The newly elected Chairperson of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa also President of South Africa has noted with concern that Africa still remains a hotbed of terrorism and conflict saying it is a cancer that needs to be eradicated.
In his address to the African Union Heads of State and Government during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 9-10 February 2020, Ramaphosa outlined his priorities of focus being; peace, gender equality, inclusive growth and development. He said economic and financial inclusion of women and the drive to position Africa as a strong world player was top on his agenda.
“We have to find more practical and sustainable ways of empowering the women of our continent,” he said adding that, “public and private procurements offer great opportunities as they account for 30 per cent of the GDP of many countries on the continent”.
He added that Agenda 2063 calls for the allocation of at least 25 per cent of public procurement to be for women-owned businesses but that the reality shows women owned-businesses are given less than one per cent of procurement.
“We have to change this. It is not unreasonable to advocate for preferential public procurement legislation to advantage women-owned businesses and for the establishment of preferential trade and customs regimes for women,” he added.
On the violence bedeviling the continent with particular reference to the conflict in Libya, Ramaphosa said there is no military solution to the problem. He said the solution is with Africa taking charge of its agenda and devising African solutions to African problems.
“External influences have a perilous agenda for Africa… countries outside our continent are fighting proxy wars that are fuelling ongoing conflicts on our continent,” he said before associating himself with the plight of the Palestinian people in their quest for sovereignty.
Making reference to the African Union’s theme for the year 2020; “Silencing the Guns: Creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”, Ramaphosa said that Africa has pursued peace building and consultation. He said in Somalia, AMISON continues to deploy. He recognised the contribution of African nations to peace keeping efforts and the sacrifices they are making to pacify the continent. Silencing the guns is a pledge to achieve the aspirations of Agenda 2063, which envisions a peaceful and secure Africa.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, urged unity among countries if Africa is to achieve its goal of a peaceful and secure Africa. He said terrorism threatens to destroy members states and that action should be done taken to ensure its eradicated.
Uganda’s Members of Parliament attending the Summit were full of optimism that Ramaphosa would infuse new perspectives to the governance challenge in Africa.
Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo said he was impressed with the clarity with which Ramaphosa addressed key issues especially about the economic progress in Africa and the challenge of integrating women into leadership in all institutions and countries.
“As the Pan African Parliament [which is one of the organs of the AU] we are even more excited because the Pan African Parliament sits in South Africa. We would look at inviting him to address the PAP in May because we have concerns of funding and the signing of the Malabo Protocol to transform PAP into a legislative organ of the African Union,” Latigo said.
Hon Felix Okot Ogong was confident that the new chair would be equal to the task ahead of him. There is need to roll out the theme of silencing the guns from the African Union into concrete action by national governments.
“We should do all that is possible to ensure that Africa gets total and permanent peace,” Okot said.
The African Union summit also discussed issues such as sustainable funding for Africa’s development agenda and contributions to the AU’s budget; progress made in the implementation of Agenda 2063; operationalization of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and Africa’s digital transformation strategy among others.