South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently took over as chairperson of the African Union (AU) and highlighted a number of issues that will take priority.

South Africa first chaired the AU, 18 years ago in 2002, when former president Thabo Mbeki was elected chairperson of the African body, at the official launch of the Union in Durban.

Ramaphosa takes over from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who had occupied the position from February 10, 2019 up until February 10, 2020.

Upon taking up the chairpersonship the Presidency released a statement of the priorities that Ramaphosa aims to tackle during his tenure as AU head.

  • Promote and support integration, economic development, trade and investment in the continent.
  • Drive the implementation of the presidential infrastructure champion initiative in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
  • Advance women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship.
  • Support the good governance and democracy agenda.
  • Advance African Union-United Nations cooperation.
  • Promote peace and security and advance the effort to Silence the Gun.

Ramaphosa also announced that in May 2020, South Africa will convene an extraordinary summit on “Silencing the Gun”, to assess the progress made to end conflicts, and highlighted conflicts in Libya and South Sudan as pressing issues.

When delivering his speech at the AU headquarters,  Ramaphosa reaffirmed the principle of finding African solutions to African problems as the fundamental approach to addressing all conflicts on the continent, working within the frameworks of the AU and United Nations (UN).

The issues prioritised by the South African President are part of the broader AU agenda envisioned in the Agenda 2063 – which is Africa’s master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future.

Agenda 2063 is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.

The Agenda came about after African leaders realised the need to refocus and reprioritise Africa’s underlying intentions.

The position Ramaphosa currently occupies as the ‘chairperson’ of the AU is the ceremonial head of the organisation elected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government for a year and rotates among East, North, Southern, Central and West Africa leaders.

As the incumbent head, Ramaphosa will chair the AU’s biannual summit and represents the continent international forums such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Group of Eight (G8) and Group Twenty (G20) summits.