The African Union Commission, as the secretariat of the African Union will seek to define and build a trajectory that extracts the continent from poverty to development, said Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at her installation as the Commission’s Chairperson today, presided over by the Chairperson of the African Union, Dr Thomas Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin, in the presence of Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
The Commission will take pro-active steps to support member states and regional bodies in their efforts to promote, consolidate and expand citizen centered, developmental and democratic governance. This is in line with the African Union’s vision of achieving a prosperous, peaceful and integrated continent. In pursuing this African agenda, the Commission will take into account, the shared values of consistent political and democratic freedom, and the development and modernization of African productive forces, Dr Dlamini Zuma stressed.
Among the Commission’s priority areas, as outlined by its Chairperson, will be peace, security and stability in Africa, food security, exploitation of natural resources, health and education, gender equality, youth development, development of infrastructure, promotion of intra African trade, building the African Union’s capacity to deliver efficiently and effectively and consolidating relationships with key partners.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who became the first women ever to lead the Commission, told hundreds of delegates and members of the diplomatic corps that, Africa has witnessed phenomenal progress over the past 20 years, in socio political and economic terms. However she also said the long walk to achieving the AU vision has not ended and there are still many hills to climb.
Key priority areas as outlined by the Chairperson
Peace and security a pre requisite for peace and development
Peace, security and stability are a pre requisite for development and good governance. Resolving conflicts such as those in Mali and the Sahel region, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region, and in Guinea Bissau will be a priority for the Commission. The Commission will also continue to provide the necessary support to Sudan and South Sudan in finalizing all the outstanding issues between them. The AUC will be actively involved in post conflict reconstruction and development.
Food security and mineral resources
Africa has one quarter of the world’s arable land and land is a source of livelihood for 70 percent of the population. Yet the continent generates only 10 percent of global agricultural output. The African Union will therefore put maximum effort to implement the provisions of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), so that Africa can feed itself and have more for export.
In terms of mineral resources, the Commission will push for exploitation of these resources so that they benefit African people.
Health and education
Maternal and infant mortality remains unacceptably high in Africa. The Commission will endeavour to reduce, if not eliminate maternal mortality so that children have a fighting chance to reach their full potential and also that mothers get the chance to contribute fully to their families, societies, nations and continent.
The Commission will accelerate implementation of programmes related to the African Women’s Decade to realize gender equality and to ensure that women, who constitute slightly more than 50 percent of the African population, are brought into the mainstream of decision making processes and structures at all levels of society.
Youth development and education
The Commission views young people as an invaluable asset. In this regard, it will seek to harness the energy, resourcefulness and enthusiasm of young people so that they contribute positively to their societies, nations and the continent. Priority will be given to education, training and employment, particularly of young people, women and girls.
Infrastructural development, integration and intra African trade
The development of infrastructure and connectivity between the different African member states is key to Africa’s integration efforts, to facilitate people to people relations and to facilitate intra African trade.
Institutional capacity building
As the AU Commission undertakes to achieve all its priority areas, it must also build its capacity so as to be equal to the task. More will be done to build on improvements already made.
Consolidating African Unity
The Commission will pursue the goal of unity for all Africans in the realization that, working as one, the continent’s total population of 1 billion people holds greater weight globally and can achieve much more than individual African states.
The Commission, in pursuing all its objectives will be informed by experiences learnt over the last fifty years:- the time when the organization of African Unity was formed. It will take opportunity of the 50thanniversary of the OAU in 2013, to reflect on where the continent has come from, as well as to plan for the next fifty years. In discharging its functions, the Commission will work with member states, Regional Economic Communities, the United Nations, the African Development Bank and its other partners.
The Commission’s outgoing Chairperson Dr Jean Ping officially handed over the symbols of the African Union to Dr Dlamini Zuma. “I am giving way to a great lady...I am confident the affairs of the continent are in safe hands," Dr Ping said during the handover ceremony. The Commission’s Deputy Chairperson Mr Erastus Mwencha, incoming and outgoing Commissioners, ambassadors, development partners and AUC staff members attended the ceremony.