Seychelles President James Michel has called on the US government to develop a stronger relationship with the African islands and create innovative ways to include small island states in its investment programs.
President Michel was speaking at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington today, where he addressed African leaders and US President Barack Obama.
President Michel spoke about the importance of two issues for the summit: the Small Island States of Africa and the Blue Economy.
“I think we must not forget that Africa is not only the mainland Africa but is also made up of African islands… These islands should not be marginalized as we develop the concept of partnership, because we are small, we don’t have the economies of scale, sometimes we are left aside,” he said.
The President gave the example of the US Power Africa program, in which there are plans for the creation of dams and railway lines which will benefit different countries of mainland Africa.
“But these railways cannot reach our islands, and the power cannot reach the islands, but we exist, we are part of Africa. We should develop models, innovative models, to make ensure that African islands do not lose out, that we become part and parcel of this initiative,” said President Michel.
He called for the islands of Africa to be included in future programs such as solar energy and other partnerships.
President Michel said the summit had discussed the exploitation of resources that exist on the mainland, such as mining, oil exploitation, and agriculture, but he added that the ocean is an important resource for Africa.
“The ocean consists of 18% of Africa’s territory, unfortunately today not enough benefit is being derived from development of our oceans. But then again, It needs to be developed sustainably so that it remains vibrant, it remains healthy for future benefit of other generation,” said President Michel.
He commended the US government for the Oceans Summit which was organized in Washington recently as well as the work of the African Union to promote the Blue Economy concept.
“There is vast potential of development of the Blue Economy, and the United States has a lot of experience in oceanic research, and this can help us to develop mechanisms to be able to develop and harness the potential of the Blue Economy, which is very important for the future of our continent.”
President Michel said that the small island states are striving to survive in this globalized world and that the islands have put an emphasis on environmental protection.
“We have kept about 55% of our land territory as natural reserves, because we believe in the protection of our environment, we believe in the sustainability of our development, and believe in saving the planet. And your initiatives to try and reach to an agreement on climate change will help especially coastal areas and the small island states to ensure that we save the planet, which is our only home,” President Michel said.
He said that development is based on the stability of African states and that this is achieved through the stability of the democracy and good governance.
The Hon. James Michel shared the experience of Seychelles economic reforms which he said was accompanied by government reforms, which empowered the Seychelles democracy.
“Empowering our democracy, developing and consultative democracy, functional democracy which works well and empowers our people, was successful. And today, the international community, our partners, are starting to see the efforts that we’ve made… You talked about empowerment of our young people, which is key; we cannot have a future without empowering our young people. And your initiative about the Young Leaders program is commendable, but I think more than that, our individual countries should come up with concrete programs.”
The President spoke about the Seychelles’ Young Leaders Program, where academic study is complimented by education in the communities, where “the communities are their classroom.”
In his response, President Barack Obama said: “Thank you so much, those are excellent points. Obviously working together on maritime issues, issues with respective to enormous resources that are our oceans, dealing with pollution, dealing with making sure that fish stocks in the oceans are sustainable, dealing with climate change – those are all areas where we are seeking cooperation.”
Seychelles is a founding member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).