South Africa has been elected as chair of the African Union for the year 2020 at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government.
The chairship is decided annually on a rotational basis among the five regions and it is the Southern region’s turn to chair in 2020. SA will be taking over as chair from Egypt.
At the two-day summit held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, President Cyril Ramaphosa handed in to the AU Commission the instrument of ratification — a formal approval by South Africa’s Parliament — of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA).
In March 2018, South Africa held off on signing the actual agreement until legal and other instruments associated with AfCFTA were processed and ratified by South African stakeholders and Parliament.
The AfCFTA is aimed at deepening African economic integration by promoting agricultural development, food security, industrialisation and structural economic transformation through a single-air continental transport market with free movement of persons, capital, goods and services.
The AfCFTA is designed to combine market integration with industrial and infrastructure development to address Africa’s productive capacity.
Held under the theme ‘The Year of Refugees, Returnees and International Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa’, the summit also received and engaged with reports on a number of issues.
These include the institutional reform and financing of the continental body; peace and security on the continent; developments related to the African Continental Free Trade Area; and negotiations for a new cooperation agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific developing countries post-2020.
Furthermore, the AU immortalized the former Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, best known as one of the founding fathers of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) of 1963, by unveiling a commemorative statue in recognition of his contribution to Africa’s liberation and unity.
On the margins of the assembly, President Ramaphosa attended a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting.
The meeting received reports on the consolidation of SADC political efforts in supporting SADC Member States and progress made in the implementation of the Institutional Reform of the African Union and in Post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement Negotiations.
The President also held bilateral talks with several Heads of State and Government, including Ethiopia, theDemocratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Mali, Kingdom of eSwatini and Rwanda.
He also met with the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres and leading software industry entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist, Bill Gates.
The President was accompanied by several Ministers and senior government officials.