African leaders meet for AU summit, Chinese president extends congratulations



Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday sent a congratulatory message to the current summit of the African Union (AU) underway in Johannesburg, as African leaders are meeting to discuss the continent's development plan in face of mounting challenges.

In his message to the 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the AU, Xi spoke highly of the important role the AU has played in Africa's development and integration as well as in international and regional affairs.

Applauding Africa's Agenda 2063, which sets a series of concerted development goals for the continent in the next 50 years, Xi said he sincerely hopes that African countries and people will make more achievements in peaceful development and national revitalization.

China-Africa cooperation has not only benefited their own development, but has also promoted solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, said the Chinese president.

So far, China and Africa has ushered in a historic opportunity and enjoyed broad prospects for win-win cooperation and common development, Xi noted, saying that a meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in South Africa in the second half of this year.

China will continue to carry forward the concept of "sincerity, practicality, affinity and good faith" in its cooperation with Africa, put forward more mutually-beneficial measures to meet both sides' demand for development, and lift the new type of China-Africa Strategic Partnership onto a higher level, so as to better benefit the two peoples, Xi said.

The AU summit was kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa, amid high expectations for solutions to resolve a series of challenges.

Heads of state and government from 54 AU members have their hands full of problems to address -- ranging from peace and security to economic development and regional integration.

Speaking in his opening address, South African President Jacob Zuma said Africa has taken its destiny particularly in social development and economic growth.

Africa has embarked on a new path of growth and development, Zuma said.

However, he said, expectations from the African people "are high and we can not fail" in efforts to achieve the AU Agenda 2063.

Zuma urged African countries to continue to address conflicts on the continent and take decisive actions to tackle new challenges such as terrorism.

High on the agenda at the summit will be the AU Commission's Agenda 2063, the political crisis in Burundi, proposals for the continent's free trade area, and mechanisms to find new sources of funding for the AU operations.

The summit is taking place under the theme of the "Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa's Agenda 2063."

In pursuit of the continent's development framework adopted in 2013, African leaders will consider the first 10-year implementation plan of Agenda 2063, noting that two years of the first 10-year phase have since lapsed.

The AU adopted the long-term development plan to help accelerate development and ensure that the continent will fully exploit its resources for the benefit of its 1 billion people.

This was in realization of the fact that African countries continue to be among the poorest globally despite possessing abundant natural resources.

Nhamo Mhiripiri, a lecturer at the Midlands State University of Zimbabwe, said as Africa implements its Agenda 2063, the continent can score development milestones if it deepens regional and economic integration through a continental free trade zone.

"The development plan needs a lot of vision, focus and investment from within and outside Africa," he said.

Vince Musewe, an economist, urged the continent to focus more on infrastructure development and technology transfer to fast-track the process of industrialization.

"Africa is falling behind because of under developed infrastructure," he said.

"We have failed to industrialize and depend too much on imports as a continent. We are also not investing enough in our human capital potential as China has shown us that you invest in your people first then you create economic opportunity for them by developing industry," Musewe added.