First Ordinary Session of the Fifth Pan-African Parliament kicks off with renewed call for stronger African integration
The first ordinary session of the fifth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament kicked off officially on Monday, 22 October 2018 at the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda, where legislators from across the continent convened to dissect matters pertaining to the continent’s progress.
Held under the theme, “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”, the first ordinary session of the Pan-African Parliament received a keynote address from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who doubles as the Chairperson of the African Union.
In his address, President Paul Kagame called on Pan-African legislators to ensure the speedy ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) by member states.
“I ask for your support for a speedy ratification of the AfCFTA, the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, and other key pillars of Agenda 2063. The entry into force of these historic compacts will do more than almost anything else to accelerate economic growth and shatter outdated perceptions of our continent. We cannot afford to squander the momentum we have gained,” President Kagame said.
He added: “We need your help to communicate more effectively with constituents and stakeholders in civil society about the importance of these agreements for the well-being of our citizens and our economies.”
The AfCFTA – which was signed by 48 African states in July – is the world’s largest bloc, boasting a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined gross domestic product of more than US$3.4 trillion.
Once ratified, the AfCFTA is estimated to bring about long-term gains of about US$16 billion annually to Africa through the elimination of tariffs, free movement of people and goods across the continent.
The AU Chairperson further noted that the African Union is a healthier and more financially independent body than it was before, having slashed its annual budget by 14 percent and having more member states contributed their share of funds.
“Important changes are underway on our continent, and in the wider world, and we have to be ready to meet them. Working together is the only way to give Africa’s position the weight it should have in the wider geopolitical context,” President Kagame said.
“We must meet the imperative of good governance with innovations and solutions drawn from Africa’s rich experiences and cultures, even as we remain open to benefiting from the best global insights.
President of the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, told the assembly that fighting corruption across the continent must be paramount for regional integration to work.
“Illicit financial aided by corruption are responsible for capital flight from Africa of up to $50 billion,“ he said. “Corruption is a challenge that we should all be concerned about. It is up to us as legislators to work hard and fight against this evil that leads to poverty and underdevelopment.”
Speakers of parliaments of the Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) as well the director of the Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL) presented messages of solidarity. The speakers also unanimously hailed Rwanda’s Louise Mushikiwabo for her successful election to the position of Secretary General of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).
They said that Ms Mushikiwabo’s election represents a unified and stronger Africa that is taking centre-stage on global issues. The Pan-African Parliament also swore in 16 new members from countries that include Chad, Comoros, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe.
President Kagame addresses the First Ordinary Session of the 5th Pan-African Parliament
I want to wish a good morning to all of you, and a very warm welcome to Kigali. We are honoured to serve as host for the First Ordinary Session of the Fifth Parliament. Please consider Rwanda as your home during the weeks ahead. I hope that your busy schedule will allow you to get to know our country and our people.
I wish to thank you for the work that you do. The Pan-African Parliament serves as a point of connection joining Africa’s legislators, and the citizens they represent, to the African Union Organs.
I therefore commend the breadth of your agenda for this session, including a model law on disability, a conference on women’s rights, as well as substantive reports on nutrition, corruption, election observation, and the African Peer Review Mechanism.
The impact of your work in this body is multiplied by your dual role as members of your respective national legislatures. We count on you to be strong advocates for African integration.
More specifically, I would like to ask for your support for the speedy ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, and other key pillars of Agenda 2063.
The entry into force of these historic compacts will do more than almost anything else to accelerate economic growth and shatter outdated perceptions of our continent. We cannot afford to squander the momentum we have gained.
But we need your help to communicate more effectively with constituents and stakeholders in civil society about the importance of these agreements for the well-being of our citizens and our economies.
Let me say a few more words about the state of Africa and the African Union. Important changes are underway on our continent, and in the wider world, and we have to be ready to meet them. It is about getting our house in order, doing what is right for our people, and speaking with one voice to advance Africa’s interests. Working together is the only way to give Africa’s position the weight it should have in the wider geopolitical context.
At the same time, illusions of moral hierarchy that divided continents and peoples are crumbling rapidly, as we have been seeing. Responsibility for Africa’s security and prosperity is, and should be, firmly in our hands. We must meet the imperative of good governance with innovations and solutions drawn from Africa’s rich experiences and cultures, even as we remain open to benefiting from the best global insights.
This reality is the background to the financial and institutional reform of the African Union that has been underway for the last few years. As a result, our Union is stronger than ever. Next year’s budget is 12 per cent smaller, while the share of funds supplied by Member States has significantly increased.
Contributions to the Peace Fund are running at the highest level since its creation in 1993, allowing Africa and our partners to push for an ambitious new partnership with the United Nations that will provide stable funding for peace support operations.
Next month, we will convene in Addis Ababa for an Extraordinary Summit to finalise implementation of the institutional reform, where we have also seen good progress this year. We very much welcome your active participation and engagement in this process.
You are much more than interested observers. I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Pan-African Parliament to play a bigger role in monitoring and accompanying political progress on our continent and holding institutions to account for the commitments that have been made to Africa’s citizens.
Excellencies, Honourable Members of the Pan-African Parliament, I wish you productive deliberations and I thank you for your kind attention.