South Africa will be taking the reins of the African Union (AU) from next month with a clear mandate of ending conflict on the continent and bringing collective prosperity to its people. The African Union Heads of State Summit, which will see President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed as AU Chair, will take place on the 9th and 10th February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

South Africa will receive the baton from Egypt at the summit themed “Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”. Outgoing chair of the African Union Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been leading from the front with regards to ensuring greater African economic integration.

Egypt’s Ambassador to South Africa Sherif Issa has spoken of his push towards the vision, first mooted by Prime Minister of the Cape Colony Cecil Rhodes in the 1890s, of a Pan-African Highway.

“Egypt Air is the only carrier that is functioning and working between Egypt and South Africa, it’s a dream always to have the Cairo-South Africa, the Cairo Cape Road is a dream, the Cairo Cape flights is a dream. The road is almost finished so I want to give you the good news that the two presidents when they meet in Addis Ababa they will announce that Cairo Cape is a functioning project almost finished and let’s hope that this will strengthen the trade relations between Egypt and South Africa and the neighbouring countries between Egypt and South Africa.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa and President el-Sisi have been working in recent months towards the February handover. Ramaphosa visited Cairo in December last year but cut short his trip due to challenges at power utility Eskom.

He says the upliftment of Africa’s people is paramount during this year’s chairing of the AU.

“South Africa takes over the Chairpersonship of the AU at a critical time for the institution and the continent characterised by positive dynamism, opportunities and complex challenges facing the continent. In pursuance of South Africa chairing the African Union we will work with progressive political parties on the continent to silence the guns. We are committed to Africa’s economic development and the social and political integration of the continent, in this regard we will work to ensure that the Africa Free Trade Continent.”

Ambassador Issa Shariff says the theme of the upcoming summit is appropriate to carry the agenda of a peaceful continent forward.

“We have the priority of peace and security on the continent which will be continued by South Africa with the silencing of the guns and we also have the African Free Trade Agreement which entered into force during the chairpersonship of Egypt and it will be implemented during the Chairmanship of South Africa.”

Ramaphosa will have his work cut out on the peace and security front with Shariff outlining what are the most pressing issues.

“President Ramaphosa was invited in February to attend the meeting about Libya, the Libyan crisis. It is not a simple crisis to be solved within a night and a day. It needs hard work not just from Africa but also from international forces. South Africa is playing a very important part in peacekeeping forces, Somalia is a place that we need to keep there, Central Africa the same, Congo is the same. So we are having many hotspots that peacekeeping needs to stabilise.”