Main issues of the African Union summit: African leaders meet Saturday and Sunday for the annual summit of the African Union (AU) with the aim of accelerating the implementation of the free trade area, in a context marked by the repercussions of the war in Ukraine and the persistence of armed insurgencies.
African Union summit to “accelerate” continental free trade area
Main issues of the African Union summit
For many years, the continent’s leaders have been discussing the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which is expected to bring together 1.3 billion people and thus become the world’s largest market with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, according to the UN.
This 36th AU summit, to be held at the continental organization’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, will focus on “accelerating” the AfCFTA. African leaders meet Saturday and Sunday for the annual summit of the African Union (AU) with the aim of accelerating the implementation of the free trade area, in a context marked by the repercussions of the war in Ukraine and the persistence of armed insurgencies.
Initially, the deal was to be effective from July 1, 2020. However, the closure of most borders due to the coronavirus pandemic has pushed back the schedule.
African leaders meet with the aim of accelerating the implementation of the free trade area
For now, intra-African trade represents only 15% of the continent’s total trade.
“There is a political will displayed and affirmed (concerning the free trade area) but it will be long to put in place,” says Paul-Simon Handy, director of the Institute for Security Studies office in Addis Ababa.
According to its promoters, the AfCFTA should promote trade within the continent and attract investors. According to the World Bank, by 2035, the agreement would create 18 million additional jobs and “could help lift up to 50 million people out of extreme poverty.
“There are countries that are a little hesitant on certain points, particularly on the protocol for the free movement of people and goods. Some African countries are afraid that opening the borders will lead to an influx of people they cannot control,” said Dorine Nininahazwe, director of the NGO ONE for East Africa, also mentioning issues of protectionism.
All AU countries except Eritrea have joined, but discussions are stalling over the timing of tariff reductions, particularly for the least developed countries.
This summit “will be held at a particularly delicate time for the continent,” said the International Crisis Group.
“The invasion of Ukraine and international sanctions have shaken the African economies and plunged many of them into serious difficulties,” continues the ICG.
While the continent is still the scene of armed clashes, particularly in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in the Lake Chad Basin, one of the deadliest conflicts in the world, the war in Tigray (northern Ethiopia) – which has claimed several hundred thousand lives, according to the AU – ended last November with the signing of a peace agreement under the auspices of the African Union.
Lifting of suspension of countries in transition from the AU
Speaking about the current concerns, namely the security and humanitarian crisis, Olivia ROUAMBA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, pleaded for the support of the Comoros in lifting the suspension of Burkina Faso, the Republic of Guinea and the Republic of Mali during the discussions at this summit.
“The suspension in itself is a brake on the mobilization of partners to address the dual security and humanitarian crisis in our countries, funding projects in various areas of development escape us,” she said.
Minister ROUAMBA expressed the wish that the three countries in transition could participate in meetings on issues that concern them. “It is necessary for us to be able to express ourselves and provide the right answers on the real situation of our countries… It is a question of survival in the face of the terrorist hold. It is a question of survival in the face of the terrorist influence. For this reason, we expect our African organizations to show solidarity with us in our efforts to secure our populations”.
ROUAMBA, also stressed that the transitions have shown a clear political will to return to a constitutional order by adopting a transitional charter and by setting up a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the transition in collaboration with ECOWAS. “We hope that the voice of our people will be heard at this summit because they are the ones who suffer most from the mechanical application of AU texts,” she says.
Africa’s Macroeconomic Performance and Outlook
The African Development Bank and the African Union (AU) Commission will hold a joint event to present the first African Macroeconomic Performance and Prospects report at the 36th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The report will be presented on February 17 in the presence of Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina, an AfDB statement said.
The report, published by the African Development Bank Group, provides policymakers, international investors, researchers and other development partners with updated, evidence-based assessments of the continent’s recent macroeconomic performance.
Launched on January 19 at the African Development Bank Group headquarters in Abidjan, the Africa Macroeconomic Performance and Prospects 2023 report presents short- and medium-term prospects for the continent, the statement said, noting that the report is optimistic for 2023 and 2024, despite a challenging global environment.
AfDfBank and AU Commission to present the first African Macroeconomic Performance and Prospects report
The African Development Bank plans to share its findings with a range of stakeholders, both international and African, it says.
African leaders and development experts in particular will take part in the event.
They include Hakainde Hichilema, President of Zambia; Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission; Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals; Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB Group; Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University (USA); and Kevin Chika Urama, Chief Economist and Acting Vice President at the AfDB.
Central bank governors, ministers of finance and national planning and other policymakers from around the world will also attend, the same source said, adding that the presentation will be followed by a press conference at 2:00 p.m. (East African time, GMT+3).
Senegal hands over the Presidency to Comoros
Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros, a small Indian Ocean archipelago with a population of about 850,000, is to take over the rotating chair of the AU from Senegalese President Macky Sall.
The Comorian president “will need the support of other African leaders to assume his mandate, given the limited diplomatic weight of the country,” notes the ICG, while Paul-Simon Handy points out that, the choice was made in November, “leaving him little time to prepare.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, three countries led by military leaders who emerged from coups, asked on February 10 to lift their suspension from the AU. However “reinstating these juntas into the AU would be a total renunciation,” Handy said.
At least 35 presidents and 4 prime ministers will attend the summit, according to the Ethiopian government.