AU is building a legacy

2013-06-03 10:00

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As the body celebrates 50 years, it looks towards the next 50 years in its Vision 2063

Today, Africa is different from what it was 50 years ago. Not only is the decolonisation process almost complete, but significant progress has also been achieved towards African unity.

Our continental Peace and Security Architecture, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), are all among the concrete steps we have taken to find African solutions to our challenges of peace, development and democracy.

South Africa’s contribution to this endeavour is the reason our country is respected on the continent and globally.

Our role during the transition from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU), in the establishment of Nepad and the APRM, as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council, as well as our commitment to the AU Commission and other organs of the union, are all informed by our belief that a better Africa is possible in our lifetime.

The African Agenda must be consolidated. The AU continues to be the primary vehicle that carries the hopes and aspirations of all Africans.

As we look to the future, we embrace the AU’s Vision 2063, which is encapsulated in the 50th Anniversary Declaration adopted recently at the conclusion of the golden jubilee celebrations.

This vision contains priorities that form the pillars of the tasks bestowed on us by history in our march to the next 50 years of our union in 2063.

The achievements of decolonisation must entail self-reliance and true socioeconomic emancipation.

The success of Nepad’s Presidential Infrastructure Initiative and the AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa is essential not only to our integration agenda, but specifically for the realisation of the continental free trade area.

The 50th anniversary of the OAU would be distorted without alluding to the Berlin Conference, which opened on November 15 1884 and ended in 1885.

Historical accounts reveal that at the request of Portugal, the then German chancellor Otto von Bismarck called upon all the European powers to apportion the African continent among them and finally lay to rest the “confusion” over the colonisation and control of Africa.

The Berlin Conference created a platform for European powers to harmonise their colonial efforts and avert a possible military confrontation among them.

The OAU therefore created a mechanism for the African intelligentsia and those at the forefront of the struggle against colonialism to coordinate and intensify their cooperation to emancipate the continent from exploitation.

While we rightfully celebrate the 50th anniversary, we are cognisant of the challenges we face. The road ahead to attain peace, stability and prosperity in Africa continent for all her peoples is still arduous.

This calls on all leaders on the continent to sharpen their resolve and, through the AU, raise our collective voices and confront the challenges presented by the current global dispensation.

This 50th anniversary comes at a time when Africa is recording a number of progressive steps. Key among these is the fact that Africa’s economy is growing.

Through the years, the OAU played a significant role in the political liberation of Africa from colonialism and, in our case, apartheid.

Much emphasis is being placed on building the necessary institutional mechanisms required for Africa to manage its affairs better.

We have said for many years that Africa’s challenges require African solutions.

In all these efforts, South Africa is using its influential global stature to promote the African Agenda.

At the United Nations (UN), we have used our two successful tenures as a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council to forge closer cooperation between this vital UN organ and the AU Peace and Security Council.

On global economic and other matters, we champion Africa’s cause. Within Brics, South Africa advocates for equitable trade between African states and some of the world’s leading emerging markets. We want Africa to get its fair share of global trade.

The 2002 summit of the then OAU, held in Lomé, Togo, adopted the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government.

Coups and rebel attacks on democratically elected governments, as well as disputes over elections and constitutions, are at the heart of our peace and security challenges in Africa today.

We are also using our position as Africa’s leading economy to advocate for the integration of Africa’s economies. We want to see more intra-Africa trade.

As we celebrate 50 years of the OAU, we do so not only by focusing on our past achievements, but also by pondering the future, asking ourselves: “What will Africa be like in the next 50 years?”

The AU has prepared a strategic plan to help Africa answer this pertinent question, but it is also up to Africa’s people to help determine the future we want for ourselves as Africans.

Africa’s challenges are not insurmountable and the AU can build on the proud legacy left by the OAU.

» Nkoana-Mashabane is the minister of international relations and cooperation

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