African leaders are meeting in late January to chart the continent's development agenda as it enters its 50th year of regional cooperation.
The 20th Ordinary Assembly of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government set for 27-28 January takes place at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance."
Since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – now the AU – in 1963, African countries have underscored the need for unity towards the quest for socio-economic development.
In this regard, various programmes and initiatives have been put in place to help the continent achieve its goals.
While significant progress has been made to promote deeper integration among member states, the continent wants more to be done to ensure that it takes full control of its development agenda.
The forthcoming AU summit is thus expected to review the progress made in the last 50 years and also plan for the future.
According to the AU Commission chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, "a long-term African Union-wide strategic framework is already under development."
Dlamini-Zuma is expected to present a concept note to the General Assembly on the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance" as well as on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the AU.
The celebrations will be held on 25 May to coincide with the day the OAU was formed in 1963.
The summit will also consider a progress report from a team of leaders charged with overseeing the transformation of the AU Commission into the AU Authority.
This follows a decision made during the 12th AU summit held in Ethiopia in 2009 where it was agreed to set up a committee to look into the modalities of turning the AU secretariat into an authority.
The decision to transform the AU Commission into an authority was reached as a compromise step toward eventually forming a continent-wide government. The proposed authority would have a broader mandate than the existing commission.
South African President Jacob Zuma will brief his colleagues on the forthcoming 5th BRICS Summit to be hosted by his country in March.
This will complete the first cycle of BRICS summits, which are convened to seek common ground on areas of importance for developing economies.
The political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Madagascar, Mali and the Central African Republic will also be on the agenda.
Regional bodies such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have strongly condemned the deteriorating security situation in the DRC and pledged to send peacekeeping forces to that country.
Southern African leaders have mandated the SADC Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committee and the SADC Secretariat to work together with the ICGLR to engage the AU Peace and the United Nations Security Council for support to the deployment and sustenance.
Rebels launched a rebellion against DRC President Joseph Kabila's government in April 2012, and recently threatened to march on Kinshasa, the capital of the vast, mineral-rich country.
The rebels call themselves the March 23 (M23) movement as that is the date on which they had agreed to lay down arms and be integrated into the national army, before deserting and claiming their conditions had not been met.
On the situation in Madagascar, the summit is expected to find a lasting solution to the problems in the Indian Ocean island.
Meeting in the United Republic of Tanzania recently, the SADC Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation called on the Malagasy people to promote the spirit of reconciliation, peace and stability and to refrain from all acts of destabilization in the country.
The Organ also welcomed and commended the undertaking made by Andry Rajoelina, President of the Transition in Madagascar, and former president Marc Ravalomanana not to stand in the forthcoming presidential elections.
Polls in Madagascar are scheduled for May 2013.
The 20th AU Summit is also expected to discuss forthcoming elections in member states. Some of the countries scheduled to go to the polls are Ethiopia, Kenya, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Other issues on the summit agenda include trade, food security and climate change. On trade, African leaders are expected to discuss measures to improve intra-African trade as a crucial instrument for meaningful regional integration, connectivity and development.
Africa is targeting to establish a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017, which is expected to contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, employment generation, and poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development and better integration of the continent into the global economy.
When fully operational, the proposed CFTA is expected to increase African intra-regional trade from the present 10 percent to about 40 percent.
With regard to food security, leaders are expected to review the implementation of various programmes such as the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) that aims to boost production.
With respect to climate change, the leaders are set to discuss, among other things, ways to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The AU is expected to consider a proposal by South Africa to declare 18 July as an annual holiday in honour of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The holiday will be known as Nelson Mandela Day for Africa.
The summit will witness the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the opening of the new AU Conference and Office Complex at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa.
via Southern African News Features (Harare)