Africa’s future

2013-05-26 14:00

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Yesterday, the African Union – formerly Organisation of African Unity – celebrated 50 years in uniting the continent. City Press quizzed AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on the organisation’s role, achievements and future.

What is the role of the AU?

It aims to give new impetus to African integration and unity, to resolve conflicts on the continent, to promote a development agenda through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and to develop an institutional architecture that could support the continental programme.

In addition, the approach is founded on greater participation by member states and regional economic communities, the creation of the Pan-African Parliament, an emphasis on the need for civil society involvement and popular participation in the project of African unity and integration.

The first decade of the AU started with debt-reduction and write-off , but expanded to Africa’s positions on trade, emerging issues like climate change to more generally Africa’s position in the world.

The union facilitated common continental positions, gaining recognition as the premier representative voice of Africa.

In addition, the first decade of the AU also saw the evolution of its peace and security architecture, with interventions for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia and, more recently, Mali and the Central African Republic. In the 1990s there were at least 15 countries involved in some form of conflict. Between 2001 and 2010, this figure has been reduced to five.

What are some of the achievements of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)/African Union (AU)?

The OAU brought together 32 newly independent African states and representatives from liberation movements still fighting for independence.

The OAU, at its founding conference, named as its first great task the liberation of those still under colonialism.

Emperor Haile Selassie from Ethiopia stated in his opening address of the OAU: ‘Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free.’

The founders achieved this through direct support to liberation movements and by championing the cause of countries still under colonialism and apartheid.

What are the challenges as the first female chairperson of the AU Commission?

It is an opportunity.

The AU, through the heads of state and governments of all African countries, adopted the principle of working towards gender parity.

We see it happening in the AU Commission leadership and already 10 African countries have a more than 30% female representation in Parliament.

We now have two female presidents – in Sierra Leone and Malawi.

This, of course, is not enough.

Having a woman at the helm does give women’s issues greater visibility and, of course, among my priorities for the term is that by the end of 2020 we achieve gender parity in government in most, if not all, countries on the continent.

How do you go about popularising the AU?

A key priority for the AU Commission is to give effect to the undertaking that the AU will be a union of the people.

This means we pay attention to the participation of civil society.

We have to strengthen the Pan-African Parliament, and have to communicate and inform the African citizenry of the activities of their union.

The 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU provides us with such an opportunity.

We have organised celebrations at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, but across the length and breadth of the continent, youth and women, intellectuals, trade unions and business are organising events, and discussing Africa’s past, present and future. Since the beginning of this year, we had workshops and engagements with journalists and communicators, with academics and policy think-tanks, with women and youth on their views of Africa’s vision and future.

During the rest of the yearlong 50th anniversary, we will spare no effort to introduce the union and its programmes to our people.

What are some of the exciting things we should expect from Agenda 2063?

The 50th Summit will issue a declaration that will frame this agenda, but since the beginning of the year and continuing until July’s summit next year, widespread consultations will be done across Africa.

It is an agenda we believe must be bold and visionary, addressing big issues such as infrastructure, industrialisation, economic integration, Africa’s skills revolution and agriculture. The ultimate objective is to chart a path with milestones so that by 2063, and even before, Africa is prosperous, integrated and at peace with itself.

Fifty years of African unity

 

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