African Union summit concludes with package of agreements (Second Lead)

January 31st, 2012 - 1:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Addis Ababa, Jan 31 (IANS) The 18th African Union (AU) summit ended in this Ethiopian capital Tuesday with the adoption of a series of agreements on the continent’s economic, political and security issues.

Africa will speed up its infrastructure development and put related policies and laws in place to boost the integration process, according to the “Declaration on the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa”.

The declaration said the summit recognizes “the vital role of infrastructure and related services in the political and social-economic development, and physical integration of the continent,” especially given the population growth and economic demand, Xinhua reported.

Moreover, the member states of the organization should increase public financing of infrastructure, implement major power projects such as hydroelectricity, oil refinery and gas pipelines, accelerate the construction of missing links and modernization of railways, and increase the capacity of ports, the declaration said.

African countries should also develop new and renewable energy resources to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy as well as nuclear energy for peaceful use, it said.

The summit also recommended developing regional and continental broadband networks and submarine cables to promote Africa’s digital economy.

The summit appealed to international institutions such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank and the World Bank to support the implementation of the projects and plans.

The declaration said the infrastructure needs will reach about $60 billion in the next 10 years.

At present, Africans have a low-level connectivity of infrastructure networks and poor access to energy and information services, the declaration said.

The summit also recognized the importance of intra-African trade, and the declaration said Africa will target the establishment of a continental free trade area by 2017.

“The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) should be operationalized by the indicative date of 2017, and enhanced intra-African trade and deepened market integration can contribute significantly to sustainable economic growth, employment generation, poverty reduction, inflow of foreign direct investment, industrial development and better integration of the continent into the global economy,” the declaration said.

The AU has made a three-step plan to prepare for the ultimate CFTA target.

The first step is to finalize the tripartite agreement among the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by 2014.

The second is to urge other trade blocs to follow the experience of the tripartite agreement and reach a parallel agreement between 2012 and 2014.

The third is to consolidate the tripartite and other regional free trade areas into the CFTA initiative between 2015 and 2016.

On social matters, AU leaders agreed to launch the first ever Global African Diaspora Summit May 25 in South Africa to help Africans across the world unite to revive the continent.

They requested the AU Commission consider and prepare a framework document on the representation of the African diaspora in AU structures and processes.

The heads of state and government of the AU agreed to hold the 19th Ordinary Session in Lilongwe, Malawi in June 2012, and to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) May 25, 2013.

The AU will mark the Golden Jubilee of the OAU, the predecessor of the AU, by highlighting the ideals of Pan-Africanism and Africa’s aspirations for peace, democracy, development and unity.

The AU Sunday appointed President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni as the rotating president of the AU for one year.

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