(HN, June 30, 2010) - Cape Town, South Africa - Archbishop Desmond Tutu's oratorical prowess is legendary. But when "Arch" spoke to a conference room this weekend, packed with some of the world's top executives; a normally skeptical crowd, this holy man's warmth and charisma brought the room to complete silence: you could hear a pin drop.
Tutu was invited to wrap up a three-summit hosted by the so-called media triumvirate of Fortune, Time and CNN. The theme that emerged was that Africa's time is now - especially with the continent hosting the World Cup for the very first time.
Among African political and business leaders, there was a feeling of heady exuberance - that new infrastructure, growing stability and waves of visitors coming will kick-start a new investment wave. South African President Jacob Zuma's confident opening remarks at the summit were symbolic of the more self-assured voice one hears more frequently in the corrdiors of power here.
But as Tutu correctly remarked, the continent can't do it alone - and needs the skills, resources and expertise of outsiders to deal with seemingly intractable problems.
"The World Cup has done an incredible thing for us. It told us that we can do this. Yet again we have shown the world, in South Africa just how much we are a rainbow nation. That we are there for one another. It's been an incredibly exhilarating time.
"But we look to you to work with us. This is a continent about to make a leap…and we know that you are very, very smart people. So we pray that you are going to help us eradicate poverty in this cradle of humankind. That you will help us with all the skills that you have. We hope that you will assist us to reduce the burden in Africa."
Tutu reminded an audience sitting in the opulence of the Cape Town Convention Centre, that in many parts of Africa many people are still living on just $2-a-day. "We won't have stability if we have such a skewed relationship."
He said that the world needs to come to terms with the idea that "we are all member of one family."
The rich countries, he said, spend billions of dollars on "instruments of death and destruction." If even a very minute fraction of defence budgets were to be diverted, it would be enough to ensure that all the children in the world don't go to bed hungry. "It's a revolution in our thinking that has got to happen."
Tutu's plea for aid was extremely timely. Recently, respected international non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have begun ringing loud alarm bells - saying that donor nations are starting to reduce their funding for HIV AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.
Seth Berkley, the chief of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, told HUMNEWS that in 2008, for the first time, there was a 10 percent decline in global expenditures on HIV vaccine research and that 2009 figures could also be down.
Said Berkley: "Things that are long term are often the first to go at a time like this. And yet if we are ever going to have a chance to eliminate this disease we need better tools."
Many speakers at the summit complained that there exists an enormous knowledge gap in the West on Africa, and that major media should share the blame for this.
African telecommunication entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim told HUMNEWS that this is one of the continent's major headaches.
"This is our main weakness in Africa - that people don't know," said Ibrahim. "There is a total ignorance of what's happening here."
He said that an Indian company typically receives 15 times the market research coverage over an African company of the corresponding size.
"Nobody invests in an atmosphere of ignorance. How can you go to your investment or credit committee with a proposal when they don't know what you are talking about? It is tough."
--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw in Cape Town, South Africa