The 4th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the African Union (AU) the eight Regional Economic Blocs (RECs), the Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the five Bureau Member states has opened in Lusaka today with a call for member states to expedite the process of signing and ratifying the African Risk Capacity Treaty.
The treaty is aimed at opening up assistance channels in planning, preparing and timely and cost-effective response to various economic shocks being faced by countries on the continent.
President Hakainde Hichilema who is hosting three other Presidents from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau and Senegal reaffirmed Zambia’s active participation in the actualization of the region’s aspirations for peace and security, inclusive economic growth and development among others.
President Hichilema however, observed that to attain these goals there is need for AU member states to enhance the intra-continental trade and embrace the opportunities that have been created through the Africa Continent Free Trade Area which offers a 1.3 billion market for goods and services from within the region.
“To expedite the economic transformation of our continent, Africa countries need to enhance intra-continental trade and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Africa Continent Free Trade Area, which offers a 1.3 billion market size for products from within the continent,” he explained.
President Hichilema also stated that with increasing global challenges leading to high cost of food, energy, and agriculture inputs, African countries should consider increasing the production levels in agriculture with focus on value addition through agro-processing, accelerating research in agriculture and increasing support to rural farmers whose livelihood is dependent on agriculture.
He said the theme of the meeting calls on the need for countries to reflect and pay attention to the welfare and well-being of the people, and transform the collective potential in agriculture and ensure that nutrition and food security is assured.
He cited the continued effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the tension between Ukraine and Russia as some of the many challenges that countries should use their collaborative efforts and come up with sustainable solutions for the betterment of the region.
“We are confident that despite the pervasive disruptions of climate change, COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, our continued resolve to work together as a continent will lead us to overcoming these challenges as drivers of our shared objective of achieving sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development on the continent.
The Head of State also explained that countries need to accelerate the implementation of agenda 2063 flagship projects such as the integrated high-speed train railway network which will improve connectivity on the continent and allow easy, faster, and free movement of goods and people.
President Hichilema added that initiatives such as the Programmes on Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) are critical in enhancing regional integration and fostering economic transformation on the continent by opening up borders and interconnecting countries.
Meanwhile, President Hichilema has reiterated the need for countries to uphold all tenets of peace and security if the region is to attain economic development.
“We must work and act together to silence the guns and all hotbeds of violence on our continent – such as the islamist insurgent activities in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Sahel and our sister republic of Mozambique, by addressing the root causes of these conflicts.
Meanwhile, African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, commended Zambia for maintaining its status as a symbol of peace and unity in the region.
Mr. Faki explained that since the era of colonialism and apartheid, Zambia has continued to play an active role in assisting other countries attain peace for the benefit of the whole region.
“Am happy to state that Zambia has continued to be a symbol of peace from the time of the great son of Africa, Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia has been a frontline state by helping them attain peace, this can be seen from the number of liberation movements from other countries which she hosted during the colonial and apartheid era,” he said.
And Mr. Faki expressed concern with increasing levels of instability among AU member states and has since called for strengthened collaborations among countries and ensure that there is peace and security on the continent.
He explained that this is because it will be difficult for countries to enhance their regional integration in the absence of people and security.
“All the efforts that have been made towards achieving regional integration will not be sustained if these constraints that impede integration inadequate security, Coup d’état and other conflicts are not addressed,” he said.