15 June 2015
The African Union (AU) believes it can achieve its Agenda 2063 goal of a prosperous and technologically advanced continent at peace with itself if leaders speed up the process of integration and adopt the continental Free Trade Area proposals.
This comes as the 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State Summit opened in Johannesburg last night, with pledges to do more to promote unity on the continent, accelerate the implementation of the first years of the Agenda 2063 blueprint, fight terrorist groups like Boko Haram, address the African migrants crisis and fight diseases like Ebola.
The summit is taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 7 to 15 June. Its theme is “Year of women empowerment and development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, and it is dedicated to focusing on the continent’s women.
Although the official opening ceremony started several hours late, when it eventually began, around 4pm, leaders wasted no time and spelled out their plans for a continent challenged by poverty, disease and under development. First to speak was President Jacob Zuma, who called on fellow leaders to address the scourge of conflicts which had escalated to terrorism.
“We believe it remains important to ensure that the necessary preventative measures are established. We also need new ways in which we, as Africa and not our partners, manage our conflict situations,” Zuma said. The summit provided the AU with the specific opportunity to express its resolve on the challenges and opportunities Africa was experiencing, and to affirm “our strong political will to rid ourselves of these challenges”.
This year marked 15 years since the adoption of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
“The Act, amongst others, also acknowledges our impediments to the continent’s socio-economic development. Since the adoption of the Constitutive Act, Africa has taken its destiny, specifically its socio-economic development and integration, in its own hands.
“Africa is thus on a new path of development and growth that will enable it to take its rightful place in global affairs,” Zuma said.
He congratulated the African Union Commission on the work done since 2013 to develop and finalise Agenda 2063. Agenda 2063 has been central to messages coming out of summit delegates since the beginning of meetings early this week.
Agenda 2063 is a blueprint dealing with how the continent should learn from the lessons of the past and take advantages of the opportunities available in the short, medium and long term to achieve a prosperous Africa by 2063, a year that will mark 100 years of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the AU.
The expectations from the people of Africa were high, Zuma said, and the AU could not fail in the implementation of Agenda 2063 for the continent to redefine, lead and fund its own development and future.
“To realise our vision, we continue to support attempts to establish sustainable and predictable sources of funding for the African Union that will ensure less reliance on development partners for the implementation of our African projects and programmes,” he said.
The issue of alternative sources of funding for the AU has been at the top of the agenda of AU summits since Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took over as the chairperson of the AUC. The fact that 70% of the union’s budget comes from donors does not sit well with her and she pledged to use her time in Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the AU, to mobilise leaders towards exploring alternatives sources of funding for the continent.
Membership fees by member states have also been reviewed. In opening the summit yesterday, Dlamini-Zuma said funding was of paramount importance to the work of the summit but that money should not come only from development partners.
Dlamini-Zuma also reported that Liberia had been declared Ebola free for the last 78 days. The deadly disease had claimed thousands of lives since its outbreak in 2014.
In the other two affected countries – Sierra Leone and Guinea – numbers of infected people had fallen significantly. But Dlamini-Zuma cautioned that the continent should not get complacent.
“We must stay the course until the other two countries are also declared Ebola-free. The lesson from the Ebola Virus Disease is that with African solidarity and resolve, we can find our own solutions to our challenges,” she said.
The disease also exposed the weaknesses of the continent’s health systems, especially public health.
“As we move towards recovery, we must train more health workers, and build and strengthen our health systems and infrastructure.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that if African countries invested heavily in education and skill with an emphasis on science, engineering, technology and maths, Africans would stop undertaking the perilous journeys across the Sahel and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, as seen in recent years.
“When we undertake this skills revolution, extremists, armed groups and terrorists will find it difficult if not impossible to recruit our young women and men. Instead, our youth will have the skills to generate electricity, including renewables,” she said.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who is the present chairperson of the AU, called on leaders to do more as the union worked to become more effective.
“We must reduce the number of decisions we take at our summit and instead we must prioritise action plans and ensure the decisions we take are implemented,” Mugabe said.
He paid tribute to the women of the continent, describing them as a “special breed” before he called on countries to tap on the continent’s natural resources by industrialising so that beneficiation could be possible.
“As we celebrate that Africa has 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies, this growth must be sustained,” he said. The summit ends today with a reading of the declaration and adoption of decisions.