Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 05, January 2010
African Union to review ICT development

The African Union Summit in Ethiopia will assess the impact of information communication technology on the continent as well as other socio-economic and security developments.

The theme of the Summit is "Information Communication Technologies in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development".

ICT has been identified as a catalyst for growth in the current global market but unchecked development may also pose serious challenges to developing countries as more advanced nations impose or control the flow of information.

African leaders are expected to deliberate on how the continent can harness opportunities presented by ICT while at the same time addressing its challenges.

Development in ICT have the potential to promote investment in various sectors of the economy such as agriculture, tourism, education and health, resulting in the creation of jobs, increase in agriculture production as well as improvement in connectivity with the rest of the world.

The Summit, to be held at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa from 31 January to 2 February, is also expected to discuss a proposal put forward by Nigeria to establish an African Union Rapid Response Force (AURRF) that would detect and address potential conflicts on the continent.

Supporters of the AURRF believe that the establishment of such a force should enable Africa to resolve its security challenges without unnecessary outside interference.

Another major issue for discussion is the socio-economic situation on the continent. The AU has invited World Bank President Robert Zoellick to make a presentation on how Africa may improve its economy and attract investment.

Zoellick is expected to propose ways that Africa and the Bank can work together to minimize the effects of the financial crisis that affected the entire world last year.

Discussion will also centre on progress toward implementation of various resolutions made at the last Summit in Sirte, Libya.

These include the approval of a plan to transform the AU Commission, the executive arm of the pan-African body, into an Authority with a broader mandate and power over defence, diplomatic and international trade matters.

The decision, which is a step towards continental integration, now awaits ratification by Member States after the requisite amendments are made to the constitutive acts.

A progress report on the matter is expected to be presented to the Summit for further discussion. African leaders have maintained different positions on the immediate setting up of a continental body with power over sectors normally under national jurisdiction.

Though the development could help to transform Africa into a powerful union, the move presents challenges on the sovereignty of individual states.

The Summit will elect a new chair to take over from Libya. The chair rotates among the five regions of Africa and this time it is the turn of southern Africa.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has endorsed the candidature of Malawi. If approved by the full Summit, Malawi is expected to host the second AU Summit for the year, which is usually held mid-year, in July.

With regard to political developments, the situation in Madagascar, Guinea Bissau and Niger are set receive top priority.

Madagascar slid into political turmoil in March last year when opposition leader Andry Rajoelina seized power from President Marc Ravalomanana in a public demonstration backed by the military.

Attempts to find a lasting solution to the challenges have been made through SADC-initiated talks led by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

However, implementation of this agreement continues to be a major challenge and it remains to be seen if Madagascar will put in place a transitional government that will organize fresh elections this year.

Guinea Bissau and Niger have remained on the agenda following moves by the authorities to change the constitutions to enable them to remain in power.

A progress report on Zimbabwe’s inclusive government and the improving situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo are expected to be presented to the Summit.

The Summit is set to deliberate on the International Criminal Court (ICC) which African leaders have described as a western institution that does not represent its interests.

At the 2009 Summit, the leaders said Africa will not cooperate with the ICC, especially in extraditing Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.

Other issues expected to top the Summit agenda include the energy situation in Africa, climate change, notably the outcome of the recent Climate Change conference held in Denmark. The conference ended without agreement and Africa has vowed to negotiate as one until a better deal is reached.

Prior to the 14th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, senior and technical officials will meet followed by a preparatory meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The African Union is a pan-African organisation whose goal is to propel a united continent towards peace and prosperity. Made up of 53 members, the AU succeeded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 2002.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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