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African leaders working toward future prosperity

Updated: 2013-01-28 09:18
By Li Lianxing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ( China Daily)

Africa is dedicated to becoming a more integrated, people-centered, prosperous continent at peace, the head of the African Union said at the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission, said Africa's future should be inspired by the spirit of Pan-Africanism and the ideas of the African Renaissance, which are the themes of this summit.

"We must develop our narrative and challenge conventional thinking and paradigms," she said. "We must rekindle the passion of our founders and our people in Pan-Africanism through unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity."

Confronted with the current turmoil in some parts of Africa, including Mali, the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, Africa should put extra emphasis on the need for peace and security, she said.

She urged the African Union to reinforce its defense capacity to protect democratically elected governments from threats of rebel groups that want to overthrow them.

"Without peace and security, no country or region can expect to achieve prosperity for all its citizens," she said. "The Union must remain firm in its stance against unconstitutional change of government. We must enhance our capacity to defend democratically elected governments and their territorial integrity."

Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, said the UN will work with African people to bring stability to the continent.

"Development is critical to peace, and peace is essential for development," he said. "Our partnership aims to bring greater stability to Africa."

He urged regional leaders to endorse a peace, security and cooperation framework to address structural causes of recurring cycles of violence.

In the opening ceremony, all representatives observed a minute of silence in memory of late prime minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and president John Atta Mills of Ghana, who died in 2012.

China an example

Zuma used China as an example for the future of Africa. She said China in 1978 was not different from Africa in terms of social and economic indicators, but it now has become the second-largest economy in the world. Its population living below the international poverty line had fallen from 63 percent in 1978 to 4 percent in 2007.

"So we are filled with optimism and enthusiasm that in the year that we celebrate our 50th anniversary, the continent of hope and opportunity is on the move," she said. "In a range of areas critical to our development, we have taken control of our destiny and have agreed on what to do."

The AU Commission chairwoman expressed confidence that Africa could achieve her dream in the next 50 years, or "even within a shorter period", given that six out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa and the continent has been recording an average of 5 percent growth rate for the last several years.

China should be a great supporter in the course of the African renaissance and union, said Zhai Jun, vice-minister of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who also led a delegation to attend this summit.

"China strongly supports a united African continent and its self-improvement, as Pan-Africanism is the fundamental theory of African integration, by which they could achieve their renaissance," said Zhai.

He also said Africa has made conspicuous achievement in recent years, but still has some conflicts in different regions, so "China will strengthen its cooperation with African countries in peace- and security-building".