Uganda: Government Asks Telecoms to Provide Affordable Internet Services
UNHCR Chief Lauds Ethiopia’s Innovative Approach to Refugees
Egypt's Sisi flies to Munich for major security forum
Govt to license more radio stations
A team of engineers constituted to assess all roads and bridges in Zambia-Chitotela
Buhari to address Nigerians Thursday
Chahed/OCDE Secretary-General talk in Paris: Means to boost bilateral co-operation reviewed
Cameroon joins world to commemorate radio day
Al Ahram Weekly
Egypt’s chairmanship of the African Union (AU) this year will certainly be a wonderful occasion to benefit both the African continent and Egypt. The guiding principle in this respect was highlighted by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi during his opening speech at the AU Summit on Sunday: the need for African solutions to Africa’s many challenges.
While fully aware that Egypt has a lot to offer to brotherly African nations, with whom we share a long history and a glorious struggle against Western colonisation, Egypt also has a lot to benefit from the success stories of several African nations who managed to reform their economies and put the interests of their peoples first. Therefore, in the next year, Egypt will exert its utmost efforts to continue with the institutional, structural and financial reform of the AU, and seek to develop tools and potentials of the continental bloc and the African Union Commission to meet the aspirations and hopes of the African peoples.
Current critical regional and international conditions have added to the many challenges and perils facing African interests. Therefore, what African leaders need to do is to put their words into action, and carry out the many ambitious agreements they signed aimed at enhancing inter-continental trade and cooperation.
However, any plans to develop Africa and serve the interests of its people will not be possible without putting an end to long ongoing disputes among African neighbours, and within several African nations. Confronting extremism and terrorism, and outside attempts to interfere in the continent’s affairs, are also major challenges that Egypt and other African countries need to work relentlessly on.
Mutual understanding and respect among African countries will be another guiding principle for Egypt as it chairs the AU this year. In this framework, President Al-Sisi asserted the importance of African solutions when it comes to resolving African problems, saying it is the only way to deal with joint challenges. Africa is more capable of understanding the complications of its problems and the nature of its conditions, and therefore can find realistic solutions that protect and achieve the interests of its peoples.
This will definitely be a tough challenge, but the first key step is to revive and activate a continental framework policy to encourage future reconstruction and development, and to draw up plans of action that protect countries that had disputes against any relapse. To prove that Egypt means action, the AU Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development Centre will open soon in Cairo to become a coordination platform to prepare programmes for countries emerging from conflicts to protect their rights to reconstruction and development.
Developing and enhancing peace and security in Africa will also continue as a sustainable strategy during Egypt’s one-year chairmanship of the AU. Mediation and preventive diplomacy will be Egypt’s top priorities while tackling African disputes.
Considering that terrorism will remain a vicious cancer that seeks to expand in the bodies of African countries and take away the dreams of their peoples, Egypt will seek to develop policies, with fellow African nations, to confront terror comprehensively. This requires defining and confronting supporters and financiers of terrorist organisations within a collective and transparent framework. Based on Egypt’s experience over the past years, this will not be an easy battle, but it is the only way to uproot terrorism.
Meanwhile, as African leaders have agreed that dealing with the problem of refugees and the displaced will be their top priority for this year, President Al-Sisi noted that terrorism, extremism, climate change, poverty and water scarcity are all elements that force people to leave their homes, to become refugees in other countries or displaced within their own countries.
The number of displaced people in Africa amounts to around 18 million, which makes African governments more obliged to carry out development projects that require continental and regional cooperation in order to provide the largest number of job opportunities and create conditions favourable for the displaced to return home. Al-Sisi also proposed medium-range development plans to create attractive integrated economic zones all over Africa to employ Africans and keep them in their continent.
The Egyptian president also asserted the need to intensify scientific cooperation to make use of the continent’s natural potentials in diversifying sources of energy through supporting clean renewable energy projects. This would help reduce the environmental impact of climate change phenomena. Accelerating the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area will also be another top priority for Egypt in the coming year, as it would contribute to reducing the prices of many commodities and raise the continent’s competitiveness at the international level.
Aware that many African countries have now become an integral part of the global economy, Al-Sisi also reminded influential world powers that partnership with Africa is a real opportunity to achieve joint interests. Working with the outside world and international financial institutions is an integral part of any strategy to develop Africa, but this has to take place according to African priorities and agendas.
The Herald – Zimbabwe
When President Mnangagwa commissioned Kariba South Power Station units 7 and 8 in March last year, adding 300 megawatts to the national grid, the event heralded the beginning of more secure and stable internal power supply in Zimbabwe.
The country has since rolled out plans, through Government and private sector initiatives to increase internal power generation as energy remains one of the key economic enablers.
And true to the adage that hard work pays off, the country has started reaping the dividends of stable and secure internal power supply, reducing foreign currency demand for imports.
Under the visionary leadership of President Mnangagwa’s administration, Zimbabwe is therefore firmly on course to realise its goal of self-sufficiency in power generation and supply and should be able to start exporting excess power soon.
Such scenario would be positive for the country since power exports will earn the country foreign currency. Since 2007, Zimbabwe experienced serious power deficits resulting in rolling power cuts, which negatively affected industries, households and the economy at large. Shortage of power can without doubt hold back economic growth in a devastating way.
Until last year, Zimbabwe could only manage an average internal generation of 1 100MW against conservative demand for power at peak periods of 1 400MW.
And the country eventually took the onerous decision to import a significant amount of power it requires to bridge its internal deficit.
This was not sustainable given that foreign currency must be earned and Zimbabwe is currently not in the best shape to do that.
The country experienced power shortages because for nearly three decades, after the commissioning of the last units of Hwange in 1984, Zimbabwe had not invested further in internal power generation, worse, Hwange had outlived its 25 year lifespan.
However, the bold decision to invest over US$500 million in internal generation in March last year delivered a staggering 300MW to the national grid.
The need for the country to expend huge sums of foreign currency, averaging US$10 million a week, has dropped. From expending averages of US$35 million to US$40 million, Zimbabwe is now using a mere US$3 million imports; if need be and we call for leadership to invest more in such capital projects.
Statistics from ZESA also show that Zimbabwe is now only importing an average of 50MW whenever it has to, down from about 350MW.
It’s now intriguing to note that any interruption to power supply the country may experience may be a result of faulty lines or disturbances from rains.
With Kariba now generating a maximum of 1 050MW and more water on Lake Kariba for power generation, the situation at South Africa’s Eskom little worries Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe had a non-firm agreement with Eskom to import up to 350MW, while an agreement with Hydro Cahora Bassa existed for 50MW.
As Eskom’s operational problems worsened on Monday this week, the power utility was forced to take out 4 000MW from the grid, representing 40 percent of the firm’s capacity.
But with Kariba now able to produce 1 050MW, Zimbabwe is closest to self-sufficiency upon increasing at Hwange 7 and 8 , an additional 600MW will be fed to the grid.
The country’s current peak period demand currently stands at an average 1 600MW against internal generation capacity of 1 400MW to 1 500MW. If the domestic economy needs 1 600MW while constrained by two decades of meltdown, at full throttle after recovery it will need significantly more, calling for urgent need to build more power infrastructure.
As such, Zimbabwe is also working on several power projects; private and public, to increase generation capacity.
We therefore call upon the authorities to speed up the development of Batoka Gorge hydro project, which will produce 2 400MW split equally between the parties.
Al Ahram Weekly
By: Safeya Mounir
The business community has high hopes that Egypt’s presidency of the African Union (AU) this year will boost trade and investments with African countries.
Egypt has strong economic and commercial ties with Nile Basin countries, including Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Burundi, making bilateral trade far exceed raw materials and simple commodities.
According to the State Information Service (SIS) website, Egypt has invested $15 million in Rwanda in construction and mining. Egypt exports aromatic mixtures, juices, juice makers and botanical extracts, and imports copper and zinc. Egypt imports tea and tobacco from Kenya and Uganda. It exports sugar, sanitary paper, laundry products and polypropylene sheets to the former, and sugar, paraffin wax and laundry products to the latter.
Egyptian companies are highly active in Uganda, including conglomerates such as Al-Nasr for Import and Export, EgyptAir, Banque du Caire, the Arab Contractors, Mantrac Egypt — owned by Mansour Group — and Qalaa Holdings that has 85 per cent usufruct of the Rift Valley Railways connecting Mombasa port and Kampala.
Egypt exports aromatic mixtures, paraffin wax and copper wires to Ethiopia and imports camels and cows. Egyptian investments in Ethiopia are worth $2 billion, and in the past few years more than 150 Egyptian businessmen visited Ethiopia. The National Bank of Egypt opened an office in Addis Ababa to facilitate financial procedures for Egyptians investing in Ethiopia, the Arab Contractors also has a branch there, and the country has resumed importing meat from Ethiopia.
Egypt imports copper from Tanzania, and exports sugar and sodium carbonates, while importing tea from Burundi and exporting aromatic mixtures and barley.
Figures released by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics in December 2018 reveal that trade between Egypt and Nile Basin countries recorded a 17.5 per cent increase during the first 10 months of 2018, estimated at $1.38 billion, and up from $1.139 billion during the same period in 2017. Egyptian exports to Nile Basin countries increased by 8.9 per cent in the first 10 months of 2018, recording $876 million, up from $804 million during the same period in 2017. On the other hand, Egypt imported $504 million worth of commodities from Nile Basin countries during the first 10 months of 2018, with an increase of 50.4 per cent in the same period in 2017, which was estimated at $335 million.
There are many trade treaties partnering Egypt with its sisters in the continent, such as Agadir, Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC). Given the long, strong relationship between Egypt and African countries, one would assume trade would be up to par. Not according to data released by Amr Nassar, the minister of trade and industry, who said his ministry was seeking to increase trade with African countries to two per cent of its overall trade, up from less than one per cent currently.
A Ministry of Trade and Industry report in 2017 said African countries’ ranking as suppliers for Egyptian imports was not impressive, with Sudan coming in 13th place and Libya 14th. In the list of fast growing export markets, South Africa came in second and Namibia seventh. The least developing countries included Central Africa in sixth place, Zambia eighth, Guinea 10th and Senegal in 11th.
Chemical products are in demand in the African market. The Chemicals and Fertilisers Export Council (CFEC) announced this week that a delegation of Egyptian businessmen will fly to Uganda later this month to discuss trade and investment opportunities with the Egyptian business community in Uganda.
Alaa Saqti, head of the Egyptian industrial zone in Ethiopia, said most African countries are not industrially strong, importing all their needs from abroad. It is better for Egyptian companies to establish industrial areas in partnership with importers in each country to manufacture what they usually import, Saqti said.
Treading the trade line with African countries will not pay off because of the difficulty in establishing regular shipping lines. It’s highly costly and risky, he added.
At the closing session of the 2018 Africa Investment Forum (AIF), President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announced the establishment of an investment risks guarantee fund to encourage Egyptian investors to set up investments in Africa, participate in the continent’s development and take advantage of the available opportunities in the continent. The fund would enable African countries to negotiate with international institutions, support infrastructure projects and help speed up the finalisation of the Cairo-Cape Town highway to boost inter-African trade.
A fund for investment in IT infrastructure will be established, according to the AIF’s recommendations, in order to support technological development and digital transformation in the continent, and enhance cooperation between Egypt and African countries in governance and to fight corruption.
Other recommendations adopted at the AIF included increased cooperation between the public and private sectors in implementing transportation projects, reflecting the vast potential and opportunities in the continent and the ability to utilise technological tools to create new job markets.
The investment risks guarantee fund will cover non-trade risks, said Saqti, explaining that the fund will not approve exporting commodities that are not in demand. The fund will also protect exporters’ money and conduct studies on what each country needs, he added.
Khaled Abul-Makarem, head of the CFEC, told the council on Monday that coordination is afoot with the Africa Department of the Egyptian Commercial Service Office to decide on the most suitable form for Egypt’s presence in the Horn of Africa region in general, and in Djibouti in particular, be it through establishing a logistics zone or a storage area in the free zone as well as on the possibility of developing this Egyptian presence to include the establishment of an industrial zone that encompasses a number of assembly production lines.
The CFEC is more inclined to replace exhibitions in Africa with trade missions, Abul-Makarem said. He added that more focus should be drawn to markets in Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana since they depend on imports from Egypt and Tunisia, with preferences pointing in the direction of Egypt.
The council’s plan for exhibitions, missions and trade events during the first half of the year, pointed out Abul-Makarem, includes an exhibition in Kenya from 19 to 22 March and another in Morocco, the Plast Expo, from 25 to 28 June, and three trade missions including — but not limited to — the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana.Africa's Natural resourcesHe added that the CFEC finalised its work strategy in the African market during Egypt’s AU presidency. The plan will be discussed at the council’s next meeting to be presented at the Export Development Authority.
The CFEC expects chemical exports to record a 40 per cent increase with the elimination of custom tariffs agreed in the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) accord between the SADC, COMESA and EAC once it goes into effect.
Egypt-Africa trade is not proportionate to the size of the African market. Currently standing at $1.2 billion, trade between Egypt and African countries can reach up to $8 billion or $10 billion, said Sherif Al-Gabali, head of the African Cooperation Committee at the Federation of Egyptian Industries.
The reason trade is not reaching its maximum potential, Al-Gabali told Al-Ahram Weekly, is primarily due to the insufficient presence of Egyptian companies in African markets. Such presence requires embarking on promotional missions, holding exhibitions in African countries and setting up logistics centres to effect a shake-up in trade and transportation of supplies, Al-Gabali added, pointing out that African countries are lacking in many commodities, prime among which are textile products. That is where Egypt has a golden opportunity to increase its exports.
Mohamed Qassem, former deputy president of the Supreme Council for Textile Industries, said the textiles city project, developed in cooperation with the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, may act as an exporting centre of textiles products to Africa, especially in the north and east of the continent.
Ministry of Trade and Industry figures reveal that Egypt’s participation in the COMESA helped increase trade between African countries, particularly two-way trade. COMESA member states also include Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, Comoros, Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, Libya, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.
In 1998 Egypt’s imports from COMESA countries stood at $154 million, and increased to $608 million in 2017, and exports increased from $46 million in 1998 to $1.6 billion in 2017.
Nassar said Egypt has been pumping increasing investments in COMESA countries, and exports focus on building materials, such as steel and cement, in addition to chemical and paper products and medicines, while Egypt’s imports from COMESA states are primarily coffee beans, tea, tobacco, oily fruits, sesame, livestock and copper.
During the AU summit held in March 2018 in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, 44 countries, including Egypt, signed the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement.
Egypt’s trade relations with Africa go beyond those shared with Nile Basin and COMESA states. The country is looking at the implementation of the TFTA agreement between the COMESA, SADC and EAC. This agreement comprises 26 countries — half of the AU’s member states — with a total GDP estimated at 60 per cent of the total GDP of the continent and 57 per cent of Africa’s population.
The TFTA Ministerial Committee announced at the Seventh AU Trade Ministers meeting, which Egypt hosted on 12-13 December 2018, that it expected TFTA to go into effect in April after a minimum of 13 countries — out of 22 — sign the agreement. COMESA Secretary-General Chileshe Kapwepwe said at the summit that 61 per cent of the TFTA regulations have been agreed upon.
Nassar, the minister of trade and industry, said Egypt’s parliament will soon approve the TFTA, adding that the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement is a crucial step for the desired economic integration between African states and the establishment of a unified African market based on free trade and absent customs and technical obstacles.
Developing the infrastructure of transportation, IT and monetary services will boost trade between the countries of Africa and double two-way trade to reach 22 per cent of the total African trade in 2022, the minister added.
Meanwhile, the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones signed two memoranda of understanding with Ethiopia and Uganda to increase cooperation in investment. Other agreements signed include four water desalination stations, the Mangoky River bridge project with Madagascar, the development project of the Gulf of Kokodi with Ivory Coast and the expansion project of the potable water system in the area of Mangochi with Malawi.
Many Egyptian companies are actively in business in African states, such as the Arab Contractors, engaged in projects in 18 countries at a value of $1.5 billion. One of the company’s latest projects was signed in December in the attendance of the prime minister. The Arab Contractors, in partnership with Al-Sewedi Electric, won the bid to build the Stiegler’s Gorge dam in Tanzania to generate hydroelectric power from Rufiji River.
The Arab Contractors is currently engaged in projects in four African countries at an estimated cost of $400 million-$450 million, as part of its plan to increase its presence in African markets and build mega-projects.
In 2018, the company executed a mega-project that entailed building a huge water network in Mauritania, 540km from the capital, and was contracted the project of expanding Abidjan Airport in the Ivory Coast. The company also built a 114km road in Congo with a budget of $100 million.
For the Arab Contractors, road networks constitute 75 per cent of the company’s businesses in African markets, besides service projects such as hospitals.
Another Egyptian company, Qalaa Holdings, has invested $650 million in a number of projects in Africa, according to its president Ahmed Heikal.
The group seeks to spend LE30 billion in investments in African states from 2018 to 2020.
Al Ahram Weekly
By: Dina Ezzat
In two statements addressed to the opening and closing of the African Union (AU) summit this week, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi stressed Egypt’s commitment to working with the pan-African organisation and member states to consolidate national security, enhance development plans and promote moderation.
For officials working on Cairo’s Africa policy, the three tracks Al-Sisi highlighted are about “strong military and police forces”, “expanding and upgrading infrastructure” and “facing up to militant groups that promote radical religious views”.
“Egypt has traditionally dedicated considerable attention to help African states consolidate their military and police capacities. We have always done a lot of training but during the past five years, with concerns over terror growing, we have expanded our training and cooperation programmes with several African states, especially those in East Africa and the Sahel and Sahara,” said a government official.
He added that police, military and intelligence cooperation with most of the countries of East Africa and the Sahel and Sahara would be up-scaled in the next few years.
Amira Abdel-Halim, an expert on Egypt African relations and researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, says “it makes perfect sense that Egypt commits itself to promoting security in these two zones.
“These zones have seen several militant groups significantly undermine security and stability, not just in east Africa and the Sahel and Sahara but also in parts of west and north Africa.”
In June last year, Egypt saw the inauguration of the headquarters of the Sahel and Sahara Anti-Terror Centre.
“This centre is just one part of what Egypt is trying to do to help countries overcome the disturbing expansion of terror cells. It is a big project that we are committed to,” says the government source. He added that as host of the centre Egypt is not just bringing troops for training but it is also exporting “expertise” to concerned states.
Sahel and Sahara is a 29-member state grouping launched in the 1990s. The group’s headquarters was in Libya.
A retired Egyptian diplomat who served in Libya says ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi used the grouping to strengthen his presence in as many African countries as possible.
“Gaddafi had militias from many countries hosted in Libya and we were always worried about it,” he said.
“Following the fall of Gaddafi and the subsequent havoc that hit Libya things took a very disturbing turn,” says Abdel-Halim. “The enormous reservoir of arms that Gaddafi had built up became available to militant groups from Mali, Chad and Niger, threatening the stability and security of their own countries and neighbouring countries alike.”
Boko Haram in Nigeria, Harakat Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia and the Lord’s Resistance Army (RLA) in Uganda have all benefited from Libyan arms, says the government official. “There were other militias too,” he adds, “meaning we had to act promptly.”
“We worked with countries in the region and with concerned international powers and we are committed to continue working on this very crucial front.”
Increased cooperation, says the source, means these terrorist groups and militias have been weakened though they remain capable of functioning.
According to Abdel-Halim, the battle “against terrorism and drugs, arms and human trafficking” is not one Egypt can ignore.
“It is also about facing up to illegal migration, an issue that Egypt takes very seriously,” says the official.
Abdel-Halim argues that ending the threat posed by militant groups and militias will require more than the consolidation of military and police capacities. “It also needs major development plans because one reason that helps these groups take root and then expand is the lack of development. It causes anger and inevitably leads to violence.”
Sources at the ministries of foreign affairs and investment say that Egypt is trying hard to push development in Africa. Already, they say, Egypt has proposed closer cooperation between the three economic sub-regional groupings COMESA, ECOWAS and SADC that cover east, west and south Africa.
Cooperation is a key issue which Egyptian officials raise with their regional and international partners.
“We talk with the French, the Chinese and the United Arab Emirates and almost everyone who has an interest in Africa,” says an Investment Ministry source.
“We also talk extensively with the Egyptian private sector, encouraging it to pursue opportunities in Africa.”
Marwa Salem researches Egyptian policies on Africa.
“We are living through a new scramble over Africa,” she says. “Old colonial powers and new emerging economies are eying economic opportunities and for a good reason. Africa contains 30 per cent of the world’s natural resources and has a very young population. Seventy per cent of Africans are under 25.”
In its capacity as chair of the AU, Salem argues Egypt could help streamline the growing economic interest in Africa given “Cairo is in a good place to play this role because of its long and un-interrupted association with African states.”
Concerned officials agree that the last 10 years of Hosni Mubarak’s rule were not the best time for Egypt’s relations with Africa but they argue that during the past few years things have been picking up. President Al-Sisi has been keen to engage with African leaders, and Egyptian diplomacy has always focused on the continent.
“We work with African countries in the UNGA in New York and Geneva on matters related to trade and human rights. There is a clear role for Al-Azhar, and to a lesser extent to the Coptic Orthodox Church, in several African countries,” says one official.
The Orthodox Church of Egypt has traditionally had close ties with Ethiopia, links that have been used extensively, according to an Ethiopian source, to improve relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa since the two capitals have been at loggerheads over the construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam.
Al-Azhar has a considerable constituency in more than 20 African states and has provided education, humanitarian assistance and spiritual leadership to Africa’s Muslims for decades. However, as an advisor to the grand imam said, during the past few years “we became very concerned about radical groups and have been providing guidance to imams in Africa to help them combat extremism.”
“Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb has even spoken with Pope Francis about the need for the Vatican to complement the role of Al-Azhar in defying violence and terrorism in constituencies that follow the Catholic Church.”
According to Salem, Al-Azhar could expand its work in and for Africa. Abdel-Halim agrees, saying the parallel paths of “consolidating states and their institutions, promoting sustainable development and advocating religious moderation could help Africa a great deal”.
Salem argues that to secure success on these fronts Egypt needs to continue its high-level cooperation with leading African countries.
“Clearly, one-on-one consultations between leaders are important to getting work done, and I think that President Al-Sisi is committed to making time to meet with African leaders,” she says.
Al Ahram Weekly
By: Doaa El-Bey
“I emphasise that Egypt will work hard to continue along the road we started together towards the structural and financial reform of the African Union [AU] and build on previous achievements in developing the tools and abilites of the Union in order to meet the hopes and aspirations of African peoples,” said President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi during the opening of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU.
President Al-Sisi started his one-year term as chair of the AU during the Ordinary Session which kicked off in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday under the banner “The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa.”
He officially received the chairmanship from outgoing AU chairperson, Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Al-Sisi highlighted principles which will help the continent develop “African solutions for African problems”.
Ali Hefni, former assistant to Egypt’s foreign minister, said African states are well aware of the problems they face and are capable of resolving them either through cooperation between governments or within the framework of the AU.
Amani Al-Taweel, a senior researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), says the vast majority of the issues facing Africa can only be addressed from within the continent.
“Foreign interference has not contributed to resolving conflicts in countries like Mali or the Central African Republic. Moreover, the increasing trend to establish military bases in African countries may have dangerous repercussions for the continent,” she said.
President Al-Sisi’s speech before the AU session highlighted ongoing problems requiring prompt action.
In his speech, Al-Sisi highlighted the main issues facing the African continent and the importance of cooperation in resolving conflicts and moving on to reconstruction and development and called on African states to launch an African Union Centre for Reconstruction and Development as soon as possible.
The president characterised terrorism as a “malign tumour threatening nation states and hijacking the dreams of their peoples” and stressed the importance of identifying its supporters and financiers and dealing with them within a clear framework.
In line with the summit’s theme of refugees and displaced persons, Al-Sisi said there are eight million African refugees and 18 million displaced citizens.
He pointed to the importance of empowering African women and allowing young people to play a more active role in building the future of their countries.
Al-Sisi also used his speech to launch the Aswan Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development, a continental platform in Aswan for political leaders, intellectuals and opinion-makers.
In its presidency of the AU, says Hefni, Egypt is expected to focus on two main issues, peace and security, which involve facing terrorism and resolving ongoing conflicts. But to attain the goal of making Africa a conflict-free continent by 2020 will involve facilitating development as well as enhancing the economy and boosting inter-African trade.
“On an economic level Egypt is looking forward to consolidating a free trade area in Africa after economic blocs like COMESA, SADC and EAC, and the Tripartite Free Trade Area in Sharm El-Sheikh proved to be a success,” says Al-Taweel.
Improving infrastructure and building a network of highways like the suggested Cape Town-Cairo road will give a genuine boost to the continent’s economy, she added.
Other important meetings took place on the sidelines of the AU summit.
A tripartite summit between President Al-Sisi, his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al-Bashir and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed focused on promoting relations and cooperation among the three states as well as resolving outstanding differences over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The meeting continues the talks between the three leaders initiated at the AU summit in January 2018, said Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi.
The three leaders stressed the urgency of developing a consensus on the dam based on the declaration of principles signed in Khartoum which stipulates the dam should not cause harm to any of the involved parties.
President Al-Sisi also met the President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two leaders said they were committed to promoting greater bilateral consultation and coordination via joint committees.
Nile water was one of the issues discussed between the two men. Tshisekedi said that his country is willing to support Egypt on issues relevant to the Nile water.
During his meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Al-Sisi said that he looked forward to further strengthening the strategic partnership between the UN and the AU, particularly in areas related to peace, security and development.
Guterres congratulated Al-Sisi on Egypt’s chairing of the AU and noted that the UN relies on Cairo to consolidate cooperation and integration with the pan-African organisation. He affirmed Egypt’s key role in Africa and the UN’s keenness to bolster cooperation and development and preserve regional peace and security.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri took part in pre-summit ministerial meetings which included sessions with his counterparts from South Africa, Burundi, Tanzania and Gabon. He also took part in the seventh AU High Level Committee meeting on Libya and participated in the two-day meeting of the AU Executive Council.
Egypt, Angola, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria head the contributors to the AU’s budget. Egypt’s share is 12 per cent.
This is the fourth time Egypt has chaired the Union. It was chaired once by president Gamal Abdel-Nasser and twice by president Anwar Al-Sadat.
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
On 9 September 1999 the Heads of State and Government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration calling for the establishment of the AU and accelerating the process of unity among countries of the continent.
The AU was officially launched at the Durban Summit in 2002 and the first assembly of heads of states of the AU was convened.