AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosana Dlamini Zuma State of the Union Media Briefing

press release

State of the Union Media briefing by the AU Commission Chairperson, HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma


Programme Director


Deputy Mayor of eThekwini

Member of the Fourth Estate Here gathered

Fellow Africans

Ladies and gentlemen

I wish to thank from the outset the Government Communications Information Services, and the provincial government of Kwa Zulu Natal for having organized this opportunity for us to brief the African media and citizenry on the progress and challenges confronting our beloved continent. It is also fitting that we undertake this reflection in this beautiful city of Durban, since it was here in 2002 when we launched our Union and the governments and peoples of the continent, committed to build an Africa that is prosperous, integrated and peaceful, driven by its own citizens and playing a dynamic role in the global arena.

The launch of our Union came at a point when a large part of the mandate of the Organisation of African Unity (the OAU) of decolonization and liberation was completed, with the liberation of Namibia and South Africa in the early 1990s.

As Africa celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the OAU/AU in 2013, in its 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, it recommitted 'to complete the decolonization process, to protect the right of self-determination African people to still under colonial rule, pledge solidarity with peoples of African descent and the African Diaspora in their struggles against racial discrimination and resist all forms of influences, contrary to the interests of the continent.'

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government thus called for an expeditious end to the unlawful occupation of the Chagos Archipelago, the Comororian island of Mayote and re-affirmed the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

Fellow Africans

The commitment to create a prosperous Africa is at the centre of our continental framework to move from the Africa we have to the Africa We Want by the year 2063 through Agenda 2063. It is a solemn pledge to place the African people, especially children, youth, women, and the elderly at the centre of all our endeavours.

We will use this programme and spare no efforts to move Africa from being declared a hopeless continent as it was in 2000. We will use all our energies to ensure the narrative of being called 'the development challenge of the 21st Century', is transformed into the Africa rising narrative since there is no question that Africa has risen out of the ashes of the two dead decades for development of the late 1970's to the 90's.

During this period, whilst other developing regions - especially Asia - made significant strides in terms of their economic transformation, industrialization, infrastructure and human development. Africa stagnated, remaining under development and marginalized, despite the riches Africa had to offer.

Africa is rich because Africa has a relatively young and fast urbanizing population with an abundance of mineral oils and gas resources with also productive land, diverse eco systems, sunshine and amazing flora and fauna.

But the paradox of a rich Africa and poor African persists. Of the 48 least developed economies in the world 34 are in Africa.

This paradox also sees the most developed grow on the back of Africa's resources and talents. Of course there are subjective and objective realities that inform that process but colonialism, the global political economy, structural adjustment programmes and bad governance had major parts to play in bringing this paradox about.

Agenda 2063 the Africa We Want seeks to contribute to addressing this paradox. Agenda 2063 is a continental development framework for the people by the people was widely consulted and seeks to define the mission of the current and future generations of Pan Africanists. The framework is currently being domesticated and it draws lessons from past experiences and programmes in the desire to construct our own future. We did so, through a wide range of unscripted consultations with various stakeholders and sectors including the media, academia, cultural workers, youth, women and the private sector within the continent and in the Diaspora.

Investments in the African people

Ladies and gentlemen

As the African Union, we wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that 'people are the real wealth of nations'. Investment in Africa's people therefore remains at the centre of all we do.

Here too, our continent has made progress. Today we have more girls and boys in school, than ever before in our history. The African Union, working with different stakeholders in the sector, continues to advocate for expanding access - so that all African boys and girls remain in school, until they complete secondary education. We are also undertaking a focused End Child Marriage Campaign so as ensure that the girl child is not diverted from attending school.

We also advocate and work with member states on improvements in the conditions of teachers, upgrading their skills, expanding school feeding programmes in all schools, for a focus on the teaching of science, mathematics and engineering, and on strengthening of technical vocational education and training.

As part of Agenda 2063, the African Capacity Building Foundation completed a report on the skills gap in the continent, and it is clear that short of an African Skills revolution, we will not be able to decisively tackle underdevelopment and poverty as we set out to do. It is also clear from that report that we have an acute shortage of skills in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics areas, thus we have called for a skills revolution, so that we may further modernize our economies.

The modernizing of our economies is therefore directly linked to access to higher education.

The research also shows that Africa has less than 10percent access to tertiary education. This is significant because if a country has less than 20percent of access then it simply recreates the elite. If one has above 20percent then there is a level of massification of access and when you get to 40percent or above that you start having universal access; and unfortunately, South Africa is has just below 20percent. We must ensure that no child is denied access to quality higher education because of poverty and/or income limitations on the part of their parents.

The study also explored the split between social science and STEM graduates and found that there is a 90/10 percent split. In other words, 90% of graduates qualify in Social Sciences, and only 10% in STEM areas. In our view this is disastrous. We must aim for 70percent STEM and 30percent Social Sciences. In taking the long term view towards universal access to quality education we are also paying particular attention to the harmonization of curricula throughout the continent which will also address skills shortages in all of our economies since this will also encourage skills portability. To date the AU Harmonization and Tuning project has 200 participating Universities from 42 countries, which is a drastic improvement from the initial 60 universities. This programme is directed at harmonizing curricula, quality and qualifications in Medicine, Teacher Education, Mechanical Engineering, Agricultural Sciences, Civil Engineering, Economics, Geology and Higher Education Management.

Our efforts in basic education, technical vocational education and training, in science, engineering and mathematics education are at the foundation of the skills revolution.

In addition, one of the other areas where Africa has shown its determination has been in the area of expansion of higher education, despite advice from the Brettonwood institutions to the contrary.

As populations grew, African university enrolment and higher education have grown over the past two decades: from 2.7 million students in 1991, to 9.3 million in 2006 and over 11 million last year (an average of 16% a year).

Uganda that was dominated by Makerere University up until 1998, now has at least six other public universities. Zimbabwe who in 1980 had one university, now counts 12 universities (8 public and four private). Ethiopia's higher education growth has been described as phenomenal, growing from two universities during the early 1990s to over 30 today.

Nigeria and Egypt have the highest number of students in higher education, 1 million and 1.8 million respectively. Despite this phenomenal growth, the gross enrolment rate in Africa remains low at below 10%, compared to other developing regions with enrolment in higher education of 30% and above.

The sector faces many challenges, not least of all funding and relevance in a growing knowledge based global environment. Over the last four years, a number of initiatives started to address this, including the African Universities Summit in Dakar in March 2015, the decision to form an AU Committee of HoSG on Education in 2016 and exploring the establishment of a Pan African Virtual University to use technology in massification of access to higher education. In addition, in our engagements with our international partners, we have urged all of them, in all fields of study, to take in more African young people to study in their universities and colleges.

As an integration flagship project, the AU has also launched the Pan African University, with five initial campuses, to create centres of excellence and attract students from across the continent.

The Tlemcen Institute for Water Resource, Environmental studies and Climate change in Algeria was opened, the PAU Institute for Space Sciences is to be hosted at the Cape University of Technology in South Africa, and the PAU Rectorate headquarters has been established in Cameroon and recruitment of Rectorate staff has begun.

Following the graduation of the first batches of Masters students PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation based at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in November 2014 and from the PAU Institute of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences based at the University of Yahounde in March 2015, both institutes now host the second intake of PAU students.

Fellow Africans;

Because of our drive to transform our economies and the fact that we have the world's largest youth population we have selected for next years theme as "Harnessing the Demographic Dividend", as we believe that we have to utilize the our most precious resources to get shared prosperity and a healthy and skilled citizenry.

Ladies and gentlemen

Agriculture remains the mainstay of our economies, it contributes on average over 30% of GDP. The World Bank (2013) projects that by 2030, agriculture and agribusiness will have grown to a US$1 trillion business, from a current US$313 billion today and should be a priority concern for the development agenda on the Continent. The centrality of Agriculture to development efforts in Africa was underscored in 2003 as African leaders agreed to implement continent wide the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) as a framework for development. CAADP calls for a 6% annual increase in agricultural output.

Although only a few countries have reached the target set in our Common African Agricultural Development Programme of raising investment in agriculture to 10% of budget, since CAADP's adoption in 2003, investments in African agriculture has grown at a robust 7% a year.

More has to be done to encourage African countries to meet their targets particularly as it relates to percentage GDP spend on this critical sector and even more has to be done to attract young people to the sector as this sector is one of the few which has an ageing population. Consequently, innovations and the employ of new efficient and effective technologies is key so that we may transform the sector and increase the Agro Processing and Agro Business components. This will also need to be complemented by enhancing investments to finance agriculture and to end hunger by 2025 by sustainable agricultural production and marketing. We must also find ways to promote climate smart and innovative agriculture and agro processing.

To support this will require innovative research, education and training approaches. Thus the RUFORUM was convened starting with an initial 8 Universities and now 68 universities so that the pipeline of young workers in this sector maybe improved. 5 universities in South Africa participate in the RUFORUM and we hoe to see more and more participating.

Ladies and gentlemen

Integration as the raison d'etre of the Union

Over a hundred years ago, Pixlie iSaka Seme in his Regeneration of Africa speech recognized the importance of integration to African development and prosperity.

Over fifty years ago, this call was repeated by the generations of Haile Selassie, Seko Toure, Abdel Nasser, Nyerere and Nkrumah, when they called on Africa to unite or perish.

Indeed, other regions of the world have seen the need for integration, as a guarantor of their shared prosperity and peace, such as the European Union, and increasingly Mecosur in South America, CARICOM in the Caribean and ASEAN in Asia.

As globalization, travel and information communications technology have turned our world into a global village, as economic shocks and booms affect all of us, as diseases such as HIV, Ebola, Zika and SARS know no borders, the imperative for African integration has become even more urgent in today's world.

It is for these reason that the AU Commission and the Regional Economic Communities have worked tirelessly to push forward on the project of integration. Let me highlight a few of these initiatives:

Economic integration in the RECs, Intra African trade and the CFTA

The COMESA-EAC-SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA)[1] launched on 10 June 2015 brings together twenty-six (26) countries with a combined gross domestic product of US$1.2 trillion and a combined population of 626 million people. Together, it represents just over half the total African population and economy[2]. There are talks in the context of the CFTA negotiations, of extending it to other regions.

The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) signed three out of the four protocols for the Union's free trade area. ECOWAS launched its customs union as of 1 January, 2015; by April 2015 eight of its fifteen member states already begun to implement the common external tariff required under the customs union.

Several RECs have reduced intra-regional import tariffs to lower levels: EAC applies a zero average tariff on imports within the Community; and ECCAS and COMESA both apply tariffs averaging around 1.9%.

COMESA, EAC, ECOWAS and SADC have all taken steps to facilitate transport and to lower non-tariff barriers.

Though intra-African trade on aggregate remains low due, progress is being made in West, Southern and East Africa; with East Africa comparing well with regions such as ASEAN and MERCOSUR,[3] and COMESA and ECOWAS recording fair progress on the movement of labour.

Together with these work of the RECs and the continent wide programme to boast intra-African trade, intra-African trade has now risen to around 18%, and 40% of this is in manufactured goods. This is still way below the averages for other regions, where trade within regions range from 40 to over 70%.

To double this figure in the coming decade, all countries must add more value to natural resources so that we do have things to trade with each other, and we must improve infrastructure networks that link us.

In addition to value addition and infrastructure, to boost trade, we must move decisively to launch the Continental Free Trade Area by 2017 as agreed. There are ample evidence, in other regions such as the EU, ASEAN, Mercorsur that a single African common market for goods and services, will boost trade significantly. We have already seen the impact in those RECs where they have done so, East and West Africa, and to a lesser extend in SADC. A common African market of over a billion consumers and growing, will give further impetus to manufacturing across the continent, as well as growing Pan African investments and businesses. History will judge us if we do not seize the moment.

Infrastructure development

As indicated above, countries are investing more and more in infrastructure projects within their national boundaries. As a Union and with RECs, we are concentrating on the connections that link countries and regions.

The regional transport corridors are one example. After decades of under-investments, countries and regions are once again investing in railways and highways. More specifically, work are in progress on the following transport corridors as part of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), including:

Dakar-N'djamena-Djibouti Transport Corridor (Trans African Highway 5 & 6),

Djibouti-Libreville Transport Corridor (Trans African Highway 10),

Lobito Transport Corridor (Trans African Highway 9),

Trans African Highway No. 3 in central Africa linked to the proposed Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bridge,

Cotonou-Ouagadougou-Niamey-Abidjan Railway and Gambia Bridge on Trans African Highway 7

It also include the Regional railway network in East Africa, which the affected countries are working together with China, and the Pan African Integrated High-speed Rail network, as one of the Agenda 2063 Flagship projects. Through the latter, a 20-30 year project, we are pushing to use the latest technology - high-speed rail, to leapfrog development and to connect all African capitals and commercial cities.

The aviation sector has been and remain another important driver of integration. Over the last decade, African airlines have increased connections between African countries exponentially, and connections from East to West, East to South, North to East, West and South have increased, as well as travel within these regions, with the exception of travel within West and Central Africa, which remains a problem.

The Commission has therefore pushed for the implementation for the Yammasoukrou Declaration to create the single African airline market, which would make connectivity grow even faster. Thirteen countries have agreed in 2015 to make this happen by 2017, and are hard at work to put in place the regulatory, safety and other frameworks to make this happen.

The continent is also addressing the energy gap, using fossil fuels and renewables as part of our energy mix. In order to create economies of scale, we have formed Regional Energy Pools, and are working together to create harmonized regulation for regional energy markets, as part of the CFTA.

In addition to the Grand Inga Project, due to start construction in 2017, with its potential to generate 42000 megawatts, work on Regional Energy pools include geothermal projects along the Rift valley in East Africa, other hydro projects such as the Renaissance dam in Ethiopia that should service not only the country but also the region, as well as solar and biomass.

ICT has played a critical role in driving African growth and development over the last fifteen years, and has allowed us to leapfrog development. From being the continent with the least landlines at the turn of this century, to being amongst the fastest growing markets for mobile phones, 65% growth annually just over the last five years. This has also driven in innovations in banking, access to information to farmers, e-commerce and a host of other areas.

The private and public sector are making progress in making broadband accessible and affordable to all Africans. One of the AU projects that is proceeding well is the establishment of the Pan African Internet Exchange System project, which creates single national internet exchanges, reducing the cost of connectivity.

By 2016, national internet exchange points have already been established in thirty two (32) member states, and through an open tendering process, eight (8) internet exchange points (IXPs) of Congo, Egypt, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe have been awarded grants to grow to become regional internet exchange points (RIXPs).

Under the grant awarded to the Kenya Internet Exchange point, the African Union Commission has supported the establishment of the first Global GSM Roaming Exchange (GRX) in Africa and only the fourth in the world.

In addition to the above, work is also happening on water infrastructure, as well as the development of African owned maritime transport.

Free movement of people

Central to all our programmes, from industrialization, education, infrastructure to peace is the critical issue of free movement of people.

There has been a major push around free movement of people, within the Regional Economic Communities and as one of the Agenda 2063 flagship projects. The East African Community citizens enjoy 3 month visa-free stays in Member States for national passport holders and a 6 month visa-free stays for EAC passport holders; COMESA grants 90 day visas-on-arrival for citizens of its FTA Member States; SADC countries are currently granting 90-day visa free stays to its citizens although it is being done through bilateral agreements; and ECOWAS is granting visas-on-arrival to its citizens and 7 members have adopted the ECOWAS passport, which allows citizens to travel without visas. Seychelles, Mozambique, Rwanda, Comoros, Uganda and Madagascar offer either visa-free access or visas-on-arrival to all African citizens, and were followed in 2016 by Ghana, Benin and Namibia.

Rwanda, as a result of implementing the Africa's most liberal migration policy has enjoyed a 24% rise in tourism from African countries and a 50% rise in trade with neighbouring countries, including a 73% rise in trade with the DRC. Progress on movement of people in other regions, especially Central and North, and between regions is much more limited.

In order to facilitate intra-Africa trade, business and investment - both small and large - the AU decision was taken in January 2016 to encourage all Member States to introduce a 30-day visa on arrival policy for all citizens from fellow African countries, to launch the African passport in 2016 and to adopt a comprehensive Protocol on Free movement of People by 2018.

The African passport was launched at the AU Summit in Kigali in July 2016. A process to convert this into an e-passport has started with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which will enable us to negotiate with other regions in the world about the recognition of the African passport. Member states were also encouraged to start the process within their national legislation to issue the passport, and the Commission distributed guidelines and the prototype to all Member states in 2017, once the e-passport process is completed.

A recent study on the potential impact of the extension of the African passports across African nations estimates that it could increase travel in the continent by 24% and revenues from tourism by 20%.


Ladies and Gentlemen

The 80's and 90s have seen the devastation of conflict and military rule, including the Genocide in Rwanda. As we therefore once again took charge of our destiny, peace and security, became a major priority. The AU Constitutive Act committed the continent to a principle of non-indifference, and put in place an African Peace and Security Architecture, to ensure that concrete actions are being taken to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Moreover, the continent also adopted its frameworks in the area of governance, human rights and democracy, through the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights, and the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

These normative frameworks, along with our programmes of development and growth, are the foundations for silencing the guns and building lasting peace in Africa. These human rights and democratic frameworks, in the context of Africa's diverse populations, cultures and religions, must ensure inclusion, rights and development for all, as the only condition in which lasting peace will reign.

Thus, as we address the situations in Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Darfur and Mali, we seek to bring an immediate end to the killings and displacements, but we must also make sure that we assist these countries to build inclusive political, social and economic development and cultures of tolerance and peace.

Across the continent, from north central to south, and east to west, the numbers of mass protests have increased drastically over the past few years. African people are out in the streets demanding better services from their governments, improvements in their living conditions, an end to repression and to corruption. The continent must therefore pay even greater attention to its development, and to ensuring that we improve democratic and participatory governance, and rule with the consent of our people.

Just during the term of office of this Commission, we observed over 50 elections in the four years. But elections is but one step, we must ensure that democracy translate into changes in our peoples lives and their freedoms.


Ladies and Gentlemen

A key component of the African Union, is its commitment to building a peoples union, by communicating its programmes and involving citizens in its programmes.

This is what we tried to do when we first consulted with African citizens (in their trade unions, business assocations, faith based organisations, women, youth and student movements, as well as cultural, arts and the creative sectors) on their Aspirations for Agenda 2063. Only then did we submit Agenda 2063 to Member states governments. And we continue to consult with these sectors as we implement Agenda 2063.

We are also working with the media, and just this year held two workshops with the African Editors Forum (in Kigali and Pretoria), and this briefing is part of that process. We also want to use social media more to engage young Africans.

The Commission since the 2013 50th anniversary every year convened an Intergentational Dialogue, and works with the Pan African Youth Movement and the All African Students Union and other movements of youth, on taking forward Agenda 2063.

The women's movement remains one of the main drivers for continental development. They are active participants in our Blue economy strategy, through the formation of such structures as Women in Maritime Africa. They are forming themselves into other networks, such as women in the extractive sector, to encourage more women in mining. They are active in the political sphere, through such campaigns as Elect Her, to help more women to be elected as public representatives.

Recently, thousands of women from across the continent, after we launched the campaign to relegate the handheld hoe to the museusm and give women farmers and farmworkers access to finance, land and modern technology, gathered from all five regions to Mount Kilimanjaro, and adopted a charter on women's land rights. Indeed, with women on the march, our continent are in good hands.

The Commission, working with civil society and member states are also campaigning for the rights of girls - their right to be educated, not to be mutilated and to end child marraiges.

The work to build a Peoples Union is therefore ongoing, through ECOSOCC our council of civil society, which is an organ of the AU and has representation at highest levels, and through outreach to all sectors.

One of the key amongst these is our cultural, arts and creative sector, who through their work - in film, photography, dance, music, art, literature, publishing, fashion - are showing the way in the meaning of Pan Africanism. It is a sector with great potential, as shown in the growth of Pan African festivals, which has become spaces for people to people contact and indeed the seeds of our renaissance.

Next year we will convene the African Economic Platform from 20-22 March 2017 in Mauritius, to strategise with the political leadership, business and academic leadership on economic transformation and on the African skills revolution.


Ladies and Gentlemen

We cannot talk about African development, without talking about the mobilization of Africa's domestic resources, as the mainstay of our development and growth. As one of the OAU founders, Gamel Abdel Nasser from Egypt said so many years ago: 'He who cannot support himself, cannot take his own decisions."

The Union has therefore looked at domestic resource mobilization, including public investment, strengthening tax systems and accountability, the continental private equity markets, pension and sovereign funds as key sources of funding Agenda 2063.

Furthermore, historic decisions on funding the Union have been taken over the last few years: for Member states to fund 100% of its operational budget, 75% of its programme budget and 25% of its peace support operations. This year in Kigali, heads of state decided on the introduction of a binding 0,2% AU levy on all eligible imports to Africa.

This is in furtherance of the Johannesburg Declaration on Self-Reliance, adopted last year at the AU Summit of July 2015, Johannesburg, which said:

In order to achieve the goals set out in Agenda 2063, Member states need to take practical and concrete measures to achieve the sel-reliance we set as our goal 35 years ago in the Lagos Plan of Action adopted in 1980."


Ladies and Gentlemen

Our continental priorities that I outlined above, form the basis of our role and engagements with the rest of the world.

Africa is determined to take its rightful place in the world, as a manufacturing, trading, knowledge producing and region of innovation and technological development.

Our Pan Africanist values, our development and peace models, our culture, arts and biodiversity, will indeed signal to the world (as Seme said over a hundred years ago) - the birth of a new civilization, building on our past, that is uniquely African.

Africa's engagements with the world, in the G20 and G77, the UN and on such issues as urbanization, development, climate change, trade, increasingly are on the basis of our common African positions.

Our bilateral relations with other regions and countries, are increasingly grounded on Agenda 2063, our Vision of the Africa we want.


Ladies and Gentlemen

This is indeed what the work of the African Union is about, to realize its vision of an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa, driven by its own citizens and playing a dynamic role in the world.

There are major well-known challenges we face, but I believe if we focus on what needs to be done as outlined above, we can and will overcome.

As another great Pan Africanist reminded us: it is impossible, until it is done.

I thank you

Issued by African Union (AU) [1] The TFTA will stretch from Cape Town to Cairo, creating an integrated market with a combined population of almost 600 million people and a total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US$1 trillion.

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