President Cyril Ramaphosa will, as outgoing Chairperson, officially relinquish Chairship of the AU to his successor, H. E. President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, during the Opening Session of the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly tomorrow, Saturday 6 February 2021.
The African Union theme for 2021 will be “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.
During South Africa’s tenure as Chair, the African Union achieved key priorities as outlined in its programme for 2020.
This included the historic advent – on 1 January 2021 – of free trade within the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Likewise, the 14th Extraordinary Summit on Silencing the Guns reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 flagship programme on Silencing the Guns by 2020.
The convening of the Second Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the African Union, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and Member States in October 2020 was critical in building on the progress made thus far regarding the streamlining of the agendas and priorities between the AU, RECs, RMs and Member States of the AU.
Under the leadership of President Ramaphosa and resolute support of the Bureau of the Heads of State and Government of the AU and the AU Secretariat, the following initiatives were undertaken to address the challenges of the COVID-19:
• The establishment of the AU COVID-19 Response Fund;
• The establishment of the Africa Task Force for Coronavirus (AFTCOR);
• The Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing in Africa (PACT);
• The Consortium for COVID-19 Clinical vaccine Trials (CONCVACT);
• The appointment of Special Envoys to mobilise the international support for the Continental fight against COVID-19;
• The Establishment of the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP): a platform developed to assist the AU Member States to tackle issues on the supply side of continent’s response to COVID-19 and access to medical supplies and equipment;
• The initiative of the Chair of the AU to engage international partners and financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Union (EU), G20 Member States and others to support the issue of debt relief for African countries whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic;
• The development of the vaccine strategy for the continent which was endorsed by the AU Bureau of Assembly on 20 August 2020;
• President Ramaphosa’s establishment of the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), in support of Africa Vaccine Strategy. The Task Team was mandated to secure the necessary resources for achieving Africa’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy which targets vaccinating a minimum of 60% of Africa’s population and to accelerate the arrangements of financing for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for the African continent;
During the 34th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly, the Assembly is expected to consider some of the Continent’s pertinent issues related to the selection of the senior leadership of the African Union Commission.
In this regard, the following positions will become vacant in February 2021 namely, Chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), Deputy-Chairperson of the Commission and six (6) Commissioners of the AUC.
For its part, South Africa has submitted two candidates, namely, Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo and Dr Molapo Qhobela, for the position of the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, and Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, respectively.
The 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly is also expected to consider and adopt, among others, the report of 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council; a report on the institutional reform process of the AU; a progress report on the AU’s response to COVID-19 pandemic in line with the Continental Strategy on COVID-19, as well as the outcomes of the 2nd Mid-Year Coordination Meeting.
The South African delegation to the AU Summit is led by President Ramaphosa who will be joined by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor; Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize; Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Mr Ebrahim Patel; Minister of State Security Ms Ayanda Dlodlo; Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Mr Nkosinathi Mthethwa