Pretoria — At least 36 heads of state and government of African countries, including President Jacob Zuma, are gathered at the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the 20th African Union (AU) summit, seeking to achieve a more secured and prospecting African continent.
"Africa has the experience to forge solutions to its own challenges and contribute to our global goals of inclusive growth, social justice and protecting our environment," said UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday.
He was addressing the opening ceremony of the summit with the theme of "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance".
How to realize a sustainable development and how to find solutions to regional conflicts will dominate the agenda of the two-day summit.
Also addressing delegates at the summit's opening was Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC). She said Africa was at a point where it must seize the opportunity to fast track its economic development.
The continent, Dlamini Zuma said, was well-endowed with natural resources which were critical components in fast tracking industrialisation.
The summit is held while the AU is preparing to celebrate its Golden Jubilee. It was also the first summit since Dlamini Zuma, a former South African Home Affairs minister, took the position as the AUC chairperson in July 2012.
"Africa's time has arrived and we can achieve our dream within 50 years, or even less," she declared.
She reiterated that Africa must remain united if it is to achieve its desired goals and pull millions of people out of poverty.
Ban hailed Africa's fast economic growth in recent years.
"There are visible and tangible gains that are evident as a result of Africa's development growth now taking place ...Some of the world's fastest-growing economies are in Africa," he noted.
African countries averaged a remarkable 5% growth over the past decade and are projected to have an even higher growth in 2014.
Despite steady growth prospects, poverty remains a big challenge on the continent - something the UN chief expressed serious concern about.
According to Ban, the United Nations will host a Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in September on ways to halve poverty in Third World Countries by the MDGs deadline of 2015.
"We are also looking beyond 2015," said Ban, adding that next week, the High-level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda will meet in the Liberian capital Monrovia.
Ban also urged Africa and the international community to make joint efforts to "bring greater stability to Africa", against the backdrop of regional conflicts which have drawn worldwide concern, especially the escalation of the Mali crisis.
On the Mali crisis, Ban said: "I welcome the timely bilateral assistance to the Malian army in response to the government's request."
He also expressed his resolution to help the suffering people in Mali.
Ban said he had already presented his recommendations on the logistic support package for AFISMA, the troop ECOWAS is preparing to deploy in Mali, adding that the UN had already sent specialists on the military and political tracks.
"I personally committed to ensuring that the UN stands ready, once the regrettably necessary combat operations are over, to undertake a major system-wide effort for peace building, governance and security sector reform, physical reconstruction and regional cooperation," said Ban.
Addressing the current situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ban said the UN was considering establishing a peace enforcement capacity with the UN mission MOUNUSCO to deal with the threat of the armed groups in the eastern DRC.
Speaking about Sudan and South Sudan, Ban said he was "especially concerned about the dangerous humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Bule Nile States".
"I call on the authorities in Sudan and South Sudan to immediately begin direct talks to allow urgently needed humanitarian assistance to reach affected civilians."
He vowed further efforts to improve the situation in Somalia, saying he will present recommendations to the UN Security Council this month on a new UN presence in the Horn of Africa nation, including those on a better UN-AU partnership on the ground.
He also pledged "to secure urgently needed funding" for AMISOM, the African peacekeeping mission in Somalia.