Efforts accelerated to make Africa a bright spot

Wednesday, 2019-02-13 18:12:13
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President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the incoming chairperson of the African Union (AU), attends a news conference during a closing of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the AU annual summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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NDO – The 32nd African Union (AU) Summit recently concluded in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa with a commitment to taking action for the prosperity of the people in the continent. The focus of African leaders in the near future will be put on addressing the issue of migration aiming to reduce the state of exile, which causes social, security and economic challenges in the “dark continent”.

Under the theme “Refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons: Towards durable solutions to forced displacement in Africa”, the top agenda of the 2019 AU Summit focused on discussing an array of refugee-related issues, as well as the AU’s ongoing reforms, peace and security in the region. The conference called on member states to make greater efforts to achieve progress in intra-bloc free trade, the building of peace and security, and institutional and financial reforms within the AU. Taking place in the context of an increasingly gloomy migration picture, the summit set the goal of working out solutions aiming to “block from the source” all the causes of the migration wave, which is severely affecting the social and economic life of Africa.

Despite having to face social, economic and security challenges, Africa is currently home to nearly a third of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26% of the world’s refugee population. This figure has increased in recent years due to ongoing crises and conflicts in the Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan, Burundi and Yemen. Conflicts across Africa have forced 20.8 million people to live in exile. The burden from migrants has caused a significant impact on the inherently fragile economy of many countries, which are in a very fragile state. Although Africa’s economic growth continues to improve, with an estimated GDP growth rate of 3.5% in 2018, it still remains hard for the “dark continent” to afford to cope with the challenges. Of the total 43 countries in the world with an average poverty rate higher than 18%, about three-quarters are in the southern Sahara, with an average poverty rate at 41%. As forecast by the World Bank (WB) forecast, even in the most favourable circumstances, the average poverty rate of the countries in this region will remain at the two-digit level.

Ending conflicts, creating jobs and sustainable development are the issues that Africa should strive to achieve in order to eradicate the wave of migration. However, as for the “dark continent”, it is a big challenge to find cures for the “chronic diseases” of conflict and poverty. Taking over the rotating presidency of the AU in 2019, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi affirmed that he will try his best to achieve the objectives set at the conference, including the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), the reforms of the UN Security Council, the relocation of migrants and the creation of more jobs for the young labour force across the continent. The Egyptian President outlined the goal of economic integration in Africa which considered a solution to many of the problems faced currently. The top priority in Africa’s economic integration plan is AfCFTA, which is expected to be officially activated in the AU Summit this July. The deployment of AfCFTA not only supports cross-border cargo flows across the continent but also promotes the exchange of intellectual capacities among African countries, while upholding social values. The new AU President also affirmed his focus on challenges such as combating climate change and terrorism. The conference called for dealing with the root cause of extremism, while warning of the spread of terrorism in the Sahel region.

In an effort towards an Africa without gunfire from 2020, the AU has been actively coordinating with the United Nations to resolve and prevent conflict. The promotion of AU reforms and solidarity between African countries will be the focus that Egypt pursues as the rotating Chairperson of the AU. This is also considered an important factor to achieve the set goals, aiming to make the “dark continent” a bright spot in the fight against poverty and conflict for a prosperous Africa.