Gaborone — The just-ended African Union (AU) assembly has emphasised the need for a systematic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Dr Lemogang Kwape, the aim of such a response was to avert the continued loss of human life and further deterioration of socio-economic and quality of life in Africa.
Briefing the media Monday about the 34th AU ordinary session held virtually this past week, he also stressed the importance to reprioritise resources to adequately respond to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Kwape said the assembly reaffirmed its commitment towards finding lasting solutions to the challenges besieging the continent, including COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the assembly deliberated on the progress report on the AU’s response to COVID-19, which was presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.
The report highlights achievements and challenges faced by the continent since the outbreak of coronavirus in December 2019.
Major achievements include the establishment of the COVID-19 Response Fund, the launch of the African Medical Supplies Platform to ensure that all African countries have access to necessary equipment and supplies, setting up of the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team in support of the Africa Vaccine Strategy meant to ensure availability of vaccines to the continent’s populations.
“These efforts are meant to complement the national interventions employed by the different member states, including Botswana,” he stated.
Dr Kwape said in recognition of the efforts made by President Ramaphosa in mobilising assistance for African countries in their fight against the pandemic, the assembly appointed him AU Response to COVID-19 champion.
On other issues, the assembly deliberated on the implementation of the 2016 AU institutional reforms progress report.
The purpose of the reforms was to align the AU’s mandate of with resources at its disposal, its capacity and relevance to deliver a united Africa, through a lean and effective African Union Commission.
Dr Kwape said the assembly declared the period 2021-2031 the ‘Decade of African Roots and Diasporas’.
In this regard, he said, the commission has been directed to set up a high level committee that would ensure effective implementation of the project.
He revealed that preparations were underway to convene an Afro-descendants forum in August 2021 to be hosted by Equatorial Guinea.
Minister Kwape said the assembly agreed on developing an African convention on the protection of women against all forms of violence as well as on the convening of a women-led peace forum, with the participation of heads of state and government.
The meeting appointed the new AU Bureau for 2021, with President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the new chairperson taking over from President Ramaphosa.
It also elected and appointed the new senior leadership of the AU Commission, which saw Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad re-elected chair, deputised by Rwanda’s Dr Nsanzabaganwa Monique as well as the appointment of four commissioners for a four-year term.
Two other commissioner positions; education, science, technology and innovation as well as health, humanitarian affairs and social development, are expected to be filled by the northern and western regions at the next session of the executive council slated for July.
The assembly was held under the theme: Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want.BOPA
Source : BOPA