The 27th African Union summit opened, yesterday, with a call for solidarity, unity and the spirit of pan-Africanism among African nations to address issues affecting the continent.
The summit opened with a session of the permanent representative committee for the African Union, which features ambassadors of the 54 member states and AU officials.
While setting pace for the session, African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called on countries to avoid focusing on national and self-interests at the expense of continental interests.
Dlamini-Zuma blamed self-interests as a reason for slow progress and movement in a number of issues such as the single aviation market.
“One of the reasons for the slow movement on some of these issues like the single African Aviation Market among others is our focus on national interests to the detriment of the continental interests. As a result, we have lost over 40 per cent market share and member states have open sky agreements with more non-African countries than they do with African countries,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said the implementation and realisation of the continent’s long term goals, programmes and priorities, call for solidarity and support for each other’s initiatives.
“The Agenda 2063 programmes and priorities also require a great deal of solidarity, to support each other’s initiatives and not to get bogged down into counterproductive competition among each other. The tendency of giving better market access, terms of trade, investment conditions to foreign companies, countries and non-Africans that we do among ourselves still persists,” she said.
The AU Commission chairperson also addressed a growing concern of heavy reliance on foreign funding to the Commission, saying this could hamper its ability to focus on continental priorities.
Dlamini-Zuma admitted that the source of funding had somewhat affected the commission’s ability to focus on the continent’s priorities.
“You are most closely aware of the impact that the overreliance on partner funding have on the commission and organs and on our ability to focus on the continental priorities. The reality is that he who pays the piper call the tune,” she said.
According to statistics from the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII), of the $416.9 million budget for the African Union adopted for 2016, only about $170 million was secured from member states, with the rest coming from international partners.
This over-reliance on external funding has limited the capacity of the commission to address matters that people living in the continent consider critical, Dlamini-Zuma said.
She also called on the growing economies across the continent to serve as engines for the continent’s growth in skills development, research and development among other areas.
Participants were also tipped on the importance of building trading blocs that will make room for common markets, and create more opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals.
The Government’s expectation from the summit is that it will serve as a platform to popularise the African Union and its Agenda 2063 among member states as well the understanding of Rwandans about the African Union.
Speaking at the opening of yesterday’s session, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jeanine Kambanda, said the theme of women’s rights was close to the hearts of the Rwandan people.
“The theme, “Year of Human Rights with particular Focus on the Rights of Women,” is one that Rwandans fully identify with and I personally,” Kambanda said.
Among the expectations of the two-day session include coming up with an agenda for the summit that will be tabled before the executive council scheduled to take place beginning Wednesday.