Members of African Union (AU) Executive Council converged in the Tigray region of Mekelle, on 24 January 2016, within the framework of their third Ministerial Retreat, holding under the theme: “Implementation of Agenda 2063”. The Ministerial Retreat was chaired by Hon. Simbarashe S. Mumbengegwi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Chairperson of the Executive Council, in the presence of H.E. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AUC. Hon. Dr Tedros Adhenon Ghebreyesus, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E Abay Weldu, President of the Regional Authority of Tigray, representatives from AU Organs, the UNECA, NEPAD, RECs AfDB, AU Commissioners , the Legal Counsel and the Secretary General of the AU Commission, and invited guests.
President Weldu welcomed the participants in the city of Mekelle and presented the historical background of the region which he qualified as courageous and privileged population who inherited the most archeological objects and sites of humanity. He said the agenda of this retreat has a significant meaning to the Tigray tribe/people of Ethiopia. He appreciated the vision of the Union aimed at creating an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa”.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, AUC Chairperson, recalled the first retreat in the city of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia in 2014, where she introduced the Dream of the African People in “the e-mail from the future”, among others. “Two years ago, as we concluded the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU, we met in a retreat in the city of Bahir Dar, to discuss the core responsibilities of this important organ, the Executive Council. It was then when I spoke about our dream of the Africa we want, in the e-mail from the future.
Two years later, as we gather here in Mekelle, Tigray region we can report that we have made some headway. As discussed at this retreat, we now have Agenda 2063 as our clarion call for action, supported by all sections of the African society”, stated the AUC Chairperson. She explained that, “we are now clear on the priorities of Agenda 2063, investing in our people, especially youth and women; in agricultural modernization and agro-businesses; in manufacturing and industrialization; the development of our infrastructure; democracy and developmental governance, as well as the need of silencing the guns by 2020.”
“Our Agenda 2063 flagship projects - such as the free movement of people, the Commodities strategy, the Pan African Integrated High speed Rail network - is taking off, and should help towards our vision of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa, driven by its own people and taking its rightful place in the world”, underscored Dr. Dlamini Zuma.
Referring to the song on Agenda 2063 composed by a group of artists from Zimbabwe, played during the opening ceremony of the retreat, the AUC Chairperson called on other artists within the continent to emulate the good example. “ I would like to thank the Zimbabwean artists who came up with that song on Agenda 2063, and I challenge all of us to encourage our artists to compose as many songs as possible…. Of course as the Chair of the Union, Zimbabwe led from the front”. She thanks the Mekelle authorities for hosting the AU Ministerial retreat and wished the Ministers fruitful deliberation. (See complete speech of the AUC Chairperson on the website: www.au.int ).
The Chairperson of the Executive Council on his part, recalled the high moments and priorities on Agenda 2063 saying “our Agenda is centred in the review of implementation of decisions taken during the 2nd Ministerial retreat and update on the implementation of the 1st ten year plan of Agenda 2063, the free movement of goods and persons, the issue of Immigration and tourism and wild life preservation”. Minister Mumbengegwi stressed that “as we continue streamlining and improving the working methods of our Union, we also need to consider how best we can align our bi-annual Summits in order to improve the effectiveness of our organisation and give ourselves ample time to implement our decisions”. He expressed satisfaction to the fact that notable success has already been achieved in this vein, hence the need to proffering new and innovative ideas that will take the organisation to greater heights. (See complete speech of the Executive Chairperson on the AU Website: www.au.int) .
Speaking earlier, Hon. Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, stressed on the importance of holding the ministerial retreat which he said will enhance friendly and convivial relationship between the ministers. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia said such gathering will enable the participants to express themselves freely while socialising with one another. He called on his pairs saying, “We have a number of important issues to deliver including exchanging views and best practices on how to domesticate and enhance the implementation of Agenda 2063 and its flagship projects.
Organized by the African Union Commission (AUC), the third Ministerial Retreat aims at brainstorming and exchanging ideas on critical issues related to the implementation of the Africa Agenda 2063 so as to give clear direction and guidelines on devising best ways and means for its domestication to help improve the living conditions of African citizens.
The Ministers will among other things consider AU Commission Restructuring Project, the free movement of people, African tourism, wild life conservation, and state of the African tourism sector and its opportunities and challenges.
At the end of its deliberations, the Ministers will adopt the Mekelle Ministerial Retreat draft Outcomes document to be tabled during the Executive Council meeting scheduled to hold on 27 and 28 January 2016 for adoption. The AU Ministerial Retreat ends on Tuesday 26th January 2016.