Africa urged to follow economic integration and political unity

Pretoria – Delegates attending the African Union Summit in South Africa have been urged to use the meeting to deepen the continent’s economic integration and unity at a time when the vision of Agenda 2063 is taking shape.

The summit also takes place at a time the continent grapples with terrorism, political instability and sluggish economic growth.

The summit is being held under the theme "Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063". The focus is on the financial inclusion of women in key industries such as agro processing and mining.

There will also be discussions on the continent’s economic performance. The AU says although overall growth rate is short of the targeted seven percent, Africa has consistently been growing at an unprecedented average rate of four to five percent over the last decade.

This growth has mainly been driven by prudent macroeconomic policies, high commodity prices, investment in infrastructure, diversification of trading partners and increasing domestic demand.

The AU Commission Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha told delegates on Sunday that if this pattern of growth continues, Africa can reduce widespread poverty in the next two decades.

He said 2015 is a “pivotal year” for sustainable development and poverty reduction on the continent.

“In fact, through the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, the international community is rallying together to respond in a transformative manner to fundamental challenges facing the world today, eradicating poverty, reducing conflicts and insecurity,” Mwencha said.

It’s highly likely that the summit will also discuss the deteriorating political situation in Burundi. Burundian President Pierre Nkuruziza's decision to run for a third presidential term has sparked violent and deadly protests in the capital Bujumbura. The decision has also led to calls by some African leaders for elections in that country to be postponed.

On Sunday, the summit started with the 30th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) which ends on Monday at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, in Pretoria.

The AU said the PRC would discuss items on the agenda in preparation for the 25th AU Summit to be submitted to the Executive Council for adoption.

Mwencha said African leaders will discuss ways to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Burundi, urging delegates to support that country as it grapples with political instability.

Meanwhile, Brand South Africa, together with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and South African Tourism, also hosted media tours ahead of the summit.

Authorities said the objective of the tours was to profile a country with a rich history of diverse cultures, a land of possibility and opportunity, as well as a proud heritage that continues to shape South Africa’s journey to a thriving democracy.

The tours also included a visit to inner city Johannesburg which showcased how a nation’s competitiveness is born from its cities.