Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for availing yourselves for this second mid-year coordination meeting of the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms.
We thought it would be important to hold this meeting even under the conditions that have been imposed on us by the coronavirus pandemic, because it is vital that the processes of the African Union and the work of African integration continue.
As we meet here, we are deeply concerned about the violence that has taken place in recent days in Lagos in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We join the Chairperson of the AU Commission in calling on all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law. We offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.
It is now 5 years since our leaders adopted Agenda 2063 and its vision for greater African economic and political integration. Next year marks three decades since the adoption of the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. None of us could have imagined just how different the world would look in such a short space of time. The coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of its scope and impact.
It has affected the developmental and economic plans of every single country. In the case of Africa, it has set back our progress in implementing key integration projects. Nonetheless, our response to this grave public health emergency has been swift. The Africa Joint-Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak has guided the continental effort.
We established a COVID-19 Response Fund to assist with boosting the capacity of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – the Africa CDC – and to assist African countries in combating and containing the spread of the virus. We appointed Special Envoys to mobilise international support for a comprehensive economic stimulus package for Africa. We recognise and acknowledge the financial and in-kind support received from our international partners in support of the continental response.
We also express our appreciation to countries on our continent that have contributed to capitalising the Fund, and who have reprioritised their national budgets to support sister countries in need. Through cooperation at a continental level we also formed the African Task Force for Coronavirus, established the Partnership for Accelerated Covid-19 Testing campaign, and launched the innovative Africa Medical Supplies Platform to ensure that all African countries have access to affordable medical equipment, diagnostics and other essential supplies. That we have been able to respond proactively to the COVID-19 threat is due to the great work of the AU Commission and the Member States.
On behalf of us all I wish to thank His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mrs Amira Elfadil Mohammed and the Director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, for their efforts. As we continue with our prevention, care and management programmes at national level, we continue to push for a comprehensive stimulus package for the continent to facilitate the economic recovery.
As a continent we remain united in our call for equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed.
Just as we speak with one voice on our health and economic recovery, let us also remain united in our quest for economic integration. While some Regional Economic Communities have made significant progress in key areas of integration, others have struggled to achieve the goals set out in their respective treaties and conventions and in meeting the milestones set out in the Abuja Treaty. We welcome the fact that all the Regional Economic Communities affirm the importance of trade in advancing economic integration.
Once the African Continental Free Trade Area comes into operation next year, economic integration will be given added momentum. The AfCFTA offers the continent a great opportunity for job creation, industrial linkages, economic diversification and structural transformation. The pandemic will in the long term lead to a trade rebalancing, with economies in the developed world turning to localisation, local job retention and other programmes to support their respective recoveries.
So too must we use this opportunity to engage in greater trade with each other and to create more jobs and opportunities for our people, especially for youth, women and persons with disabilities. Women are the driving force for trade in both the formal and informal economies on our continent. We need to see greater economic opportunities being afforded to women, including higher levels of public procurement for women-owned businesses.
The African Union should consider an AfCFTA Protocol for African Women in Trade as a legislated instrument for trade facilitation for women in Africa. Without targeted trade facilitation, women will be excluded from the benefits of the AfCFTA by virtue of the structural barriers that women face in Africa’s economies. We must intensify our efforts to involve the private sector. The private sector brings ideas, financial resources, knowledge and skills that are necessary for the implementation of the regional integration agenda.
We must address issues of institutional reform of the AU, the RECs, the Regional Mechanisms and the continental institutions. Roles and functions need to be precisely delineated to better serve the goal of rapid continental integration and the overall objectives of Agenda 2063. We appeal for continued consultations with Member States on the institutional reform process with the respective RECs playing a facilitating role. This is work in progress as we move towards an effective and efficient organisation that is responsive to the needs of its members.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Just as the founders of this great Union encountered setbacks in their time, we must persevere in the midst of the devastation caused by this pandemic. The seeds of opportunity lie buried in the soil, waiting to germinate. They will be watered by the cooperation and solidarity we have forged as African countries during this pandemic. The last few months have demonstrated the vast potential of collaboration in pursuit of the common good.
Let us not lose momentum. Let us remain vigilant as we contain the pandemic. Let us forge ahead with economic integration. Above all, let us be forever mindful that our future prosperity lies in our abiding unity.
I thank you, and now hand over to the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, His Excellency Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa