Southern African News Features                                           SANF 12 No 35 , October 2012

Dlamini-Zuma: “Unity is key to continental development”

The new African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said Africa has the capacity to achieve socio-economic growth if member states work together in addressing some of the challenges affecting the continent.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony held at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 15 October, Dlamini-Zuma said “the only way to ensure success in our continent’s endeavours is to move together as one united continent and people.”

“Unity is our watchword, unity is our salvation,” she said, adding that “we should look at ourselves as a continent, not only as individual countries.”

“We are a formidable force as a continent if we are united, but if we are divided we are weak. Nobody can ignore us united. Nobody can fail to see the continent as a force for global change, if we look at ourselves as a continent,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma, who etched her name in the history books by becoming the first southern African to head the AU Commission, said Africa has vast natural resources which if fully exploited could propel the continent to development.

Africa accounts for more than one quarter of the world’s arable land, and is well endowed with natural resources. Estimates indicate that the continent has about 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves.

“If we invest in increasing the productivity of our land we can have food security, export and generate revenue and also save the resources we use to import food,” she said.

Dlamini-Zuma, who also becomes the first woman to hold the post of chairperson of the AU Commission, said women empowerment is critical to the progress of the continent.

In this regard, African countries must channels more resources towards improving access to health, sanitation and water, and make child-bearing safer for women.

Member states must also implement regional and continental agreements that ensure more women are elevated into decision-making positions.

“We must accelerate the implementation of programmes related to the Decade of Women, in our efforts to advance and accelerate gender equality,” she said.

With regard to youth empowerment, Dlamini-Zuma said there is need to harness the energy, resourcefulness and enthusiasm of our young people so that they contribute positively to our societies, nations and the continent.

On peace and security in the region, the former South African Home Affairs Minister said while Africa has in the few decades witnessed significant progress in its political landscape, there are some countries that are still experiencing instability due to various reasons, including a new spate of military coups d'etat.

She said peace and stability are a prerequisite for socio-economic development, hence the need to redouble efforts to address the conflicts.

“In spite of this laudable progress, we must also acknowledge that there have been some difficulties and setbacks, with pockets of instability and conflict,” she said.

“It is therefore our responsibility as governments, as citizens, as regional bodies to ensure that the democratic process is irrevocable and to pledge ourselves to work for its success.”

She added that the AU Commission will continue to work with various stakeholders and regional organizations to promote, consolidate the peace in the continent, adding that the principle of finding African solutions to African problems will always be maintained.

In respect to regional integration, Dlamini-Zuma said Regional Economic Communities (RECs) must continue to lead the integration process as the RECs are the main agents for implementation of regional agreements.

Three RECs are at an advanced stage of forming an integrated market covering 26 countries in eastern and southern Africa. These are the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The launch of the so-called Tripartite Free Trade Area is expected to increase intra-regional trade and deepen integration through improved investment flows and enhanced competition.

Dlamini-Zuma takes over the AU Commission chair from Jean Ping. Dlamini-Zuma’s ascendency to the chair followed intense lobbying by SADC, who argued that it was time for southern Africa to lead the commission since other regions had had the opportunity to occupy the top post.

A skilled administrator and diplomat with a pan-African vision, Dlamini-Zuma has the confidence of southern Africa and the rest of the African continent to lead the AU Commission.

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