Maputo: A strong relationship between the African Union and regional economic bloc such as SADC was critical to the effective functioning of the continent, African Union Commission chairperson elect Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said on Friday.
Speaking at her first SADC summit as AUC chair in Maputo, Mozambique, Dlamini Zuma said only through the building of sustainable infrastructure and continental integration would Africa be able to realise its goal of trading fully with itself.
“This in turn requires the development of common standards, harmonisation of legislation and other steps being taken between economic communities because a united Africa will assist the people of our continent to deal with the burning issues they face and confront them,” she said.
She told the heads of state attending the summit that they needed to tackle the issue of climate change, food security and political youth unemployment.
Democracy, empowerment of youth and women as well as African unity was what leaders should strive for in their deliberations for the next two days. Although Africa had been experiencing positive economic growth, this may not be sustained if women and youth were side-lined, Dlamini Zuma said.
“Having proclaimed this decade as the African women’s decade, it is important to accelerate among others, the Millennium Development Goals – particularly those that affect women and children.”
Different leaders who took to the podium showered Dlamini Zuma with praises following her election in July. Malawi’s new President Joyce Banda described her election to head the AUC as a milestone for African women and a much needed boost for SADC countries.
“I need to remind you all that she is the first woman to be elected in that position. Knowing her, she will excel,” Banda said.
The Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane, said Dlamini-Zuma would transform the AU into an effective continental body.
“Under her leadership, we will begin to see the AU being visible in all African countries, not only in Addis Ababa. She will take the AU to the rest of Africa,” he said.
In opening the summit, in-coming SADC chairperson and President of Mozambique Armando Guebuza said the election of Dlamini Zuma displayed SADC’s commitment to unity and transformation of the AU. The regional body played a crucial role in lobbying support for the South African minister leading to the election in July.
“It is proof that we are united as SADC and has displayed our solidarity as intact,” said Guebuza.
He implored leaders to ensure that political instability in some parts of the region did not undermine the economic transformation “and the goal and Africa that is at peace with itself”.
Guebuza said while the region had made progress in peace and political stability, the on-going crisis in Madagascar and the fragile political situation in Mali could undermine all efforts to bring about credible democracy in SADC countries.
“We commend the recent successful elections in Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia and we see these developments as proof of strengthening democracy in our region,” he said.
Mozambique will take over the chairpersonship from Namibia, while South Africa hands over the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation to Tanzania.