The 32rd ordinary session of the African Union Heads and State and Government Assembly has officially opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with the Egypt President, Fattah Al-Sisi taking over as chair of the continental body.
Mr Al-Sisi, who is succeeding Rwandan leader, Mr Paul Kagame is later this afternoon expected to address African leaders, who include Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The AU chairmanship, a one year term, rotates between the five regions of the continent and South Africa as the First Vice Chair this year will take over from Mr El-Sisi in 2020.
This year’s summit is expected to focus on institutional reforms, and the establishment of a continent-wide free trade zone.
The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) was agreed by 44 nations in March 2018, but only 19 countries have ratified the agreement, with 22 needed for it to come into effect.
The single market is a flagship of the AU’s “Agenda 2063” programme, conceived as a strategic framework for socioeconomic transformation.
Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guteress has asked Western nations to emulate Africa and open their borders to migrants and refugees.
The UN chief, who is in Ethiopia, held a meeting with AU Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and pledged to support Africa’s peace efforts as one way of stemming displacements on the continent.
He welcomed the South Sudan and Central African peace agreements, as well the restoration of relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia.