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Home > News > Conflict resolution, Fight against fake medicines and Africa-West future relations: Jean-Yves Ollivier answers Afrimag's questions

Published on 1 February 2024 / Peace / Public Health

Conflict resolution, Fight against fake medicines and Africa-West future relations: Jean-Yves Ollivier answers Afrimag's questions


1 February, London - In an interview with the monthly pan-African magazine Afrimag, Jean-Yves Ollivier, Founding Chairman of the Brazzaville Foundation, shared his thoughts on the major issues facing the African continent and the initiatives being undertaken to address them, such as the resolution of internal and external conflicts, the fight against fake and substandard medical products and the future of relations between Africa and the West. The interview is available via this link or below (English translation available on the English version of our website).

AFRIMAG: The Brazzaville Foundation is involved in a number of cross-functional areas and in a wide variety of sectors, contributing to or providing solutions. And yet, this organisation remains rather discreet. What is it? What is its field of action? And why the name Brazzaville?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: The Brazzaville Foundation is an international, voluntarist organisation committed to peace that was created on 14 August 2014 with its headquarters based in London. The Foundation acts under the control of the Charity Commission. Without being restrictive, the Brazzaville Foundation's missions can be summarised in three fields of action.


Firstly, there are conflict prevention and resolution missions in favour of peace, with concrete achievements such as the Dakar 1 inter-Libyan dialoguethe African peace mission in Kyiv and then in St-Petersburg in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, etc. Secondly, environmental protection missions, whose flagship actions include the strong collaboration of the Brazzaville Foundation in the creation of the Congo Basin Blue Fund (the Agreement was signed in Oyo in 2016), support for the Elephant Protection Initiative to combat the ivory trade, etc. And finally, a public health mission through the fight against counterfeit medicines which resulted in "the Lomé Initiative" as an emblematic action.


As for its name, it has a dimension that is both historical and symbolic. Historical, because our organisation was founded in the wake of Nelson Mandela's release, which marked the definitive end of the iniquitous apartheid regime. As it happens, I modestly played an important and discreet role in the negotiations of the Brazzaville Protocole  (signed in December 1988) that brought peace to southern Africa and put an end to apartheid. As for the symbolism, it simply refers to the capital of the Congo where the Protocole was signed. I was honored with South Africa's highest distinction by President Mandela.

AFRIMAG: The Brazzaville Foundation is launching a new initiative for a common, shared vision of the future of Africa-Western relations, which you call "The Marrakesh Meetings". What is it about and what is its objective?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: The Brazzaville Foundation, its friends and partners have conceived and launched this new initiative called "The Marrakesh Meetings". The first edition took place from 4 to 6 January 2024.


In practical terms, it is a forum for reflection and emulation bringing together a number of African and Western personalities. Its main objective is to develop a common, shared vision for the future of Africa-Western relations, based on principles of equity, mutual respect and inclusive cooperation.

Participants at the Marrakech Meetings, © Brazzaville Foundation.

AFRIMAG: Moving on. The overall birth rate in Africa is the subject of debate in Europe. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the subject a central theme in his speeches on climate change. The current President, Emmanuel Macron, has followed suit, both omitting to mention infant mortality and/or the virtual absence of pension systems in Africa. It is in this same context that President Macron calls for a "demographic rearmament" of France and, by extension, of Europe. Don't you see this as a paradox or an extension of the famous "double standard"?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: At the Brazzaville Foundation, we don't see it as our vocation to deal with issues that are intrinsically linked to the very values and foundations of societies in general, and in Africa in particular. In a constructive approach, we prefer to work on what brings human beings together, namely principles of equity, mutual respect and inclusive cooperation. By the way, if we look objectively at the facts, Africa is far from being an overpopulated continent in terms of population density.


AFRIMAG: Africa is underpopulated, despite a projected population of 2.5 billion over the coming decades. Very few of the 54 African states have a population of 30 million. Yet, according to demographers and development specialists, there is a positive correlation between development and the optimal population of a state, which is between 30 and 40 million inhabitants. How do you approach this nagging question?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: While this is a nagging question, as you say, the fact remains that these are societal choices that fall entirely outside the remit of the Brazzaville Foundation. It's up to each state to choose its own policy in this area.


AFRIMAG: As regards the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, an African peace mission took place under the leadership of the Brazzaville Foundation. What lessons have you drawn from this mediation?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: From this mission of seven geographically representative heads of state, we clearly retain our desire and Africa's firm intention to play a constructive role in the conduct of world affairs. The stated aim was to initiate contact between the two parties to the conflict, Russia and Ukraine, to meet them successively and to hear their views, with a view to offering Africa's readiness to play a facilitating role when it comes to bring the two states to the negotiating table.

The Brazzaville Foundation's delegates meeting with high-level representatives of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister as part of the Ukraine-Russia African peace mission, © Brazzaville Foundation.

AFRIMAG: Initiatives of this kind are essential if Africa is to play its part on the international stage. Isn't that so?

Jean-Yves Ollivier :Yes, of course, African states are very sensitive to the notion of sovereignty, but also to the principle of the inviolability of that sovereignty; in other words, respect for the borders conferred by that very sovereignty. This is why Africa intends to play its full part at international level, especially as it is poorly represented in the major Bretton Woods institutions (the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or IBRD, now part of the World Bank; the International Monetary Fund or IMF) in general.


AFRIMAG: Africa needs a seat on the United Nations Security Council if it is to make an impact on the international stage. Which country or countries do you think are best equipped to represent the continent?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: Today, it should be noted that the vast majority of debates leading to decisions within the United Nations Security Council concerns Africa. It has to be said, however, that Africa does not have a permanent member of this UN body, despite long-standing demands to this effect. The recent admission of the African Union as a member of the G20 is a positive step in this direction, which we welcome.

Jean-Yves Ollivier took part in the Future Resilience Forum, alongside other speakers including Jane Burston, Founder and CEO of Clean Air Fund, © Brazzaville Foundation.

AFRIMAG: The Brazzaville Foundation has been a technical partner of the Congo Basin Climate Commission since 2016. How would you assess this partnership?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: As a technical partner, the Brazzaville Foundation has led environmental protection missions that have resulted in flagship initiatives such as the creation of the Congo Basin Blue Fund (Agreement signed in Oyo in 2016 by 17 countries), and support for the Elephant Protection Initiative to combat the ivory trade. Today, the Brazzaville Foundation follows and supports these initiatives.


AFRIMAG: The Brazzaville Foundation was invited to the 3rd Global Anti-Counterfeiting Law Summit in London, to present its work on the fight against substandard and falsified medical products (SFMP). Why are you so involved in the fight against this scourge?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: The fight against substandard and falsified medical products is at the heart of our concerns, for simple and obvious reasons. Firstly, the trafficking of SFMP, which represents a financial volume greater than all drug trafficking worldwide, directly or indirectly causes the death of several hundred thousand people, including more than 300,000 children in Africa every year. It is therefore a real public health issue, particularly in the current context in Africa. Secondly, the trafficking generates countless cases of corruption worldwide, which can even destabilise certain states. And finally, it has now been proven that trafficking is a real source of funding for terrorism in Africa, and thus for certain asymmetric wars.


AFRIMAG: What can we learn from the work of the Brazzaville Foundation on the fight against SFMP ?


Jean-Yves Ollivier: For us at Brazzaville Foundation, the fight against SFMP is a real cause, which led to the Lomé Initiative followed by the implementation of a pilot project as emblematic actions mobilising several stakeholders in the field.