Addis Ababa, 10 February 2019

It is my honour to welcome you to the 32nd Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union. We warmly welcome to the Assembly the new leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo, His Excellency Félix Tshisekedi, and of Madagascar, His Excellency Andry Rajoelina. We congratulate you and the peoples of both your countries for these important transitions.

Excellencies, I would like to take this moment to record my debt of gratitude to you for entrusting me with the privilege of leading our organisation during this eventful year.

Our objective was to continue building a stronger and more capable African Union that is able to deliver on the pillars of Agenda 2063 and better represent Africa’s interests on the global stage. The steps forward that were achieved reflect the long-standing commitment and aspirations of Africa’s leaders and citizens.

The Continental Free Trade Area was signed and now, less than one year later, it stands only weeks away from entry into force, thanks to the accelerating pace of ratification.

We commend Guinea-Bissau, Botswana, and Zambia for signing the instrument during this Summit, and encourage those signatories who have not yet ratified to do so at the earliest opportunity.

Last year, we strengthened our partnerships with other regions, both in substance and tone, and that trend will continue.

The relaunched Peace Fund now stands at $89 million, with 50 Member States contributing. This demonstrates the force of our collective resolve and ability. We will continue to work with the United Nations towards a sustainable mechanism for funding African-led peace support operations. I wish on this point, Mr Secretary-General, to thank you for bringing the United Nations and the African Union into strong partnership.

We commend the recent peace agreement reached among the parties in the Central African Republic, and thank the Commission and the Member States involved in supporting this process. This accord must be implemented and respected.

The agenda for this Summit reflects the capacity of our Union to address an increasingly complex range of challenges and priorities.

We have the specifications for the African passport, which generated so much excitement among our citizens when it was first presented more than two years ago. This is a step forward on the path to full implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, which was also adopted last year.

Yesterday the African Union convened a ground-breaking meeting with our key partners in the field of public health. The current global context requires us to increase domestic funding for the health programmes that have made such a tremendous difference in the lives of our people over the past two decades. I thank the many Heads of State and Government who contributed to the Declaration on this topic, which is to be considered by the Assembly.

The future of the global economy is digital. At this Summit, we will consider guidelines for a common African approach to digital identity management. The purpose of this initiative is to increase economic inclusivity and trust for our citizens, particularly in the context of growing regional integration.

This is only the first step of what must be a consistent and comprehensive effort by the African Union, and all Member States, to prepare for the technologies that are remaking global commerce, especially artificial intelligence, robotics, data mining, and cyber security.

We should not fear these changes or attempt to delay them. That would be futile and counter-productive. They are the future engines of productivity and prosperity for our youth.

But in order to secure our place, we must face the world as a unified bloc and work closely with other regional organisations and the private sector to ensure that the interests and the rights of Africans in their own data are guaranteed.

This urgent task is yet another reason why it was necessary to strengthen the African Union’s capabilities. To fulfil our political objectives, we require an organisation that is agile, healthy, and effective.

What remains is to pass the baton to the next Chairperson of the Union, none other than my friend and brother, His Excellency Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. With our full and unqualified support, there is no doubt that he will take our Union forward decisively, to new and greater heights.

Excellencies, I would be remiss if I did not particularly single out the comfort, joy, and support that I got from the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Commissioners working together as a team. They are world-class and did everything we needed of them.

There is another team, which supported the process of reforms. Let me say, Excellencies, in Africa, we have high-quality people for any service you want, from any part of our continent. All we need to do is tap into that talent and move forward with Africa’s agenda.

I thank you once again, Heads of State and leaders in different capacities, and look forward to even more vibrant progress with the new Chairperson.