AU Summit opens with DRC’s Tshisekedi as new Chairman

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Felix Tshisekedi, on Saturday assumed the rotational chairmanship of the African Union at the opening of its 34th ordinary session of the Heads of State and Government Summit.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa symbolically handed over the instruments of power to President Tshisekedi during the virtual Summit underway in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who addressed the African leaders, identified Africa’s top political challenges, including terrorism, political intolerance and electoral violence in his opening speech.

He also spoke about the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in Africa and thanked the African leaders for working with him during his first term as Commission Chairperson over the past four years.

President Ramaphosa told the Summit the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic was a nagging reminder to the African and the global community of the vulnerability faced by humankind.

The South African leader said his leadership of the AU saw the continent rise up to confront the pandemic as a united team.

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“We stepped up to the challenge,” President Ramaphosa said, referring to the nomination of prominent African Special Envoys to lead the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by carrying out campaigns to secure funds for the African response to COVID-19.

President Ramaphosa recalled the successes recorded during his tenure as the AU Chairman, saying the engagements carried out by the special envoys led several countries in Africa to access funds.

He singled out engagements with the International Monetary Fund which unlocked economic stimulus packages to help battle the economic impact of the pandemic.

“We have reaffirmed that indeed Africa works as one in the international community,” Ramaphosa said.

The South African leader said the period of his Chairmanship also saw the successful launch of the African continental free trade area (AfCFTA), which will consolidate the African market.

He said the launching of the AfCFTA would also catalyse the effects required by the women in business to accelerate trade and industrialisation.