Francisco José da Cruz,
Ambassador of Angola to Ethiopia, AU, UNECA
BY GIRMACHEW GASHAW
The Africa Union has made its 36th Head of States and Governments summit from February 16 to 19 / 2023 at its headquarter Addis Ababa ,Ethiopia with the presence of UN Secretary General António Guterres and other top ranking officials.
The summit concluded passing imperative decisions with regard to various continental agenda’s mainly peace and security, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and AU reform. The Ethiopian Herald raised a range of questions to Francisco José da Cruz, the Angolan Ambassador to Ethiopia, African Union and UN Economic Commission for Africa. The briefing of the ambassador is presented as follows. Have a nice read!
What is the focus of the 36th African Union Heads of State and Government summit?
The 36th African Union summit focused on diverse issues. First of all it finds ways for advancing the African Free Trade Zone and how we are able to move forward with regional integration. We also discuss peace and security issues centralizing DRC as it currently faces multiple, simultaneous crises including violent conflict and instability.
Last Friday, we had two mini summits on DRC: one was organized by Angola and Burundi to discuss the heads of state on the situation in East DRC. Later on, there was a Peace and Security Council meeting on DRC again under the chairmanship of South Africa. Peace and security is a priority for Africa if we want to have development.
The African Union summit has highlighted some progresses we have made in the continent especially the peace agreement made between the federal government of Ethiopia and TPLF which is seen as the very encouraging step in silencing the gun in the continent and to emphasize the importance of national dialogue and inclusive way of dealing with national issues. We have also seen progress in some other parts of the continent even though we still have concerned countries, especially those who made unconstitutional changes of governments.
It is important to indicate that they continue to make progress and come up with a civilian lead government so that they can rejoin the African Union as they have been suspended. It seems that the summit has accomplished the goals and expectations. So, now is the time to implement the decision we have made.
“The African Union summit has highlighted some progresses we have made in the continent especially the peace agreement made between the federal government of Ethiopia and TPLF which is seen as the very encouraging step in silencing the gun in the continent and to emphasize the importance of national dialogue and inclusive way of dealing with national issues.”
Most of the time the Africa Union passes important decisions, however, what factors forced it to lagging behind?
That is why the institutional reform of the African Union is significant. President Paul Kagame has once again presented the report. We are making progress even though not up to our level of expectations but we are definitely moving on the right track. This organization needs to be more result oriented, make things and even make decisions with a very pragmatic approach and decisions we now can implement them not just as political statements without practical ways of making them a reality. The approach we are trying to follow and we see that and we are moving in that direction.
AU was commending Ethiopia for the milestone to ensure peace in the country. How do you see it?
This is a very important example of how we can really have African solutions to African problems and how Nationals (people of the same nation) can overcome their differences. There would always be some challenges/ grievances but as long as we are committed to the common good, we will find solutions. That is what the federal government and TPLF demonstrate with the signing of the peace agreement and the way the agreement has been implemented. The agreement was signed at the time when we are still facing a number of challenges in terms of democracy and political inclusion. So, we really salute the Ethiopian leaders for showing the way and having taken a high ground approach to solving national problems.
The African Union is reforming itself. Would you tell us the progress?
There has been reform to make the organization efficient to make it align with main power capable of running the organization in a more efficient way. It is not an easy process. It takes time and step by step, we are moving in the right direction. We are making recruitment based on merit which requires attention, an approach that at the end really hires the most talented African we can find in the market.
What do you think would be the challenges awaiting Africa free trade area so as to implement it across the continent?
When you have a very pragmatic approach, in this process, the regional economic communities play a very critical role. It is also necessary that as countries we start trading more between ourselves and try to find solutions to our commercial needs in Africa first before trying to go to the other regions in the world. It has to be a result oriented approach which brings the benefit of trading with our neighbor first, without region and the continent as a whole.
What should governments do in supporting AfCFTA and the reform as a whole?
I think the government must create incentives for the private sector to play a role. We need to facilitate VISA’s so that people and goods are moving freely across borders. We need to address the trade barriers that make things much easier for the private sector to play the role which is important and need to have a regional integration to make sure that the free trade area becomes a reality in the continent.
With regard to the reform, it is also important and that is why the AU can help the member states to become more aligned in terms of policies and regulations conducive to enhancing trade and cooperation among ourselves.
Does the AU reform help Agenda 2063?
Yes. Because what we do is to make sure that we are able to achieve the strategic objectives of Agenda 2063. For that we have to have an organization which is efficient with the main power capable of driving it in the right directions and align with the objectives of agenda 2063.
So the approach the new AU commission is taking as I said we are in the process of recruiting the best and most talented Africans. We have a system to place based on merit, trying to be more transparent, equitable and give the opportunities to all member states to come forward with the nationals. At the end we have a representative of the continent as a whole.
“We think that for us peace and stability in the continent is important to achieve progress. Therefore it is always a matter of concern when peace and stability are challenged in any member state. As a whole, we think that it is important to make an effort to silence the gun in the continent because it will be the only way we will fulfill the agenda 2063, and will be able to provide conditions for our people.” If you want to add any more points, Please take a chance.
African countries achieved independence because of the resolve and determination of our people and our leaders. Today we continue to face challenges in terms of peace and stability, development, the wellbeing of the population and we can only achieve sustainable solutions if they are based on our reality. And that is why the AU is pursuing the strategic objective of identifying African solutions to African problems we face today. This has to become at the continental level or our individual countries’ agenda. Because we know what problems we face and solutions have to be based on our facts, our realities so that we can come up with very pragmatic solutions to which people can buy into, they become part of those solutions to be sustainable.
We think that for us peace and stability in the continent is important to achieve progress. Therefore it is always a matter of concern when peace and stability are challenged in any member state. As a whole, we think that it is important to make an effort to silence the gun in the continent because it will be the only way we will fulfill the agenda 2063, and will be able to provide conditions for our people. The world is becoming more competitive and we need to be united to be able to defend our interest in this international environment in which everything is becoming more competitive.
I just want to say that we should continue to have hope that the continent is moving in the right direction. There is more ownership of Africans regarding our own future. It is important we continue to find “African solutions to African problems” as those solutions will be based on our reality and traditions as well as culture. So, they have to be sustainable. We need to have a strong sense of solidarity helping those countries in need. That is why a country like Angola is engaged in conflict prevention, management and resolution due to the fact that we have experience and sense. Because of our own history we make it available and provide assistance to other countries based on that. This is the way to move forward with our continent. So we can achieve the objective of agenda 2063.
Thank you very much.
You are welcome
THE ETHIOPIAN HERALD SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2023