32nd African Union Heads of State and Government Summit kicks off
The supreme organ of the African Union (AU), the Assembly, which comprises Heads of State and Government of all the 55 African countries, began its 32nd Ordinary Session on 10 February 2019 in Addis Ababa.
The Assembly meeting is the culmination of the Union’s statutory meetings and was preceded by the meetings of the Executive Council and the Permanent Representatives Committee. Among the responsibilities of the Assembly are to determine the AU’s policies, establish its priorities, adopt its annual programme and monitor the implementation of its policies and decisions.
In this regard, the Heads of State and Government received several reports including a report on the Outcome of the Leadership In Health Financing Funds High Level Meeting to be presented by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; report on the status of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by President Mamadou Issoufou of Niger; as well as a report on progress achieved with regard to Agenda 2063 from President Alassane Dramane Ouattara of Cote D’ivoire.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat presented reports on the Implementation of the Institutional Reform of the AU and the Annual Report on the activities of the Union and its organs. Other reports presented during the Assembly meeting were to gauge the progress made in the implementation of flagship projects of Africa’s Agenda 2063.
While making his opening remarks, President Kagame welcomed to the Assembly, the new leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo H.E. Felix Tshisekedi, and of Madagascar, H.E. Andry Rajoelina. President Kagame commended Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia for signing the instrument for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during this Summit, and encouraged those signatories who have not yet ratified to do so, at the earliest opportunity.
Regarding the efforts made towards sustainable financing of the Union, President Kagame remarked that the relaunched Peace Fund now stands at $89 million dollars, with 50 Member States contributing. “This demonstrates the force of our collective resolve and ability,” he commented.
The Summit marked the end of Rwanda’s chairpersonship of the Union and President Kagame handed over to President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt during the opening ceremony.
President Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi called for the creation of more job opportunities, and encouraged investments. The Chairperson of the African Union emphasized the need to resolve the ongoing challenges in Africa, particularly terrorism and extremism.
On his part, while speaking at the opening ceremony, AUC Chairperson Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that the Commission is excited to build on the continental priorities under Egypt's leadership.
The Chairperson noted progress in democratic practices across the continent. He stated that in all elections in Africa, the Commission has endeavoured to provide the necessary support and to ensure the best possible accompaniment to Member States engaged in often difficult electoral processes.
The AUC Chairperson expressed his satisfaction with the recent Peace Agreement and peace-building efforts between the Central African Republic’s Government and armed groups under the umbrella of the African Union.
Talking about the institutional reform of the AU, the Chairperson of the Commission noted steady progress towards financial autonomy and accountability within the Union.”Reform is irreversible,” he said.
The Assembly was addressed by the UN Secretary General António Guterres who remarked that the AU and UN are working together successfully across the continent, with Africa firmly in the lead, and there was a need to do more to strengthen the partnership.
Mr. Guterres further stated that “Africa hosts nearly a third of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. Despite the continent’s own social, economic and security challenges, Africa’s governments and people have kept borders, doors and hearts open to millions in need”.
Other leaders to address the Assembly included by Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States and the President of the State of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. Invited guests who addressed the meeting were Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Mr Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mr. Gianni Infantino, FIFA President.
The results of the election for the Bureau of the Assembly for 2019 were announced as follows:
AU Chairperson: Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt;
1st Vice Chairperson: Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa;
2nd Vice Chairperson: Félix Tshisekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
3rd Vice Chairperson: Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of the Niger;
4th Vice Chairperson: Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda (Rapporteur).
The Chairperson of the African Union for 2020 will be H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa.
The Summit was held under the 2019 theme; “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced displacement in Africa”.
Address by President Kagame at Opening of 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union
It is my honour to welcome you to the 32nd Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union. We warmly welcome to the Assembly the new leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, His Excellency Félix Tshisekedi, and of Madagascar, His Excellency Andry Rajoelina. We congratulate you and the peoples of both your countries for these important transitions.
Excellencies, I would like to take this moment to record my debt of gratitude to you for entrusting me with the privilege of leading our organisation during this eventful year.
Our objective was to continue building a stronger and more capable African Union that is able to deliver on the pillars of Agenda 2063 and better represent Africa’s interests on the global stage. The steps forward that were achieved reflect the long-standing commitment and aspirations of Africa’s leaders and citizens.
The Continental Free Trade Area was signed and now, less than one year later, it stands only weeks away from entry into force, thanks to the accelerating pace of ratification.
We commend Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia for signing the instrument during this Summit, and encourage those signatories who have not yet ratified to do so at the earliest opportunity.
Last year, we strengthened our partnerships with other regions, both in substance and tone, and that trend will continue.
The relaunched Peace Fund now stands at $89 million, with 50 Member States contributing. This demonstrates the force of our collective resolve and ability. We will continue to work with the United Nations towards a sustainable mechanism for funding African-led peace support operations. I wish on this point, Mr Secretary-General, to thank you for bringing the United Nations and the African Union into strong partnership.
We commend the recent peace agreement reached among the parties in the Central African Republic, and thank the Commission and the Member States involved in supporting this process. This accord must be implemented and respected.
The agenda for this Summit reflects the capacity of our Union to address an increasingly complex range of challenges and priorities.
We have the specifications for the African passport, which generated so much excitement among our citizens when it was first presented more than two years ago. This is a step forward on the path to full implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, which was also adopted last year.
Yesterday the African Union convened a ground-breaking meeting with our key partners in the field of public health. The current global context requires us to increase domestic funding for the health programmes that have made such a tremendous difference in the lives of our people over the past two decades. I thank the many Heads of State and Government who contributed to the Declaration on this topic, which is to be considered by the Assembly.
The future of the global economy is digital. At this Summit, we will consider guidelines for a common African approach to digital identity management. The purpose of this initiative is to increase economic inclusivity and trust for our citizens, particularly in the context of growing regional integration.
This is only the first step of what must be a consistent and comprehensive effort by the African Union, and all Member States, to prepare for the technologies that are remaking global commerce, especially artificial intelligence, robotics, data mining, and cyber security.
We should not fear these changes or attempt to delay them. That would be futile and counter-productive. They are the future engines of productivity and prosperity for our youth.
But in order to secure our place, we must face the world as a unified bloc and work closely with other regional organisations and the private sector to ensure that the interests and the rights of Africans in their own data are guaranteed.
This urgent task is yet another reason why it was necessary to strengthen the African Union’s capabilities. To fulfil our political objectives, we require an organisation that is agile, healthy, and effective.
What remains is to pass the baton to the next Chairperson of the Union, none other than my friend and brother, His Excellency Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. With our full and unqualified support, there is no doubt that he will take our Union forward decisively, to new and greater heights.
Excellencies, I would be remiss if I did not particularly single out the comfort, joy, and support that I got from the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Commissioners working together as a team. They are world-class and did everything we needed of them.
There is another team, which supported the process of reforms. Let me say, Excellencies, in Africa, we have high-quality people for any service you want, from any part of our continent. All we need to do is tap into that talent and move forward with Africa’s agenda.
I thank you once again, Heads of State and leaders in different capacities, and look forward to even more vibrant progress with the new Chairperson.