Addis Ababa hosts third “Africa: 54 Countries, One Union” Conference
Addis Ababa, May 3, 2012-“Think about the main priorities for Africa’s regional integration” is the aim of the Conference titled Africa: 54 Countries, One Union, that took place on May 3rdin the New Conference Center of the African Union, with the attendance of high level officials from Africa, Europe and many international organizations. The “Africa: 54 countries, One Union” conference aims to establish how best to help and support the process towards the unity of the African continent; a process that would be a long and gradual one, but which is an imperative condition for a long-lasting peace. It held for the first time in Bologna, Italy, in May 2010.
The conference was organized by the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation, in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC), Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU). The conference will focus on the roles of the African Union and its sub-regional organizations, the European Union and the United Nations, as well as those of China and the United States in the integration process of the continent.
Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission in his opening remarks, said “peace, security and development are the base of sustainable integration in Africa”. He advocated for post-conflict reconstruction, food security and increased intra-African trade and other measures to make 54 the African countries a union.
Emphasizing on Africa to speak in one voice, Ethiopian Prime Minster Mr. Meles Zenawi said that Africa still has challenges to face. “Constructive engagement is important for Africa to be successful and the African Union should play a bigger role in tackling these issues in Africa because there is no way 54 countries can achieve their goals individually” he said.
Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the Foundation for World Wide Cooperation, in his address, said that peace is still fragile on the continent, as there are still ongoing conflicts and they are not going to be solved quickly nor easily. He emphasized that the road to integration is not easy, mainly because peace and security issues are yet to be resolved. He called for the creation of“a continental market which is key to developing the continent because it will increase growth and livelihoods”, adding that there is need for dynamic and inclusive growth, increased mobility of goods, services and people. “In order to do so, we need regional and continental infrastructures”, Mr Prodi said.
Describing Africa as “the promising continent “, Ambassador Liu Guijin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China underlinedchallenges facing the continent. “With economic recovery, peacekeeping, and mutually beneficial cooperation, Africa is able to meet its challenges and become one” he said.
Mr. Sakellaris Plutarchos, Vice President of the European Investment Fund (EIF) highlighted in his remarks the difficulties encountered by a group of countries working towards a common goal and said that Africa will learn a great deal from this. “This is proof of the current momentum of concerted action to fill the infrastructural gap between Africa and the rest of the world. It is a shared responsibility to achieve this momentum”, he said.Mr. Plutarchos said the EIF has been allocating approximately 65% of its loans to infrastructure development initiatives in Africa. The fund is also participating in projects such as the EU-Africa Trust fund for infrastructures which is closely linked to the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), he added.
Mr. Gary Quince, Ambassador of the European Union to the African Union Commission stressed that the AU has improved considerably and its actions are more noticeable, as seen recently when the organization took a stand and action in the coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Or when the UN Security Council recognized and valued its position concerning Somali and in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.
Calling for Africa to focus on human rights and cultural unit of peace, Italian Foreign Affairs, Mr. Giulio Terzi di sant’ Agata, said that Africa has transformed from an object to a subject,stating that his country believes in Africa and its potential for the future. “Italy is committed to working side by side with the African Union to help achieve Africa’s goals on intra-African trade, infrastructure, and transparency in business and addressing the issues of pirates as well as hate and violence, and if we all work together it is all achievable” he underscored.
This 3rd conference will offer senior policy makers and experts the opportunity to discuss the relevance of regional integration and mechanisms in addressing peace, security and development challenges in Africa, especially in West Africa and the Sahel region.
Deliberations of this conference will continue on May 4th, 2012 at the Economic Commission for Africa and will lead to discussions on the themes of peace, security and development, infrastructure and investment, trade, markets and liberalization.
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