ABIDJAN, South African President Jacob Zuma joined more than 80 leaders and other officials representing 55 African and 28 European countries for the 5th African Union-European Union (AU-EU) Summit which kicks off in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Wednesday.

President Zuma arrived in Abidjan on Tuesday evening for the summit, which is being held under the theme. “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”. The summit will emphasize the importance of youth in the two regions’ socio-economic development programmes, which is a key priority for Africa and the EU as 60 per cent of the African population is under the age of 25.

The AU-EU Summit of Heads of State and Government takse place traditionally every three years alternately in Africa and Europe. Leaders take stock of the progress made in the implementation of commitments and provide political guidance for further work.

President Zuma said South Africa viewed the summit as an opportunity to strongly emphasize the need to change the nature of relations between the AU and EU from a post-colonial model of dependency to a new partnership of inter-dependence that addresses Africa’s development challenges and contributes to shared prosperity between the two regions.

It is also an opportunity to promote the importance of the African peace and security architecture and a need for Africa’s partners to recognise and respect that the resolution of conflict situations in Africa is primarily the responsibility of the African Union, supported by the UN Security Council,” said President Zuma on Tuesday.

At a national level, President Zuma said South Africa wished to use the summit to give new impetus to the South Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, specifically since it is the 10th Anniversary of the partnership.

In this regard, the summit will further provide an opportunity for South Africa to enhance strategic economic and diplomatic relations through various engagements in the summit and in side events such as the Business Forum and Youth Summit, with a focus on inclusive economic growth, youth employment and entrepreneurship.

The summit is also expected to focus on supporting the objectives of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and its flagship projects. It is further expected that the summit will adopt Joint Priority Projects for the period 2018 to 2022 that will focus on mobilising investments for Africa’s structural transformation, human capacity development, including capacitating the youth. Addressing peace and security, ensuring good governance and creating resilient societies will also form the core of the summit focus.

The summit will further discuss issues of mutual concern that affect the two regions, including enhancing economic opportunities for youth, mobility and migration, trade and investment, cooperation on peace and security, as well as cooperation on governance between the two regions.