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Art, culture and heritage in focus at 34th African Union summit

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | | Updated: 2021-02-05 20:01
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In the run-up to the 34th African Union summit, which will be held on Feb 6 and 7, a virtual meeting attended by foreign ministers from the 55 AU member states and the leadership and officials of the AU Commission was held on Feb 3 and 4 in preparation.

The 38th Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council was officially opened by Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, under the theme "Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want."

Mahamat noted the exceptional situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has totally changed the working methods of the AU, but it has not diverted the attention of the union from the continent's priority issues.

He also expressed the hope the year 2021, despite the concerns related to new variants of COVID-19, will be prosperous and more fruitful in terms of achieving the developmental objectives of the continent and the world in general.

The chairman said at the 33rd session of the assembly held last year, heads of state and government stressed the importance of culture, arts and heritage in the achievement of the African Union Agenda 2063 objectives, as well as those of its flagship projects.

"We have attained a set of achievements related to regional integration such as the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area launched in January, the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market and the adoption of the Protocol on Free Movement and the African Passport guidelines," Mahamat said.

"On the areas of health, social development, the environment, science and innovation, the Commission has focused its efforts on health emergencies and on strengthening education in the fields of science, technology and innovation. This includes actions focusing on rapid, effective and coordinated responses to Ebola and COVID-19 and the adoption of the African Medicines Agency," he added.

He concluded by reiterating that building the future of the union means harnessing ourselves, in a permanent concerted effort to meet all challenges gradually, methodically and in the continuity of the African founding fathers' dream.

"From the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963, our founders had resolutely inscribed their vision in an irreversible dynamic of change and perseverance, which we are today the modest heirs. Our loyalty to the aspirations contained in Agenda 2063 will only be better anchored in the service of the Africa we want," Mahamat said.

Naledi Pandor, chairperson of the AU Executive Council and minister of international relations and cooperation for South Africa, said in her opening remarks that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity to devise innovative responses to new challenges and problems.

"We are meeting in the context of our global battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had severe effects on our countries, and yet it has also united us in a manner reminiscent of the solidarity that the Organization of African Unity led against apartheid in South Africa. While we are not yet at a level that allows a focus on post-COVID recovery, it will be logical to use our precious unity to devise solutions that allow Africa to grow together," Pandor said.

The outcomes of the two-day Executive Council meeting will be presented to the 34th African Union summit scheduled to take place this weekend, for consideration and adoption.

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