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Migration, healthcare prominent at African Union summit

By LUCIE MORANGI in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-11 04:34
Heads of states and government pose at the 32nd African Union Summit, in Addis Ababa, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. [Photo/IC]

The 32nd session of the assembly of the African Union kicked off on Sunday with the focus on the mass displacement of people and the need for increased investment in the health sector.

At least 30 heads of states and government attended the meeting that saw Rwanda President Paul Kagame pass the baton to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah-Al-Sisi.

Prior to the meeting, an unveiling ceremony of the statue of Emperor Haile Selassie was held at the AU grounds. Selassie was recognized for his contributions to Africa's liberation and unity leading up to the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

Under Kagame's tenure, the AU has overseen the signing of the Continental Free Trade Area agreement that aims to increase intra-African trade and accelerate industrialization.

At least 22 ratifications are needed for the AfCFTA to enter into force.

"It stands only weeks away from entry into force, thanks to the accelerating pace of ratification," Kagame said in his speech.

In addition, the Peace Fund was relaunched and currently stands at $89 million, with 50 member states contributing. Established more than two decades ago, it is the principal financing instrument for the peace and security activities of the union.

Two years ago, the leaders decided to endow the Peace Fund with $400 million in contributions drawn from a 0.2 percent levy that has been instituted to finance the overall African Union budget. The full endowment level will be reached in 2021.

An African passport was launched two years ago with Kagame calling the move a step forward to the full implementation of the CFTA. The president also launched an initiative aimed at increasing investment in the health sector and ensuring the achievement of universal health coverage across Africa's 55 countries.

In his speech, the Egyptian president pledged to strengthen security by clamping down on armed groups and rebuilding countries' resilience from conflict. Under his tenure, Africa will promote peace and security.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended Africa's efforts in safeguarding the rights and dignity of refugees. "Africa's generosity to those seeking havens from war and persecution is unmatched," he said.

He noted Africa's goals of peace and security by silencing the guns by 2020 was gaining ground. He pointed to recent events such as the peace accord signed by Ethiopia and Eritrea, the signing of a peace agreement in the Central African Republic, an agreement between parties in South Sudan, and the ceasefire in and around Libya.

"All this represents remarkable progress in conflict-resolution in Africa," Guterres said. "A similar story is unfolding with respect to prevention."

He added that the global community needed an ambitious approach toward adaptation, mitigation, finance and innovation against climate change.

"We need to catalyze a quantum leap in political will for climate action as the only way to achieve sustainable development and prevent climate-related catastrophic disasters, conflict and displacement," Guterres said.

The two-day summit is expected to conclude on Monday with the leaders adopting decisions made in the meeting.

Contact the writer at Lucymorangi@chinadaily.com.cn

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