African Union Commission Chairperson, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, delivered her first and only State of the Continent address in Durban on Monday, surrounded by provincial officials.
The event caused some confusion when first announced on Friday; it was not clear if it was an AU-sanctioned State of the Continent address. Dlamini-Zuma has made it known that she is available for the African National Congress and state president in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
KZN MEC for Social Development, Weziwe Thusi, honoured Dlamini-Zuma with a humanitarian award.
Dlamini-Zuma was flanked by Thusi, MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Bongi Sithole-Moloi; MEC for Human Settlements, Ravi Pillay; Acting Director General of GCIS, Donald Liphoko and eThekwini deputy mayor, Fawzia Peer.
In her address, Dlamini-Zuma said that even though African countries no longer suffered colonisation, their colonisers were still influencing some.
“Africa, I would say, is a contested space. We are not left alone to just deal with our issues. Many people want to influence Africa one way or another, which is why we have situations like Libya which was bombed, and some have their central banks somewhere else,” she said.
“Also, the economic structure of the world still influences Africa a lot. It may not be countries but companies that are creating problems for Africa. It is not just for the AU commission to deal with that, but with governments and citizens. That is why our resources are being plundered,” she said.
“On the whole, democracy is taking root on the continent. But democracy for its sake is not useful. It needs to translate into the change in our people’s lives on the continent, and their freedoms.”
Women, youth, students and cultural workers, businesses and other sectors had increased their participation in uplifting the continent, she said, but more could be done.
The Ebola outbreak had highlighted an “unprecedented continental solidarity” between citizens, she said, and the media was being sought out to be part of the AU’s work, particularly Agenda 2063, which seeks to optimise Africa’s resources for the benefit of Africans.
“We must use the resources Africa has, its people, to create abundance,” she said.
The AU was also advocating for more children in higher education, and there had been an increase in enrolment across the continent, she said.
“In 1991, we saw 2.7 million young people in universities. Now we have well over 10 million varsity students qualifying each year,” she said.
A problem arose with subject choice, she said, as most graduates were qualifying in social sciences. There needed to be an equal split between social sciences and science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Also of concern was that less than 10 percent of Africans attended university.
“So we are just recreating the elite. There must be more universal access,” she said.
Although agriculture had grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, the AU was looking to encourage African countries to invest more in this sector. Projections showed that by 2030, agriculture would be a trillion dollar industry across the continent, she said.
Free trade areas in the continent were “very exciting”, she said, as were lower trade tariffs.
“About five years ago, intra African trade was 5%, today it is 18%. We need to develop industries in agriculture, minerals and natural resources to have more to trade,” she said.
Continental free trade negotiations were launched last year which would also make it easier “to trade amongst ourselves”, she said.
Addressing Peace, security and human rights, Dlamini-Zuma said that previously the AU charter was one of “no interference” in other countries, but that this had evolved into the AU Constitutive Act of “no indifference”.
The African Charter on human rights, democracy and governance was initiated to try to create an environment that allows participatory democracy and decreases conflicts.
AU funding had also increased, she said. “Who funds Africa? Whoever pays the piper calls the tune,” she said. Heads of state had increased funding and would fully fund the operational budget, she said.
Closing the event, eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer said countries would not advance if women were underrepresented in decision-making processes.
“As women, we are not apologetic of stating that [Dlamini-Zuma] is capable of leading any position,” said Peer. She thanked “viewers and listeners around the world” for listening to the address.
– African News Agency