South Africa will use its 2020 chairship of the African Union to advance the economic integration of the continent and lead efforts to resolve conflicts in South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and the Sahel region.
The commitment was made by International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini during a panel discussion on South Africa’s year-long tenure at the University of Venda on Friday.
South Africa assumed chairship of the AU at the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) that convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 8 and 9 February 2020.
“Our key strategic objective in ascending to the chairship of the African Union in 2020 is to advance the economic integration of the continent through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and lead continental efforts aimed at resolving conflicts in South Sudan, Libya, Somalia and the Sahel region,” said the Deputy Minister.
South Africa’s goals for the African continent are the resolution of conflict and building a framework in which socio-economic development can take place.
She said socio-economic development cannot take place without peace and stability, as these factors constitute the necessary conditions for the implementation of effective developmental programmes.
“Conversely, socio-economic development is necessary in the context of addressing the root causes of conflict and instability. While the above-mentioned countries are among the current flashpoints, our focus will extend to all conflict-ridden spaces on our continent,” she said.
The continent recently registering notable progress in the number of new democracies. Among these is the resolution of the border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2019.
Despite this, Mashego-Dlamini said, conflicts and political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Libya, and South Sudan continues unabated.
“Trends in conflict and violent events during 2019 have indicated an increase in the number of conflict actors and the transnational nature of threats and vulnerabilities,” Mashego-Dlamini said.
She said: “We are concerned about the proliferation of rebel and extremist groups, bolder linkages between transnational organised crime and violent extremists in Africa and the Middle East, and a rise in the frequency and scale of riots and protests.
“Attacks by militants affiliated with the Islamic State in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado have raised concerns about an IS presence in new territories where it has drawn allegiance from local militant groups.”
Another area of focus in during its chairship will see South Africa continue play its role in advancing a better Africa and a better world.
“With regard to trade matters, the nations of Africa took a decisive step to deepen integration in Africa through the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into effect on 30 May 2019.”
The AfCFTA, as one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063, aims to build an integrated market of over 1 billion people with a combined GDP of approximately US$3.3 trillion. It also aims to boost intra-Africa trade that currently stands at approximately 16% with Africa’s share of world trade estimated to be at only 3%.
The implementation of the AfCFTA is on track, with trading expected to come into effect on 1 July 2020.
“Africa is on a sustained growth path that is unprecedented. In recent years, Africa has enjoyed an above average rate of economic growth. This is phenomenal, given our struggling infrastructure, reliance on raw materials and political insecurity in certain hotspots. For infrastructure alone, the continent needs an estimated additional 100 billion USD a year in investment,” said Mashego-Dlamini.
There is no reason for Africa to not start to unleash its maximum economic growth potential in this century despite such challenges.
“The AfCFTA will play a key role in unlocking investments, both domestic and foreign. This should be done within the context of silencing the guns to ensure that the environment is secure and conducive to development,” she said.
Source: South African Government News Agency