Leaders from across Africa gathered in South Africa recently to discuss some of the critical issues affecting the continent.
South Africa hosted the 25th African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit in Johannesburg under the theme “A Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063”.
African leaders, including President Jacob Zuma, discussed among other issues, the African Union Commission’s Agenda 2063, the political situation in Burundi, proposals for the continental free trade area and mechanisms to find new sources of funding for AU operations.
Leaders also discussed progress made in the implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) programme launched 12 years ago.
The APRM is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the AU as a self-monitoring mechanism. It was founded in 2003. Its mandate is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among African countries and the objectives in socio-economic development within the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
The resolutions adopted at the summit include a united and functioning single military by the end of the year and the acceleration of the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF).
The continent desperately needs a strong force for peace and security that would ensure it has the stability it needs for sustainable development to take root.
Such a force would also be important to counter terrorist groups like Boko Haram and Al Shabab.
The envisaged 25 000-strong ASF operating through five regional brigades is expected to be the backbone of the continent’s new peace and security architecture. AU Chairperson, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, confirmed that the first training exercises for the force would be held in South Africa towards the end of October. It is hoped that by the end of the year, all regions will be ready to form part of the single force.
Reading from the declaration of the summit, President Mugabe noted that the “troubling” state of peace and security on the continent needed to be given attention.
“We condemn the acts of terrorisms committed by extremists across Africa and we resolved to confront terrorism collectively in order to defeat it,” he said.
AU Ministers Responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs also held the 2nd AU High Level Panel on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment meeting on the margins of the AU Summit.
The outcome of the meetings, held under the theme “Make it Happen Through the Financial Inclusion of Women in the Agribusiness Sector”, was a declaration and a call for action to include women in agribusiness.
The meetings called for the implementation of women’s right to access, control, ownership and benefit from financial resources, including access to public procurement processes in education, information and skills development, innovative technologies and practices, to develop women’s economic empowerment in agribusiness.
The Ministers also called for greater effort to create a conducive environment for women to do agribusiness and access the agricultural value chain through prevention and responding to conflict on the continent, addressing, adapting and mitigating climate change impacts, and addressing the impact of epidemics and natural disasters.
Leaders also agreed to work harder to address the issue of migrants crossing the
Mediterranean, and improve infrastructure and technology advancement on the continent. A migrant is a person working outside of their home country in order to find work or better living conditions. The AU is concerned about the thousands of migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach greener pastures in Europe.