Last January, the African Union (AU) announced that Egypt would head the AU summit’s upcoming round in 2019, following the closing meeting of African leaders.
During his participation in the 30th AU summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi praised the efforts exerted by the Guinean President Alpha Condé, head of the current round of the AU summit, on the issue of institutional reform.
In his speech before the African leaders, Al-Sisi said that despite Egypt’s agreement that the summit of African leaders has absolute authority, he also believes that the decision-making process should pass through lower levels before being discussed at the summit in order to undergo reviews and improve accuracy, so that problems in implementation do not surface.
Ramdan Orny, an expert on African affairs and editing manager for the African Perspective magazine said that “Egypt’s presidency of the AU in its new session marks the culmination of the efforts of recent years in African work, Egypt’s historic effort also with Africa, and to complement the developmental and political role Egypt played in the continent–it is Egypt’s fourth presidency of the AU. Egypt is building its presidency over five steps to implement the 2063 agenda.”
Daily News Egypt interviewed Orny to discuss the future vision for Egypt’s presidency of the AU, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What will Egypt focus on as the AU chair?
We should be aware that Egypt’s presidency of the AU is a practical application of the AU’s 2063 agenda, in cooperation with the AU Commission and all African friends. This highlights the many files Egypt will be working on this year, in cooperation with African partners. Perhaps the most important of which is the African free trade file and an attempt to address the structural imbalances in this aspect, as well as the development of the infrastructure in Africa in major continental projects, the structure of peace and security in the African continent, and Egypt will also focus on the anti-terrorism file during its presidency of the AU.
What will benefit Egypt after becoming president of the AU?
The Egyptian vision of Africa looks at the gain in a different way which is the direction of a gain for all. When Egypt deals with African issues, it has different starting points.
The most important challenges facing Egypt during its presidency of the AU is the exploitation of human capacities and cadres, its international relations in achieving the greatest benefit to the African continent, to achieve maximum expansion, and activate the African-Egyptian cooperation. This is the Egyptian message of the idea of the Egyptian benefit from the presidency of the AU.
Egypt’s presidency of the AU comes amid challenges; can you explain these challenges?
There are common challenges facing Egypt and the African continent in general, mainly the security challenge and the challenge of confronting terrorism. Also, the issue of sustainable financing sources and problematic contributions to the structural reform of the AU lies with five countries: Egypt, Angola, Nigeria, South Africa, and Algeria. There is also the 12% of the budget of the AU without a fair distribution to the countries of the AU.
The AU needs sustainable mechanisms to finance its activities with regard to the settlement of political conflicts. Among the issues faced by Egypt is political cooperation in resolving conflicts in the African continent. Although many conflicts have been resolved, there are still conflicts in a number of African countries, such as Burundi, Central Africa and the Congo. Conflicts are an important issue, especially as they cause phenomena that affect Africa in full, such as the issue of asylums and displaced persons.
How does Egypt’s presidency of the AU open the door to decisive action in the war against terrorism?
The Egyptian vision is consistent with the African vision on the issue of terrorism and it is an essential element against the development of the African continent. When we face terrorism in Africa, we face it politically, economically, security-wise, culturally, and religiously.
Egypt began with Africa to activate many tools in the face of this phenomenon, perhaps the most important of which is the adoption of international resolutions of the security council, especially during Egypt’s membership of the security council represented by the African continent, and the phenomenon of terrorism must also include countries which support and sponsor terrorism.
We recognise that there is a gap in the exchange of information between African countries. If Egypt can succeed in this file, this will be a significant gain for the continent, especially as the issue of terrorism has become like the belt surrounding the continent, including the Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Ansar al-Din in Mali, and they are based in north Morocco, and Daesh are in the north of Libya. If there is cooperation, we will succeed according to my knowledge to exterminate the phenomenon.
What is Egypt’s vision for the development of the African continent and positioning it globally?
Egypt’s vision is to develop the continent and make it a globally-cantered cultural and a civilizational solution to eliminate terrorism which is a gain for all. It protects Egyptian national security and saves Africa from this phenomenon. It is a gain for the continent in supporting the development process, and establishing an African Common Market for Trade, noting that the Free Trade Organization is one of Egypt’s top priorities in the AU, and working on sustainable development and utilising the wealth enjoyed by the continent.
Achieving this will lead to the continent’s development.