A stirring call to action was delivered this week in the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, spoken by the incoming AU president Cyril Ramaphosa to distinguished members of the continental body representing over 40 countries.
In his presentation at the AU’s 33rd summit, the South African president wove history with commentary into a tapestry of hope for a continent which has had its share of strife and downfalls.
“Your Excellencies,” he began, “we are mindful of our weighty mission, but also of the weight of history here in Ethiopia, a place with such deep and profound connections to Africa’s ancient past.
“Up in the highlands of the north of Ethiopia in the 1st century, our ancestors tamed the harsh terrain and established agriculture, herded livestock, minted their own coinage, created their own alphabetical script, built towering monuments that stand even to this day, and forged expansive trade routes across the region.
“Over the passage of and in the context of the time, our forebears understood that true progress and development could be advanced through trade and working together.”
From history to the present: “The African Continental Free Trade Area [AfCFTA] that we adopted last year will enable us to work together through intra-Africa trade, as it will reignite industrialization and pave the way for Africa’s integration into the global economy as a player of considerable scale.
“It is the realization of the dream of our forebears, to see the rich resources of Africa being marshalled for the collective benefit of Africans.
“As Africans living in this new era, we shoulder the greatest of responsibilities, to ensure that Africa’s wealth does not become her poverty; that her blessing does not become her curse; and that our endowment does not become our downfall.
“Our collective work to ensure political and economic unity, good governance and peace should be strengthened by supporting integration, industrialization, economic development, trade and investment.
“We must all ensure that the AfCFTA does not become a conduit for products with minimal African value addition to enter and penetrate our local markets under the guise of continental integration. There must be a reasonable standard set for what constitutes a product that is Proudly Made in Africa.”
He challenged summit member to propose “real actions” to end conflicts, to find African solutions for African problems, and deal with acts of terrorism raging in many countries and regions such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and now spreading to other parts of Southern Africa as well.
“The era of colonialism and imperialism under which Africa is a pit stop in the global assembly line has passed,” he declared as he took over from Egypt’s Abdel Fatah El-Sisi for the one-year tenure on Sunday afternoon.
“In the words of the great son of the African soil, Ngugi wa Thiong’o: “Today is tomorrow’s treasury. Tomorrow is the harvest of what we plant today.”