Reports indicated that African leaders and delegations of regional groups during their meeting on February 18 to 19 would press for swift and concerted actions to advance a number of development initiatives across Africa. The leaders gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the annual African Union summit as a follow-up on significant questions such as the new continent-wide free trade agreement and to address the ongoing conflicts that have engulfed the continental as well as the rising military powers particularly in French-speaking West Africa.
As popularly referred to, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), billed as the biggest free trade accord in the world in terms of population, seems to take greater part of the discussions, generally considered as the driver of the economy, industrialization and employment creation for the next distinctive stage of the Africa. This is reflected in two days of talks under the theme “Acceleration of AfCFTA implementation” on February 18.
AfCFTA’s plan is to boost intra-African trade by 60 percent by 2034 by eliminating almost all tariffs, creating an economic bloc of 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion. Further, African countries currently trade only about 15 percent of their goods and services with each other, compared to more than 65 percent with European countries. If fully implemented, AfCFTA would lift 50 million Africans out of extreme poverty and raise incomes by nine percent by 2035, according to the World Bank.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC) has already said changes in global geopolitics causing more uncertainties, remodeling, structuring and restructuring of international configurations. Notably, the worrying progression of terrorism, the return of non-constitutional changes, declining growth, constantly deteriorating climatic conditions among other challenges are issues which the continent is bent to consistently deal with until they are completely eradicated.
“Despite this unfavorable context, Africa is showing remarkable signs of resilience and the African Union, in its various components, has maintained its operational dynamic in the implementation of programs and decisions,” he underlined. Taking into account the combined impacts of the various crises that have recently shaken the whole world the Chairperson said that the African Union is determined to give priority to health and nutrition issues.
“While mitigating the effects induced by the urgency of meeting the needs of the populations, the Union is part of the search for long-term solutions aimed at setting up structures and capacities for food and medicine production. It is in this logic that the operationalization of Africa CDC is nearing completion while the African Medicines Agency, AMA, has begun its own with already the choice of its headquarters,” said Mahamat.
In the area of democratic governance, peace and security, the AU has relentlessly stepped up its efforts to bring peace to the continent. For instance, it has greatly contributed to reconciliation and its effectiveness in Ethiopia. In Sudan, it established tripartite mechanism with IGAD and the United Nations which has contributed significantly in the progress towards a new, inclusive and consensual agreement. In the Great Lakes region, in eastern DRC in particular, Mahamat noted that the AU has implemented two mechanisms for the search for peace and reconciliation under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Angola Joâo Manuel Lorenzo and the former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who continues to make tireless efforts with the parties concerned.
“We are hopeful that this dual African mechanism will manage to resolve this crisis and demonstrate that there is no solution to African crises and conflicts other than peaceful solutions initiated by Africans themselves, “reiterated Moussa Mahamat.
That the reconciliation process in Libya has taken significant steps in the preparation of the inter-Libyan reconciliation conference. The High-Level Committee on Libya, chaired by President Denis Sassou Nguesso, has taken significant steps in the preparation of the inter-Libyan reconciliation process. “I am convinced that the meeting of the high-level committee to be held on February 17 will give a strong impetus to this salutary action in solidarity with the Libyan people,” said Moussa Mahamat.
The African Union also organized an extraordinary session of the Conference on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in May 2022, after the Accra meeting held in March 2022 devoted to the same issue. “In order to enhance the effectiveness of peace support operations, a Common African Position on the financing of peace support operations led by the African Union has been developed. This common position will serve as a solid support for our international advocacy in favor of the management of African operations by permanent UN resources,” said Moussa Mahamat.
As part of the AU comprehensive approach to security centered on human security, the Chairperson noted that the African Union initiated an institutional reflection on humanitarian emergencies through the extraordinary session of the Conference organized in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in May 2022. The Pledging Conference saw pledged contributions of United States $174 million to accelerate the process of effective implementation of the African Humanitarian Agency.
In the area of the institutional reform, the evaluation of the first decade of the implementation of Agenda 2063 was carried out using a participatory approach. Moussa Mahamat said that the success of the implementation of the second decade will depend on the level of effectiveness in the implementation of the decisions of the legislative bodies. The African Union Commission has strengthened its results-based management at the administrative level, to operationalize the new departmental structure of the Commission and systematized internal control to ensure the regularity of financial operations carried out by the various organs and specialized agencies of the Union. The Chairperson further noted that staff recruitment, based on skills criteria and compliance with the new quota formula, reached a rate of 66% for phase 1 of the transition period.
The progress made on the way to the acceptance of the AU as a member of the G20. “Such an accession will broaden the scope of our advocacy for the continent and open up real opportunities for Africa to contribute to the solution of the world’s problems,” said Mahamat. And also reiterated the importance of availability of reliable statistical information. In this respect, the AU, in the perspective of the anchoring of statistics in Africa, intends to emphasize the full operationalization of the African Center for Statistical Training (PANSTAT) and the African Union Institute for Statistics (STATAFRIC).
Antonio Pedro, Acting Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on his part stressed that, at the ECA, “We believe that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can be a catalyst to stimulate recovery, accelerate trade and industrialization, and build resilience into the African economy. The AfCFTA continental market provides the economy of scale to invest in manufacturing, leading to increased intra-Africa trade, thereby bringing supply chains closer home and injecting a degree of self-sufficiency in essential products such as medicines, food and fertilizers.
He said, this will help provide more opportunities for women and the youth, it will reduce inequality and poverty, and will also improves inclusion. “Indeed, our member States agreed to establish the AfCFTA in the first place precisely because they saw these opportunities and had the determination to seize them. The progress in the AfCFTA represents an extraordinary feat of diplomacy and statesmanship and deserves commendation and provide good reasons for hope” concluded Pedro.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain expressed appreciation for the fact that the African Union has adopted Spanish as one of the working its languages upon the request of Equatorial Guinea. Madam Aissata Tall Sall, Chair of the Executive Council stated that the Executive Council has always been there to help meet the challenges facing Africa, in line with the guidelines given by the Heads of State and Government. She thanked her peers for the support given during the chairmanship of Senegal at the helm of the Union.”
The task of the Executive Council could not, however, have been accomplished without the fruitful contribution of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the Specialized Technical Committees (STCs), the organs and all the structures affiliated to the African Union, without omitting the RECs and Regional Mechanisms, and ECA” she noted. She also thanked the important work undertaken by the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) which was successful due to the good working relationship and collaboration with the AU Commission.
Madam Aissata Tall Sall: “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Chairperson of the Commission, whose leadership has made it possible to accelerate the implementation of the AU programs, together with the, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission and the Commissioners and all the AUC Staff …I encourage you to continue the ongoing reform process for a more efficient Commission, to better serve Africa and consequently contribute to the achievement of Agenda 2063.”
The AU is guided by its vision of “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” To ensure the realization of its objectives, it adopted the Agenda 2063. It was developed as a strategic framework for Africa’s long term socio-economic and integrative transformation. It calls for greater collaboration and support for African led-initiatives to ensure the achievement of the aspirations of African people. The African Union is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states in Africa.