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Zambia’s benefits from AU summit

FOR the Zambian delegation to the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, the just-ended summit was a mission well accomplished.
The lobby team will always look to the event with a sense of achievement, while the country will continue to reel in the benefits thereof.
Zambia won the bid to host the headquarters of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) of the AU.
The country also put up a spirited campaign to win membership to the continental body’s Peace and Security Council.
The ECOSOCC is an advisory organ to the AU, composed of civil society organisations.
Its permanent establishment in Zambia will come with a lot of economic opportunities such as the construction of the ECOSOCC headquarters, and job opportunities; while its base, the capital Lusaka, will play host to a lot of international meetings.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba, who was leading the Zambian delegation during the pre-summit events, said he also expects that the high in-flow of visitors to attend ECOSOCC meetings will boost tourism.
Mr Kalaba said international organisations are likely to establish offices in Lusaka to facilitate their participation in ECOSOCC activities.
Zambia has already secured office space for the transitory home of ECOSOCC in the central business district, according to President Lungu. He said Government will continue to work closely with the African Union Commission (AUC) to ensure smooth transfer of the ECOSOCC secretariat to Lusaka.
And prior to the assembly of heads of State and government, Zambia was elected to the Peace and Security Council (PSC) by the Executive Council of the AU.
Of the 54 member states of the AU, only 15 countries sit on the PSC for two- and three-year terms.
And prior to election day, contesting countries were canvassing for support, and in the Zambian lobby team was Mr Kalaba, his counterparts for Justice, Ngosa Simbyakula, Gender and Child Development, Nkandu Luo, as well as Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Susan Sikaneta.
When the votes were cast, it emerged that Zambia managed to get a vote from each of the 52 countries that voted.
“We are the only country that managed to get a vote from each of the 52 countries that voted. Other [winning] countries got around 30 votes,” the beaming Professor Luo said at a post-election briefing.
And in Southern Africa, Zambia was the only country to get a three-year term of office.
Commenting on the development, President Lungu said Zambia will advance the AU objective of silencing guns by 2020 as she takes membership on the PSC.
In a statement on peace and security to the summit, Mr Lungu said the continued instability in many parts of Africa pose serious challenges to the continent and prevents achievement of stability and development.
“Today’s conflicts have taken a heavy toll on people’s lives. Lives have been shattered and communities destroyed. The growth of militant groups and the propagation of extremism have resulted in the regrettable recruitment of young people across the world,” President Lungu said.
He said his Government has also noticed with concern the negative impact of illicit financial flows which are facilitating terrorism.
President Lungu said the AU’s collective efforts are therefore required to critically address these emerging threats to peace and security.
Furthermore, Zambia was selected to host, at regional level, the Centre for Diseases Control. In addition, Zambia is among eight AU member states that are on the list of countries that will manufacture components for the continental high-speed train project.
The project is an initiative to link capital cities of the AU by railway.
During the summit, AUC chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma prodded member states to emancipate their people from the shackles of poverty through domestication and implementation of Agenda 2063.
Dr Zuma said at the core of the “Africa we want” agenda must be the advancements of people’s rights to education, nutrition, health care, water and sanitation, peace and freedom from violence and extremism.
The summit was among the main issues on the agenda deliberating the transformation of the AU; its organs and institutions, to bring them in tandem with the changing development needs of the continent.
The continental body wants to restructure its organs and institutions, which at formation were tailored for political emancipation, and align them to the economic agenda of the AU aimed at creating a prosperous Africa.
The theme for this year’s AU summit, which took place from January 21 to 31, was “The African year of human rights with particular focus on the rights of women”.
After 50 years of existence, the AU has realised that its needs have changed, therefore it has to customise its organs to economic management of the continent in line with Agenda 2063.
African leaders were also looking at aligning Agenda 2063 to national development programmes to ensure sustainable development.
The summit also considered the issue of equitable geographical distribution of AU organs, institutions and staffing across the continent so that no country is seen to have undue dominance.
“In the past, there was equity in the hosting of meetings by AU member states,” Ms Sikaneta observed.
It is in this vein that Zambia presented a bid to host the ECOSOCC secretariat.
On other items on the agenda of the 26th AU summit, the leaders looked at recommendations to increase the AU budget, to make the organisation less dependent on external support.
The Executive Council, meeting prior to the assembly of heads of State, considered the revised budget for 2016, which will see member states contribute more money to finance the affairs of the continental body.
“This is the price that we have to pay for our union to be self-reliant,” said outgoing chairperson of the Executive Council and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
And in an interview at Bole International Airport shortly before his departure to Lusaka, President Lungu, who described the summit as a success, said the leaders considered Africa’s “real” ownership of the AU, and issues that hinge on peace and security.
He said the member states want to fund the AU budget 100 percent so that they could own the union and exercise true independence.
In addition, the summit looked at the looming economic crisis in Africa, considering the price fall of export commodities.
The Zambian delegation felt their mission to Addis Ababa was successful. President Lungu, in an interview, cited the successful bid to host ECOSOCC, election to the Peace and Security Council and bilateral engagements with other leaders and institutions.
On the margins of the summit, the President met with Russia’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and the countries of Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina, Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir and a consortium of Turkish entrepreneurs called the Tuskon.
The AfDB delegation announced its intention to invest in energy, agriculture, women empowerment and road transport under its new country strategy for Zambia.
The bank wants to invest a large sum of its continental US$12 billion fund in the energy sector in Zambia in the next five years because of the country’s huge potential.
The Russian envoy expressed his government’s intention to expand bilateral ties with Zambia, including provision of military training.
In addition, President Lungu signed some treaties – the AU Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection, the African Charter of the Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development, and the Agreement for the Establishment of the African Risk Capacity.
Winding up his tour of duty, Mr Lungu said Zambia’s election to the Security Council demonstrates that it is a peaceful country.
“That confirms that we are a peaceful lot and people recognise that. We should maintain that peace because it’s an incentive for investment,” he said.