The progress and development of the continent of Africa hinges on the driving force of its citizens.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma made the assertion at the 28th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the Union in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Dr. Zuma said the growth of Africa must rely on the potentials of the African people, especially its women and youth.
“Much of 2015’s focus on young people was on the many that perished whilst crossing the Sahel and Mediterranean Sea in search for a better life, or the few lured by extremists.
“And yet across the length and breadth of the continent, and against great odds, young entrepreneurs and innovators are doing extra ordinary, in their communities, universities, in civil society, in business tackling Africa’s social problems in innovative ways with just a little bit of support and encouragement,”she said.
On the impact of climate change on the continent, the AU Chairperson Dr. Zuma noted that Africa had not been resting on its laurels but had initiated the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel in order to to save Lake Chad.
The initiative, Africa Renewable Energy, according to Dr. Zuma, is the continent’s commitment to climate smart agriculture and the Africa Risk Capacity Agency is another body that provides capacity, monitoring and insurance against natural disasters on the continent.
“The Climate deal and green economy are important to us, in the context of domestic investments and global pledges made to support the mitigation and adoption, in particular renewable energy in Africa,” she noted.
The AU Chairperson reiterated the body’s commitment to push ahead with such programmes as the Campaign for the reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa and other health programmes.
Dr. Zuma urged African countries to invest more in building strong and resilient public health systems to respond to any future threats, through the African Centre for Disease Control.
She noted that of the more than ten elections held in the continent in 2015, only Ethiopia and Sudan managed to increase the percentage of women in parliament sufficiently to make it into the group of countries with more than thirty percent women in parliament.
She implored African countries to do better in the 2016 elections.
On enhanced trade on the continent, Dr. Zuma noted that the ambitious dream of connecting all African countries and commercial centres through high speed rail is still alive.
She said the union would not relent in its efforts to ensure that the people of Western Sahara and other territories still denied the right to self determination, are able to determine their own futures.
“The issue of Western Sahara is being handled by the UN and we really need to push the UN to ensure that it does everything that should be done to move the process of Western Sahara forward.
It is really not acceptable that for so long nothing has happened on the issue,” she stressed.
Dr Zuma said the Union would not be deterred from “our goal of bringing about peace, so that the peoples of Mali, South Sudan, Darfur, Libya and Somalia, Niger and Nigeria could live in peace and harmony, and join the march towards the Africa we want. “
The conference theme was: Africa Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women.