Africa Day is today, May 25, and amid the doom and gloom that is often the story of Africa, there is much to celebrate.

Published by IOL & African Monitor

I believe that the winds of change driving this progress with passionand vision are stronger leadership, better governance and an improvedbusiness climate.

Africans have come to the fore with innovation, market-based solutions,people participation and a growing tendency to rely on home-grownstrategies for development. We are driving our own development!

We celebrate Africa Day on the eve of the World Cup, the first hosted on this continent.

This Africa Day we must remember the commitment and dedication of manyAfrican leaders who, through tremendous effort and sacrifice, broughtindependence to our continent.

We rejoice that today we have visionary leaders who are seeking to find solutions for sustainable development.

Our people have excelled in areas of art, literature, sport, poetry,economics, environmental issues, world peace and human rights.

Africa has given the world the wisdom and skills of people like Kenyanenvironmentalist Wangari Maathai; Nelson Mandela, the firstdemocratically elected president of South Africa; former UNsecretary-general Kofi Annan, who is from Ghana; and ArchbishopEmeritus Desmond Tutu. All of them are Nobel laureates.

These leaders are a shining example of what is possible in the quest todevelop leadership that can help in developing African solutions.

On this Africa Day we celebrate the achievements of countries such asMalawi, where, after the drought in 2002, about 5 million people - outof its 12 million population - needed food aid.

Now, Malawi donates maize to other hunger-stricken countries in the region.

Sierra Leone, once a war-torn country, is a success story now, withgood governance, political tolerance, strong commitment to fightcorruption and drug trafficking, and a pursuit of praiseworthypeace-building initiatives.

In landlocked Mali, the implementation of a multi-modal (road, rail andair) transport system was key to overcoming infrastructuralconstraints.

We have success stories in Rwanda in the coffee sector, in Kenya in the cellphone industry and many more like these.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the economic conditions and landscape has changed dramatically since the mid-1990s.

The region is also making headway on poverty reduction and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

At a recent ministerial conference in Lilongwe, Malawi, the impact ofclimate change was given serious consideration. To combat the effectsof climate change, ministers at the conference committed to integrateit in their growth, employment and poverty eradication strategies, andurged development partners to provide financial, technological andcapacity-building assistance to put in place effective adaptation andmitigation strategies as a priority.

Ministers also committed themselves to realising the vision of afood-secure Africa within five years with policies and strategies thatprovide incentives to farmers (particularly smallholders),agro-industries and agri-business enter- prises to enable them torespond to the growing demand for food.

They further pledged to accelerate the implementation of the Maputoprotocol, in which African governments committed to spend at least 10percent of their annual budgets on agriculture.

In science, too, Africa is making progress. Science is beginning to betransformed into culture and the growing army of educated young peoplein Africa and the African Diaspora is forming the all-importanttechnological bridge in this transformation.

The continent has great growth potential. To reach this potential we need to advocate and promote trading within Africa.

Civil society organisations like African Monitor are always seekingways to promote people-centred development and community participation.

Because we see poverty as a human travesty, African Monitor facilitatesa process in the most remote of communities, called poverty hearings.

Through these hearings people's voices are heard. We pledge that afterlistening to the stories we will work vigilantly to ensure that theyare used to amplify the voices of Africans in development issues tothose who make and implement policy.

This Africa Day, let us be a fresh wind for our people and ourinstitutions and let us be energised and motivated to work resolutelyfor a world that is whole and happy, where all may live with dignity.

None of these stories mean Africa's problems have disappeared. Issuesof press freedom and democracy, and some leaders' tendency to refuse torelinquish power, are things that blight Africa's development.

For development to flourish, democracy and its institutions must bestrong. On a day like this each country should take stock of how far ithas come - these stories of African success must inspire all to realisethat they can use resources to lift their people out of the misery ofpoverty.

Ndungane is the president of African Monitor. This is an extract from his Africa Day statement for this year.