will continue to mobilise increasing levels of funding to substantially increase the programme of work in African. In this regard, every dollar of IFAD resources is matched by another dollar in cofinancing.

This new millennium is bringing a lot of hope for the future. As such, I share your confidence that the livelihood opportunities which the rural poor deserve are provided, and that the prospects that the coming years will bring for the youth are bright.

I am increasingly convinced that through our close and effective collaboration, the everyday reality many rural communities in Africa face, will continue to be improved and access to the food they need will be ensured.

Thank you