President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been elected chairman of the African Union at the continental body’s summit in Ethiopia. El-Sissi’s chairmanship will last until 2020, when South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected by fellow heads of state to take over. The now question is, what are el-Sisi’s priorities regarding the union? Here are some he mentioned in the summit:
- The AU will continue to undergo the structural, organizational, and funding reforms championed by its outgoing chairman, Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
“This year we will continue our endeavors to overhaul our union as part of a deep reform operation that will be conducted and owned by African states themselves to achieve the expectations of African people,” el-Sissi said in front of the AU’s 55 heads of state and more than 2,000 summit participants during his closing remarks.
- He will focus on improving the peace and security climate in Africa, using Egypt’s post-crisis recovery as a model.
With the AU’s 2019 theme set as “the year of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons,” el-Sissi urged heads of state to strengthen the basis of sustainable development to provide more jobs and opportunities for youth as a first step toward tackling high levels of emigration.
- He declared his support for the expedited enforcement of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which would create the world’s largest free-trading bloc.
Countries including South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ratified the agreement during the summit, bringing the number of ratifications to 18 member states. The agreement needs 22 ratifications to become operational.
- There will be a renewed focus on peace and security.
It is “imperative to lend more importance to post conflict reconstructions in order for us to push for peace and security in our continent and to protect our achievement and successes from any regression,” the president said during his closing remarks. He then added that in closed-door meetings during the summit, AU heads of state had “reiterated our position on U.N. financing for African activities in terms of peace and security,” pointing to rising terrorist threats in certain regions that require “the cohesion of national institutions and increased financial support to solidify security cooperation.”
Other key decisions taken at this year’s summit include the launching of the African Medicines Agency to combat disease in Africa, along with the chairman’s announcement of the “Aswan Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development,” a high-level meeting to take place later this year. And in July, heads of state will gather in Niger to officially launch the AU Development Agency — formerly known as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development — following approval of its statute, rules of procedure, and governance structures.