ChevronTexaco Chairman & CEO David O'Reilly Addresses Sixth Leon H. Sullivan Summit
Asserts Debt Relief is Critical to Africa's Economic and Social Progress
ABUJA, NIGERIA, Jul. 16, 2003 -- ChevronTexaco Chairman and CEO David J. O'Reilly today urged key stakeholders to work together to address an issue critically important to the economic and social progress of Africa -- debt relief. Speaking to more than 500 attendees at the sixth Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, O'Reilly also emphasized the need for citizen groups, business and government leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to create partnerships that work toward sustainable solutions for Africa's economic development.
"I believe it is poverty and the meeting of basic human needs that is the defining challenge of the 21st century," O'Reilly said. "Today, there are still 1 billion people who are struggling to survive on less than $1 a day. In Africa, half the population -- that's 300 million people -- are in this situation."
Creating an environment that will enable all of the people of Africa to share in the benefits that social and economic progress has provided to others is a huge challenge that cannot be ignored, he said.
"Africa's staggering debt burden, much of it decades old, today sits over the continent like a dark cloud," said O'Reilly. "Debt has become a harness, strapped to every African child at birth, which a lifetime of work cannot loosen or shed. In 2002, 10 African governments spent more on debt repayments than on health care and education combined.
"We must create the trust and partnerships that allow relief to move forward and lift the cloud of debt," he continued. "Lasting debt relief must address bad lending practices as well as bad borrowing practices. And it must acknowledge that merely replacing old debt with new debt is no relief at all. The upside potential is enormous."
O'Reilly outlined several actions stakeholders can take to help promote progress toward reducing Africa's debt, which reached more than $200 billion in 2002.
Speaking about the roles of the various stakeholders in Africa's economic progress, O'Reilly suggested that "African governments must do the things only they can do: advocate and practice good governance, meet basic human needs and create a favorable investment climate," he said. "International governments must help confront some of Africa's and the world's most pressing problems, and they must help in the hard work of human and institutional capacity building."
NGOs and community-based organizations must build their own local capacity, and they must be open to working with all stakeholders, O'Reilly said. "I was disheartened, when my company sought public sector partners for sustainable development projects in Africa, to hear that at least two major NGOs would not partner with us or anyone in our industry for fear of losing members -- this, despite acknowledging the value of our projects. Who loses because of such attitudes? I would contend that it is the very people we all are trying to help and the very problems we are trying to solve.
"For our part," O'Reilly continued, "business must forge new partnerships, especially public-private partnerships. We must work with governments, NGOs and communities to ensure that the greatest possible economic and social benefits flow from our activities. We must make positive contributions to people's lives."
O'Reilly acknowledged that transparency is critical to increasing investment and support from the continent's varied stakeholders. "Transparency is the confidence-builder that encourages Africa's businesses, NGOs and governments to reach toward each other," he said. Commenting on ChevronTexaco's support for Prime Minister Blair's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, O'Reilly noted, "African nations are advancing the cause of transparency and, I believe, are hastening the day of sustainable debt relief."
Concluding his remarks, he said, "All of us here today share Leon Sullivan's belief that Africa truly is 'a continent of possibilities.' Africa has so much in its hands -- rich resources, the talents and energy of its people, and the commitment of a new and growing generation of enlightened leaders. Those gifts are the foundation for a great bridge between Africa and America, one that will lay the groundwork for an African renaissance and fulfill Leon Sullivan's vision. If we work together -- if we reach out to each other -- that vision can and will be realized."
O'Reilly's remarks came on the third day of the summit. Earlier in the week, during an address to mark the summit's opening, U.S. President George W. Bush paid tribute to O'Reilly's leadership on economic and social issues when he said, "Dave O'Reilly understands the definition of corporate responsibility, and I appreciate the leadership of Dave and ChevronTexaco. Their job is not only to make a return for their shareholders, their job is to show compassion, as well. And I appreciate your leadership, Dave."
Updated: July 2003