African Union Summit Reiterates Vision For An Integrated And Prosperous Continent

Kenyan President William Ruto (left) participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Talanta Sports City to be built with Chinese assistance in Nairobi, Kenya, on 1 March. Photo: Xinhua

In an inspirational speech in 1996, then South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said, “Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!”  

The 37th African Union (AU) Summit was convened in Addis Ababa on 17 February, where leaders from across Africa converged to deliberate on pressing issues and chart a course for the future of the continent. The summit echoed the enduring spirit articulated by Mbeki in his iconic “I am an African” speech, affirming that despite challenges, Africa’s March towards prosperity and peace remains unstoppable. 

The summit witnessed the election of Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, as the chairperson of the union for 2024, taking over the baton from outgoing Chairperson Azali Assoumani, president of the Union of Comoros.

The 37th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of the Heads of State and Government is held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 17 February. Photo: Xinhua

Abundant resources 

With a burgeoning population, of which 70 percent are under 30 years old, Africa stands at the cusp of a renaissance, characterised by a growing sense of unity and purpose among its 1.4 billion people. China has recognised the immense potential of the continent and joined hands with the African nations and people in developing and growing the infrastructure and logistics between countries, which has markedly increased connectivity and mobility across the continent. 

Commercial reports, surveys and indicators show that Africa has 60 percent of the world’s new and alternate energy resources, 40 percent of the minerals and metals needed for the energy transition, 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable agricultural land, the largest natural carbon sinks in the world, and a 1.4-billion population, home to the largest youth population. This human resource is vital for innovation, production capability and an attractive consumer market.  

The summit, centred around peace, integration and development, called for educating Africans fit for the 21st century, recalling the wealth of the inherent indigenous knowledge and a history of highly skilled, perceptive and ingenious civilisations that existed on the continent. In the modern context, the collective aspirations of African nations are directed towards realising an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful continent. The AU’s Agenda 2063, which begins its 11th year of implementation, is Africa’s development roadmap, which combines with the processes of the African Continental Free Trade Area to implement the comprehensive growth plan and strategy. 

One of the notable agenda items of the AU Summit was the ground-breaking ceremony for the African Union Pan African Veterinary Vaccine Centre, a significant initiative aimed at enhancing the continent’s capacity to combat diseases that affect both human and animal populations. This is Africa’s commitment to fostering health security and bolstering resilience against infectious diseases. 

Another key focus of the summit was the empowerment of women through education, epitomising the essence of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development’s mission. Recognising the pivotal role of women in driving socio-economic development, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through increased access to education and opportunities.

Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros and chairperson of the AU, delivers a speech during the 37th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly of the Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 17 February. Photo: Xinhua

Inspired by China’s development 

China’s own remarkable development serves as an inspiration for African nations, and motivates them to march towards the pinnacle of development. After all, it has abundant resources and minerals that have built the developed world.  

The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation has become the forerunner of Africa’s development. Many projects linked to China’s Belt and Road Initiative that have been completed are bearing fruit in the value and supply chains. Integral to discussions at the summit was China’s contribution through the Belt and Road Initiative, which has played a pivotal role in enhancing connectivity and mobility on the African continent.  

Through investments in infrastructure such as roads, ports, and airports, China has facilitated trade, investment and economic growth, laying the foundation for Africa’s development. Additionally, Chinese companies have been instrumental in building industrial parks, transferring technologies, and improving agricultural productivity, further contributing to Africa’s prosperity. 

The AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa was built with the help of China, and the adoption of Agenda 2063 was premised on China’s long-term planning.  

Furthermore, China’s engagement in peacekeeping efforts in unstable regions such as Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia is a commitment to fostering stability and security in Africa. The proposal of the Outlook on Peace and Development in the Horn of Africa by China exemplifies its proactive approach to addressing regional challenges and promoting peacebuilding efforts. 

Overall, the 37th AU Summit served as a platform for African leaders to reaffirm their commitment to peace, integration, and development as Africans continue on their path towards progress. Collaboration between African nations and international partners, including China, remains essential to realising the continent’s full potential.  

The author is Director of Diplomatic Society of South Africa 



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