President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa has assumed the chairpersonship of African Union at the ongoing 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Union, which opened Sunday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The meeting which will run between 9th and 10th of February is being held under the 2020 theme of the year: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development. “
In his maiden speech as the chairperson of the AU, President Ramaphosa outlined his term’s priorities which he said were aimed at bolstering the progress being made in driving Africa’s growth trajectory, within the framework of Agenda 2063. He thus said his tenure would focus on, amongst others: Deepening the unity of the continent; Advancing inclusive economic growth and sustainable development; as well as Ensuring political and economic unity, good governance and peace.
Other areas of priority during South Africa’s second stint at the AU’s helm, according to Ramaphosa, would be: Development of an appropriate strategy for the fourth industrial revolution; Economic and financial inclusion for women and mainstreaming the interests of women; Conflict resolution; Championing the position of Africa as a strong and influential player in the global arena as well as Supporting integration, industrialisation, economic development, trade and investment.
While speaking about the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which will become operational in July 2020, Ramaphosa said the potential of the AfCFTA to boost intra-African trade should not become a conduit for products with minimal African content under the guise of continental integration. He therefore reiterated the need to clearly define what standards would be applied to define what would constitute ‘Made in Africa’ products.
On the empowerment of women and girls in Africa, the new AU Chairperson emphasised the need to work towards achieving practical solutions such as the implementation of awarding 25% of public procurement to women owned businesses, in line with Agenda 2063. On the Theme of the Year 2020, Ramaphosa noted that along with Africa taking charge of its peace and security agenda, there was an urgent need to “.. deal with the action of countries outside our continent that are fighting proxy wars and fuelling ongoing conflicts on our continent.”
While also addressing the assembly, Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat emphasised the need for solidarity among African countries so as to help the continent is to achieve its goals for peaceful and secure Africa, noting that “the deficit of solidarity is one of the big weaknesses of the system of resistance and Africa’s overall capacities for continental resilience.
Mahamat said that the AU had continued to exert all efforts to achieve peace in the Horn of Afric, the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin, Western Sahara, Libya, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Cameroun. He moreover lauded the Africa-led mediation efforts in Sudan that resulted in the peace agreement and commended the Sudan’s new leadership for pledging to continue dialogue with the rebel groups.
In the course of the two-day session, the Heads of State and Government will, amongst others, consider a report on the institutional reform of the AU, by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, AU Champion of Institutional Reform of the African Union as well as an update by Mahamat on the status of implementation of the institutional reforms. The AU Assembly will also consider a report on AfCFTA by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, AU Champion of Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).
The Assembly announced the Democratic Republic of Congo will be the next Chair of the AU in 2021 and that, in line with the ongoing efforts by the AU to ensure inclusion of women in Africa’s development agenda, the period 2020–2030, had been declared: The Decade of Financial Inclusion for Women.
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