President Paul Kagame has said that the African Union institutional reform aims at creating a self sufficient Union and will lead to more reliable external partnerships.
Kagame was speaking in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, at the ongoing 5th African Union-European Union Summit which opened on Wednesday.
The meeting was attended by heads of state and government from Africa and Europe and focuses on monitoring developments in the implementation of mutual commitments by both groups of stakeholders.
The meeting is taking place against the backdrop of harrowing revelations that immigrants, most of them from West Africa- are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya.
Kagame described the current migrant crisis as a test of collaboration between the two continents and called on all actors to act together.
“A test of our collaboration and our humanity lies clearly before us, with the unfolding tragedy of African migrants in Libya and in similar situations elsewhere. We must act together,” he said.
“Guaranteeing opportunity, safety, and voice to the young people of both Europe and Africa, is the best defence of our shared values, and our common future,” Kagame added referring to youth participation and engagement as a central pillar of the AU institutional reform.
Kagame, who is spearheading the reform process, described the process as urgent and a necessity as the continent’s economic and security environment depends on quality of cooperation.
“The forces reshaping the global economic and security environment mean that Africa’s future increasingly depends on the quality of cooperation within our own continent, first and foremost,” Kagame said.
“This includes, critically, our responsibility to mobilise the resources to pay for important programmes that benefit our people, while alleviating the burden on our partners,” the President added.
The process is however flexible to accommodate the specific needs of member states without undermining the core principles it is anchored upon.
Among highlights of the reforms is the division of labour among regional economic blocs with increased coordination with the African Union Commission.
The reforms also present an opportunity to strengthen ties between Africa and external partners such as Europe; to tackle key issues including security, immigration and trade, among others.
“The reform represents a landmark opening to strengthen the partnership between Europe and Africa. Europe and Africa are permanent neighbours, and we have a shared understanding of numerous key interests, notably in terms of security, migration, environment, trade and investment,” the President observed.
Held every three years, the summit in Abidjan was the third such summit to be held on the continent with previous meets being held in Egypt (2000), Portugal (2007), Libya (2010) and Belgium (2014).
This year’s summit is held under the theme “Investing in youth for a sustainable future.”
Among the main speakers at the meet are the chairperson of the African Union, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, African Union Commission chariperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.
Other African leaders expected to make keynote presentations include Chad President Déby Itno, on enhancing economic opportunity for the youth, and King of Morocco Mohammed VI, on mobility and migration.
South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to speak on AU-EU cooperation on peace and security, while Ghanaian President Akufo Addo is scheduled to talk about cooperation on governance between the two blocs.