The recent African Union summit, held in Nouakchott, Mauritania, took several important decisions that will place the continent on a path to rapid growth and stability, as envisioned in the AU’s long-term vision document, Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socioeconomic transformation of the continent up to the year 2063, the centenary year of the founding of the AU’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity.
The vision document sets out ways through which African states can collectively accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.
The Africa Rising narrative has never been more evident than now with the AU’s collective commitment to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which will have a far-reaching impact on the African economies and significantly increase intra-Africa trade, investment and infrastructure development.
The free trade area agreement will integrate Africa, leading to the creation of a single market of over one billion people and approximately US$3.3 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP), making it the world’s largest free trade area.
To date, 49 of the 55 member states of the AU have signed the agreement, while six countries have ratified the agreement.
During the Summit, South Africa, Namibia, Burundi, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone signed on to the agreement, increasing the number of signatories to 49 countries.
eSwatini and Chad deposited their instruments of ratification, thereby increasing the number of states who have ratified the free trade area agreement to six. The other counties that have ratified it are Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Niger. The agreement will enter into force once 22 states have ratified it.
Following the signing of the agreement at the Summit by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the agreement will be submitted to Parliament as part of the process towards its ratification.
The agreement is an important step towards South Africa’s participation in this market that will create opportunities and many benefits for the country and enable South African companies to export goods and services across the continent.
It will contribute to the growth and diversification of our economy and therefore create jobs, as well as reduce inequality and unemployment.
Another landmark resolution adopted at the summit with a view to enhancing Africa’s economic development, trade and investment, is the establishment of the AU Development Agency.
The AU Summit approved the establishment of the agency as a technical body of the AU, and requested the AU Commission, in consultation with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Implementation Agency, to develop a statute for the agency and submit it for adoption at the January 2019 AU Summit.
The Nepad Agency is responsible for the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063 and works to support the realisation of various development programmes and initiatives within African countries. The transition from Nepad to the development agency will be undertaken as part of the establishment of the latter.
These positive developments offer the prospect of a new dawn for Africa.
The unity and renewal of our African continent must be pursued together with efforts to transform the global system.
It is within this context that the upcoming 10th Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) Summit in Sandton, Johannesburg, under our chairship, will host an Africa outreach meeting of selected heads of state and government.
This approach was started in Durban when we hosted the Brics Summit in 2013.
Our view is that we must continue to promote and enhance the implementation of the AU’s Agenda 2063 through the Brics mechanisms, among other routes.
In this way, we will be able to improve intra-Africa trade and leverage more on alternative sources of funding that the Brics New Development Bank provides for infrastructure development and sustainable development.
The continent is already benefitting in this regard, particularly in implementing the Brics-funded AU North-South Development Corridor projects.
An effective, efficient and a financially self-reliant AU is required if the continent is to achieve its goal of integration, development, peace and security.
In this regard, the AU summit discussed various institutional and financial reform measures, which will not only place our continent on the path towards Africa’s transformation, but will also reverse the dependency that hampers the development of the full potential of our continent.
Africa continues to make progress in its quest to mobilise financial resources within the continent through the full implementation of the decision on financing of the AU, adopted in 2016.
With the efforts that have been put in place in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows, Africa can augment and enhance its prospects for adequate self-financing for its development agenda.
The continent has become generally politically stable and has over the past 20 years made significant strides in deepening democracy and good governance. Conducting elections has also become regular.
Peace and security matters were also high on the agenda of the AU Summit, where the situation in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Libya and Somalia was discussed. Progress made in the fight against terrorism and extremism on the continent was also raised.
The AU Summit adopted two very important resolutions on the AU’s Agenda 2063 Flagship Project on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”.
First, member states were urged to mark September as Africa Amnesty Month by mobilising citizens to voluntarily surrender illegally owned weapons.
Second, member states were called on to submit reports on their efforts to implement the AU master roadmap on practical steps to silence the guns in Africa by 2020.
The goal of “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020”, as contained in Agenda 2063, will coincide with the end of South Africa’s two-year tenure on the United Nations Security Council. Our term as a non-permanent member of the security council will run from January 2019 to December 2020.
Among the priorities South Africa will pursue in the council to achieve this goal will include: addressing the inextricable link between security and development; strengthening of political solutions to conflict situations, including through preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and management, mediation and peace-building; and strengthening cooperation between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council in the maintenance on international peace and security.
South Africa is fully committed to implementing the decisions taken at the AU Summit level.
For too long, laudable initiatives have failed to come to fruition as a result of failure to implement. Our leaders are becoming increasingly impatient with delays and procrastinations.
» Lindiwe Sisulu is minister of international relations and cooperation