Your Excellency, Mrs. Fatoumata Kaba Sidibe, Chairperson of the Permanent Representatives Committee;
Your Excellency, Mr. Thomas Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission;
Excellencies Ambassadors, PRC Members;
Representatives of AU Organs and regional Economic Communities;
Ladies and gentlemen;
It is an honour to speak to you at this Permanent Representatives’ Committee Retreat. I wish to express my sincere appreciation, on behalf of the entire Commission, for the commitment and diligence with which you have approached the preparation for the upcoming 5th African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) Summit. Indeed, we are encouraged that we will be able to accomplish a lot, and we give credit to the work and organizational progress we all have undertaken thus far.
I am again fully convinced that with unity of purpose, where our continent is united and speaks in one voice, we can achieve great outcomes in this upcoming Summit. It is critical, therefore, that we redouble our collective efforts and outline in more concrete terms our developmental objectives, as well as our expectations of what is required for Africa to position itself for growth.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
This Summit comes at an opportune time when the African Union is embarking on a reform to bring meaning into its relationship with the other parts of the world, a process that was adopted by the January 2017 AU Summit of Heads of State and Governments.
The essence of this retreat, I believe, is to join our efforts and strengths to propose an African perspective and solutions regarding the theme adopted for the 5th AU – EU Summit, namely “Investment in Youth for Accelerated Inclusive growth and sustainable development”.
As you all know, Africa has the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world. Thus, the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments in January 2016 declared 2017 as the year of ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth’.
The African Union has recognized the urgent need to improve the current state of Africa’s youth, the majority of whom are unemployed and underemployed, lack education and relevant skills, have insufficient access to capital and information, are discriminated against and are vulnerable to diseases and violence-particularly gender-based violence and armed conflicts. Any action (or inaction) taken today, with regard to youth development and empowerment, will have a huge impact on Africa’s future prospects. The youth can be a truly potent tool for accelerating socioeconomic development on the continent.
I would therefore, at this stage of my speech, wish to express my full support to the general consensus within the African side to limit engagements to a reduced number of priority areas and to focus on the real priorities, which are:
• Investing in people – education and skills development
• Resilience, Peace, Security and Governance
• Mobilizing Investments for African structural transformation
This approach marks a clear shift in what we had in the past, where we engaged in too many projects and have achieved very little.
Our deliberations must therefore target concrete, implementable projects, with clear financing structures and robust monitoring and evaluation tools that allow for better management of projects as well as a process that is iterative. It also gives us an opportunity to harmonize the African position before engaging the European side and more importantly to strengthen our future engagement to ensure that Africa always stands united.
It is my firm belief that this retreat will help to build for the success of the Summit in November. As your Excellencies are aware, there has been a longstanding spirit of cooperation between Europe and Africa, and we recognize that the EU is an important partner in our effort to attain African development and integration. It is therefore imperative that a common stand be developed prior to the Summit in order to ensure utmost productivity. Achieving a high level of coordination in advance will also allow for greater progress to be achieved. I therefore strongly urge both our Member States and the Commission to sustain high level of cooperation that we have observed thus far.
Excellencies, ladies and gentleman,
As part of this process, there have been several consultative meetings between various relevant stakeholders (RECs, NEPAD, AfDB, ACBF and UNECA). These deliberations have charted the way for developing a more strategic approach to our partnerships and agreed on elements and success factors for managing partnerships jointly and continentally. The Sub-Committee on Multilateral Cooperation had the opportunity to consider the draft, at its recent meeting held on Monday, 2 October 2017. This meeting also took the time to assess the progress made so far and accordingly discussed on a more robust path for Africa’s development.
I wish to reiterate that this progress is merely the beginning. The commitment of the African Union to the successful implementation of the Agenda 2063 framework cannot be overstated; and working together with our Member States, we will no doubt fully invest in the sustainable development of our continent. As encouraging as the successes have been thus far, there is much more to come. The partnership between the AU and the EU is a vital channel for continuing the development of Africa.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me use this opportunity to reiterate the value of close and collaborative process and to urge that we speak in one voice at the upcoming Summit.
Allow me, Excellencies and Ladies and gentlemen to also reiterate my personal determination and the commitment of the entire Commission to ensure that the Union presents itself in Abidjan as a united front and with no one left behind.
It is, in addition, my belief that this retreat will help set us on the path to a successful Summit and I wish all of us constructive and result-oriented deliberations.
I thank you.