BY VANESSA GONYE
THE Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi has assumed the African Union (AU) chairmanship, taking over from the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday.
This came out during the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which is currently sitting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In his acceptance speech, Tshisekedi promised to elevate African voices, adding that he will focus on sustainable development by, and for the African people.
“We will work to ensure their integral well-being, peace and security, health care and a strong response against COVID-19, as well as food security.
“Agricultural transformation, education, gender equality, climate justice, the free movement of people and goods, and freedom of speech and religion, as well as the enhancement of our common heritage: languages, and memorial sites of the history of African people, will also be at the centre of our agenda.
“Despite country and continent-wide control measures, the impact of COVID-19 has imposed enormous human, financial and socio-economic costs on the African people. This crisis, however, also gives us the chance to re-examine our socio-economic priorities and work towards a sustainable and inclusive economic growth which allows African women and girls to contribute to our societies to the fullest.
“We must be more self-reliant and find collective solutions to our problems and start an ‘African Renaissance’ as outlined in the seven aspirations of our AU Agenda 2063: the ‘Africa We Want’.
“We must seize the moment and unite to build the ‘Africa We Want’ and an AU at the service of the people,” he said.
The official AU theme of the year 2021 is Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.
The DRC leader said COVID-19 has been a stark reminder that viruses know no borders.
“I will work with AU leadership to make primary and universal healthcare and immunization key pillars of our action in the year to come. Our commitment to protecting all Africans from disease, and to eradicate disease, as we have done with wild polio in Africa, must sit centre stage in our vision for a prosperous AU at the service of the people. Because there is no prosperity or well-being without health,” he said.
In his address to the AU, President Emmerson Mnangagwa lauded the outgoing AU chairperson, saying that he had well-co-ordinated and effective initiatives towards combating COVID-19.
“I concur with the proposal for more robust strategies to deal with future pandemics and the need to strengthen and review statutes of the African Centre for Diseases Control to enable it to fully perform its task.
“I equally support the call for Africa to develop our own pharmaceutical industry drawing from our rich heritage based scientific knowledge, and competent scientists,” Mnangagwa said.
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