President Paul Kagame has called for consistency in the African Union's reform process, urging leaders not to be fearful of change as it would be counterproductive.
Kagame was speaking at the opening of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia yesterday.
At the summit, Kagame handed over the AU chairmanship to Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Kagame will, however, continue to serve as the head of the African Union reform process as entrusted to him by the African Heads of State during the AU Summit in Kigali in 2016.
The President said that, over the last one year, the bloc made considerable progress in multiple aspects such as partnerships with other international organisations, signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, and launching of the Africa Peace Fund among others.
This, he said, was proof of the impact of collective determination and ability.
"Our objective was to continue building a stronger and more capable African Union that is able to deliver on the pillars of Agenda 2063, and better represent Africa's interests on the global stage. The steps forward that were achieved reflect the long-standing commitment and aspirations of Africa's leaders and citizens. The CFTA was signed, and now, less than one year later, it stands only weeks away from entry into force," he said.
The summit, among other subjects, considered guidelines for a common African approach to digital identity management with an aim to increase economic inclusivity and trust for citizens particularly in the context of growing regional integration.
Kagame said that this was a first step of what must be a consistent and comprehensive effort by AU and all member states, to prepare for the new technologies that are remaking the entire global economy such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data mining.
"We should not fear these changes, or attempt to delay them. That would be futile and counter-productive. They are the engines of productivity and prosperity for our youth. But in order to secure our place, we must face the world as a unified bloc, and work closely with other regional organisations and the private sector, to ensure that the rights and interests of Africans are guaranteed," the outgoing African Union Chairperson said.
Delegates follow proceedings at the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union, Addis Ababa. Village Urugwiro.
The summit also considered specifications for the African passport, which is aimed at enabling the Free Movement of Persons across the continent.
At the summit, Kagame, who is spearheading the AU institutional reforms, presented a status update of the process.
He noted that the process was on schedule but there was still much to be done as some of the toughest decisions were yet to be made.
"What is critical at this juncture is to sustain this good momentum and remain much more and better focused on results," he said.
So far, he said that 50 countries have made their payments to the Peace Fund, which now stands at $89 million.
On the issue of the approval of the Panel of Eminent Africans, composed of one member from each region, he said that the various regions were still in the process of consultations on the issue.
The eminent persons are, among other tasks, expected to oversee the pre-selection of candidates for the senior leadership of the Commission.
"The consultative process on the reform of the African Union Organs continues. Several Organs have already provided detailed recommendations to the Commission, for which we are appreciative," he added.
He expressed gratitude for the support and trust to lead the continent during his time as the chairperson.
During Kagame's tenure, the continent made progress in aspects such as launch of the Peace Fund, signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area, increased partnership with international organisations such as United Nations and European Union, and increased financial contribution by member states among others.
Prior to the opening ceremony, President Kagame joined fellow Heads of State and Government for the unveiling of the Statue of Emperor Haile Selassie. The commemorative statue of Emperor Haile Selassie serves to recognise the Emperor's contribution to Africa's liberation and unity leading up to the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.
Later in the day, Kagame chaired a high-level meeting on Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard as a tool for shared learning and driving progress in agriculture transformation on the continent.