The 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union opened Monday in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa on the theme: “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth.”
Highly welcomed and recognized at the summit is Gambia’s new Vice Fatoumata Tambajang who is representing President Adama Barrow.
Addressing the opening ceremony, outgoing African Union Commission Chairperson, H.E. Dr. Dlamini Zuma expressed gratitude to the sub-regional bloc, ECOWAS, who stood by the people of The Gambia and defended the values and principles of the African Union.
“We are particularly proud, that it was under your stewardship, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as our first elected female President. Our thank you to all those who participated, the President of Mauritania and others, and who remained steadfast” she said.
On youth empowerment, Dr Zuma said on their part, they will this year appoint a Special AU Envoy for Youth, to mobilise and advocate for the youth, during this year. She said by facilitating the full participation of girls and young women, we secure the future.
“By involving young people, they have a sense of ownership & stake in the future. We must support the call by civil society, for an African Decade of Reading, so that new generations may learn from & renew Pan-Africanism. As the rest of the world ages, Africa will remain a young continent…which must be translated into a demographic dividend. The continent has 200 million young men & women ages 15 to 24 years. By 2025, a quarter of the world’s youth under 25 will be African.
Its befitting that our theme for 2017 summit is ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend, through Investment in African Youth’. As we start this year of youth, we must indeed commit to value our youth and deserve Africa’s future” she said.
According to her, 2017 also marks 100 years since the birth of a pre-eminent freedom fighter, Pan-African – diplomat & democrat, OR Tambo, born in 1917.
“In tribute to the founding mothers, it’s therefore appropriate that the Assembly recognizes Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO) as a Specialized Agency of the African Union. 2017 marks 55 years since the formation of PAWO in 1962, a year before the OAU. We must fight for the full lifting of the economic embargo & the return of Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban people” she said.
The outgoing AU Commission Chair Zuma paid tribute to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, is to continue our friendship and solidarity with the Cuban people for been a true friend of Africa throughout his lifetime.
“We also welcome the President of The Gambia, HE Mr. Adama Barrow and congratulated Ghanaian President Nana Ado Dankwa Akuffo Ado on his election. She also congratulated Ba Edgar Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia adding Africa look forward to work with you to strengthen peace, and to raise the dignity and wealth of all Africans” Dr Zuma said.
She welcomed the new United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on his first African Union Summit in this capacity and finally reminded leaders at the Summit that whatever they do at the Summit, they must ensure that they preserve the precious & principled unity of this continent & the Union.
New United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Chadian leader Idriss Déby Itno, who is outgoing Chairman of the African Union and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine & Chair of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) addressed the Summit.