AU Summit Addresses Continental Free Trade, Peace and Security
Photo by Children and Young People Living for Peace, Nigeria
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Leaders at the 31st AU Summit focused on the continent’s efforts to tackle corruption and promote synergistic implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda.

The Summit welcomed progress on the African Continental Free Trade Area, peace and security, and efforts to promote gender equality.

6 July 2018: Heads of State and Government attending the 31st ordinary session of the African Union (AU) discussed the AU institutional reforms, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the establishment of the AU Development Agency (AUDA), and peace and security, among other topics. The Summit reflected on synergies between Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda and supported efforts to promote women’s empowerment and tackle corruption.

The 31st ordinary session of the AU convened in Nouakchott, Mauritania, from 25 June to 2 July 2018, under the theme ‘Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.’ The Summit included the 36th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee, the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the AU.

On the AfCFTA, 49 out of the AU’s 55 member States have signed the agreement establishing the AfCFTA. Chad, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Rwanda have ratified the AfCFTA. Participants adopted five priority sectors: transport; communication; finance; tourism; and business. Leaders urged member States who have not yet done so to sign and ratify the agreement and urged member States to abstain from entering into bilateral trading agreements until after the AfCFTA enters into force.

The Assembly approved the AUDA’s establishment as the AU’s technical body and requested the AU Commission to develop a statute for AUDA for adoption at the January 2019 Summit. The Assembly recognized the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency as the organization responsible for implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and implementation of various African development programmes and initiatives. The Assembly agreed the implementation of African development programmes and initiatives would transition from NEPAD to AUDA.

During the opening session, President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, who also serves as the AU Chair, described partnership as the common thread in the Summit’s deliberations. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed sustainable development as the center of the UN’s strategic partnership with the AU. She observed that Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “share a common vision” and provide the basis for the AU-UN Partnership framework for development. She called for aligning policy, programming and accountability on the agendas to amplify impact at regional and country levels.

Mohammed reflected that, in spite of huge challenges, Africa is making “continuous progress”, as evidenced by declining child and maternal mortality, increasing access to all levels of education and increasing decision-making roles held by women, in line with SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 5 (gender equality). She said the AU Great Green Wall can protect millions of people from climate change and desertification impacts while integrating renewable energy and investments in value chains, in line with SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land).

On peace, security and migration, Mohammed praised Africa as a “generous humanitarian actor,” describing the continent as one of the “most reliable contributors” to UN peacekeeping operations. She further noted that Africa hosts more than one-quarter of the world’s refugees and displaced people, showing “a solidarity that is often missing elsewhere.” AUC Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat stressed the importance of the free movement of persons, saying Africans should not “be foreigners on their own continent.” He urged member States to ratify the AU Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment to ensure that Africans are treated with dignity and respect across the continent.

The Summit also addressed reports on peace and security and progress on reducing armed conflicts in Africa in line with the ‘AU Master Roadmap on Practical Steps to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020,’ one of the key projects of Agenda 2063. Participants commended Zambia and Zimbabwe for being the first countries to submit written reports on their implementation of the Roadmap and called on member States to emulate their example.

A panel discussion on corruption focused on evaluating Africa’s progress in fighting corruption and developing additional strategies to tackle it. The Assembly encouraged member States to tackle illicit financial flows, invest in the demographic dividend and strengthen national anti-corruption agencies. Mahamat called on governments to follow up on the recommendations of the Tabi Mebki Panel on illicit financial flows, underscoring the potential contribution of these lost resources to finance Africa’s development.

On SDG 5, Kagame and European Union (EU) Commissioner Mimica co-hosted a joint AU-EU ‘Women in Power’ side-event on the role of women in driving political, social and economic development. Participants supported accelerating efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, stressing such progress as fundamental to achieving all the SDGs.

The Summit also addressed, inter alia: the AU budget, which has been reduced by 12% compared to 2018 in line with management effectiveness reforms; a common position on the UN high-level meeting on Tuberculous; and appointments. The Summit designated the theme for the 2019 Summit as the ‘Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement.’ [AU Press Release on Opening] [AU Press Release on Key Conclusions] [AU Press Release on Gender Equality Side Event] [President Kagame Statement] [UN Deputy Secretary-General Statement]

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