As the continent grapples with a wide range of issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic and several internal crises, African leaders convened virtually for the annual Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU).
At the 2021 virtual summit, Felix Tshisekedi, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, took over the rotating AU Chairmanship from his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa. The Pan-African body’s assembly also elected high-level officials to lead the AU Commission, which produced Chadian politician, MoussaFakiMahamat as the Chairperson for a second term.
Under the theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want,” the two-day virtual summit positioned regional integration and the operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as tools for continental growth and cooperation, along with the revival of African Arts and Culture as a vehicle for a shared, Pan-African identity.
Addressing fellow Heads of State and Government, H.E Felix Tshisekedi pledged to make the AU more relevant stating that “My Vision is to see an African Union at the service of the African peoples”.
President Biden also addressed the AU Summit, changing the tone in the U.S.-Africa relations, from the previous U.S. administration’s. In his first speech to an international forum as U.S. President, he signaled the desire of the United States to rebuild a strong partnership with the continent.
“The United States stands ready now to be your partner in solidarity, support and mutual respect,” Biden said. He further indicated readiness of his administration to work with the regional institution to defeat Covid-19, fight climate change and address conflicts across the continent.
President Xi Jinping also sent a message to the 34th African Union Summit, reiterating China’s commitment to Africa. “China is willing to work with Africa to advance deep and practical cooperation on the Belt and Road construction, and make unremitting efforts to build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future”, he stated.
While world leaders pledged their commitment to work with Africa and its regional institution, African people continue to urge the leaders to act more urgently on those vital issues that set the continent back.
At a time where countries on the continent find themselves at the bottom of the ladder of an unequal distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines and are beset with several internal crises, it is little wonder that critics have called out the AU on the need to show more leadership and less celebration, as depicted in this year’s Summit theme.