President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Silencing the guns key as SA takesAU chairship

By SHANNON EBRAHIM Time of article published Jan 29, 2020

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South African Heads of Mission deployed in Africa assembled at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation on Tuesday to hear President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans for South Africa’s chairship of the AU.

Resolving long-standing conflicts that hamper development is one of South Africa’s priorities.

“The two seemingly intractable conflicts on the continent in Libya and South Sudan need to be resolved, and South Africa is actively involved in seeking solutions,” Ramaphosa told his diplomatic representatives.

South Africa is the chair of the High Level Committee on South Sudan and also on the High Level Committee on Libya, which will meet in Congo Brazzaville tomorrow.

Minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor added eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as a conflict zone that the AU needed to address, in addition to South Sudan and Libya.

Pandor also expressed concern about the military presence of countries like France, the US, Russia, China and Turkey on the continent.

“The dynamics will impact on South Africa’s chairship,” she said.

Beyond promoting peace, the president outlined South Africa’s three main objectives as AU chair - economic integration, women’s empowerment, and good governance.

Ramaphosa highlighted the importance of implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which will see the integration of Africa into global value chains. Identifying the pressing need for infrastructure was a core challenge for the continent, Ramaphosa said,

“South Africa will host a high level forum on infrastructure as AU chair.”

Pandor said the AfCFTA was scheduled to come into effect in July and would be a game-changer, raising intra-African trade by 20%.

“The continent’s economic growth is positive with GDP having increased from 3.5% to 4%,” Pandor said. “Ten out of the 20 fastest growing economies are in Africa.”

Pandor warned that the successes were dampened by rising levels of government debt.

“There are 14 African governments in debt distress. We need to address debt accumulation and sustainability as it can impact on progress.”

On the second priority of women’s empowerment, Ramaphosa said, as AU chair, South Africa would address the economic exclusion of women, violence against women, and discriminatory laws. “In 2018, only 55% of countries on the continent had laws that addressed violence against women. We need to mobilise African countries to address harmful social norms that perpetuate violence,” Ramaphosa said.

The AU Summit will take place on February 9 and 10 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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