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Tumi Makgabo: Inside Africa news

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Tumi Makgabo is an anchor for CNN International.

CNN: Good morning Tumi Makgabo. Welcome all to Inside Africa chat.

TUMI MAKGABO: Good morning, everybody. Nice to be in the room with you.

CNN: What are some of the near term goals and priorities of the African Union?

MAKGABO: I believe that fundamentally the goal will be pretty much that of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity), which is to promote unity and equality across the continent. But of course, the challenges will be the economic aspects, when it comes to that unification. Initially, they would have to focus on the conflicts, because unless a lot more is done to resolve those, no effective progress can be made.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the African Union?

MAKGABO: It is modeled very much on the concept of the European Union, but maintaining the ideals of the OAU. It is simply also the new body which replaces the OAU.

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CHAT PARTICIPANT: I have a general question. People refer to "Africa", yet it seems quite removed from a monolithic entity. How can the varying agendas of that very diverse continent be reconciled with the idea of a single body?

MAKGABO: That is exactly the challenge that the African Union is facing at the moment, the fact that it is so diverse in every aspect. But the key thing is that people do want peace, and people do want to be able to get on with their lives. That desire will have to be what guides the leaders. No one knows if it can be done or not, nor how soon that can be.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the real basis for the African conflicts: economics or power?

MAKGABO: It's a little bit of everything. Without standing on a soapbox, a lot of the issues and problems that countries on the continent face were exacerbated when the former colonial rulers left. Boundaries and borders that were not based on the lifestyles created by the African people, but drawn up by the colonial leaders themselves. So now, you're left with a situation where people are striving for self-determination, which naturally encompasses a want for economic stability for themselves.

The thirst for power is indeed an integral part of that, and that was also a legacy created and many African leaders now are grappling with trying not to let things get out of control. Unfortunately, in many instances, they don't know how to do that.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: How is the South Africa diamond production going?

MAKGABO: South African diamond production will continue to thrive by many African standards, although we all know that the industry itself is experiencing numerous difficulties, when one considers the focus in other parts of the continent on diamonds being used to fund wars.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What role can the U.S. play in helping the African peoples achieve economic and political self-determination?

MAKGABO: For many African countries, the issue of debt is one that needs to be addressed, more specifically by the United States, putting it higher up on the agenda, once again. Because of this burden, many states on the continent are not in a position to build any infrastructure or improve on that which already exists, because so much money is going toward debt repayment.

CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the AU doing to promote a good education for all Africans?

MAKGABO: The AU has only just become effective this month, and it's based on the belief that Africans should be entitled to self-determination, but also that there should be opportunity created for its citizens. Education is obviously key in achieving that. But, at this point in time, that responsibility still lies with individual states, because their economies will determine how they are best able to deal with that.

One can hope that the African Union will in the future be in a position to be more specific about promoting access and opportunity for education to all Africans. That, I believe, is still some time away, though.

CNN: Two African film festivals recently showcased films from African filmmakers. Is this a developing industry on the continent?

MAKGABO: The industry has always existed on the continent, but as we know, it is one that requires a lot of resources. Many places on the continent are not readily accessible, and there is also the aspect of safety, which is of concern to filmmakers. There are many African filmmakers on the continent itself who have continued to produce work throughout the years. But gaining recognition for their work is an ongoing battle, which is why many people in the world do not know that the continent even has a film industry.

CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?

MAKGABO: Africa is a continent that is filled with just about every aspect and emotion that you could possibly have, and once we begin to recognize and view the fact that there are thousands and millions of people trying to get along with their lives, just like people elsewhere in the world are, we will begin to understand the complexities and the beauty of the continent, and hopefully, be able to spread and share that understanding.

CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Tumi Makgabo.

MAKGABO: Thanks! It's been great! Looking forward to doing it again.

Tumi Makgabo joined the chat via telephone from CNN Center in Atlanta, GA. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Wednesday, July 18, 2001.






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