ALL eyes will be on Zambia next week as the country hosts the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) from July 14 - 15, 2022 in Lusaka at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
On July 17, 2022, the country will host the fourth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting (MYCM) of the AU at the same venue.
The Theme for the gathering "Building Resilience in Nutrition on the African Continent: Accelerate the Human Capital, Social and Economic Development".
According to Zambia's Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Stanley Kakubo, the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council will be attended by 13 Heads of State and Government, comprising five Heads of State that form the Bureau of the Assembly of the AU, and eight Heads of State that chair the eight regional economic communities recognised by the AU.
Mr Kakubo said recently that the Zambian Government, under the leadership of President Hakainde Hichilema, had been engaging various stakeholders, including the private sector, in the preparatory process to ensure the country was ready for the AU gatherings.
Mr Kakubo said President Hichilema remained firmly committed to ensuring that Zambia remained an active member of the AU and a key partner in furthering the continental development agenda.
"The President has continued to underscore the importance of promoting intra-African trade and collaboration for beneficial economic and social development of the continent. To this end, this summit will allow Zambia to build further on its solid foundation of cooperation with countries on the continent based on a shared history and values, respect for the rule of law," he said.
So far, expectations are high as Zambia makes final touches to host the two important continental gatherings.
The meetings will undoubtedly raise the profile of Zambia in Africa and across the globe just like the case was in 2013 when Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosted the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly.
According to the Tourism Council of Zambia (TCZ), which is an umbrella body for the tourism sector in the country, the continental gatherings will largely benefit Zambia as well as the country's tourism and hospitality sector.
TCZ Chief Executive Officer Victor Inambwae said in Lusaka that the AU gatherings would have a multiplier effect to enlisted official hotels, transport sector, and farmers who supply various food products to hotels, among others.
"Zambia has excellent conference facilities to host the AU meetings. For us in the tourism and hospitality sector, we are direct beneficiaries because our members, who are operators, will be housing these delegates," he said.
On July 7, 2022, Information and Media Minister Chushi Kasanda officiated at a media workshop in readiness for the continental gatherings.
Ms Kasanda said Zambia was privileged to host the meeting which had attracted about 13 foreign Heads of State and Government from across the continent and 51 Ministers of Foreign Affairs out of 55 member states.
"The media workshop is important because the media will play a crucial role in keeping our citizens and the world at large, informed about the meeting. It is our hope, as Government, that our people will benefit in terms of information on what their leaders will be deliberating on during the period of the meeting. God bless our great nation," Ms Kasanda said on her Facebook page.
The website further states that the MYCM was conceptualised in 2017 as the principal forum for the AU and Regional Economic Communiities (RECs) to align their work and coordinate the implementation of the continental integration agenda, replacing the June/ July summits.
It is a meeting between the bureau of the AU Assembly and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), with the participation of the chairpersons of RECs, the AU Commission and Regional Mechanisms (RMs).
This year's MYCM, according to the AU, will have the following agenda items:
Status of regional integration in Africa (Report from the AU Commission Chairperson and Chairpersons of each REC. This agenda item is aligned to the objectives of the Abuja treaty and the Constitutive Act of the African Union to accelerate the political and economic integration of Africa. As such the meeting will consider the 2022 Status of Integration Report.
Consideration and adoption of an effective Division of Labour between the AU, RECs/RMs and Member States on the remaining sectors: This agenda point is necessitated by the need for the AU, RECs and Member States to work together in every area of integration based on their respective competencies so as to remove overlaps and duplication. Progress has already been noted in this regard. The 4th MYCM will consider the outcome of the negotiation between the AU, RECs/RMs and Member States on already agreed areas of integration. These include Economic Development, Integration, Investment and Industry; Agriculture, Food Security, Blue Economy and Environment; Education, Science, Innovation and Technology; Agriculture, Food Security, Blue Economy and Environment and Transport, Energy and Infrastructure.
Launch of the Inter-Regional Knowledge Exchange (I-RECKE) on Early Warning and Conflict Prevention. I-RECKE is an institutional community of practice for intra-continental and cross-regional learning to build peace. It is a Pan-African mechanism for developing, capturing and documenting knowledge and also sharing lessons learned, and experiences on governance and conflict prevention on the continent.
Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) between East Africa Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). The MYCM will consider progress made so far since the agreement establishing the tripartite FTA, and identify its contribution to the continental agenda in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). A paper will be presented by the three RECs.
Impact of the Ukraine crisis on the African continent. This is an important agenda item in the context of the skyrocketing increases already registered in the prices of natural gas, wheat and fertilizer.
Africa's response to COVID-19. The importance of this item lies in the fact that, despite the progress made in the response to the pandemic, member states still face challenges. The AU will present a report to the MYCM.
Draft Declaration. The meeting will consider its draft Declaration. The Declaration will emanate from the outcome of all the agenda items listed above.
Outcomes from the 4th MYCM include a report and matrix on the Division of Labour between the AU, RECs, and Member States on the remaining sectors; the launch of the -RECKE on Early Warning and Conflict Prevention and the declaration. The expected result of the discussions and outcomes is a fast tracking of the integration process in Africa.
So far, media accreditation for the MYCM is currently open at https://accreditation.au.int/en/media/2022/4th-mid-year-coordination-meeting
Like we indicated in our last article, the last time Zambia hosted a meeting of the African Union was 21 years ago in 2001and therefore this event will be important the country.
It is only hoped that all Zambians will take advantage of the AU gatherings to promote their rich culture, tradition, tourism, mining, agriculture and other sectors, just to mention a few.