South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s year-long tenure at the helm of the African Union has ended, with his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Felix Tshisekedi taking over the continental leadership for the next 12 months.South Africa handed over the AU chairmanship during a virtual 34th ordinary session of the two-day summit of the continental bloc that kicked off on Saturday.
The AU leaders will continue to make their virtual contributions from their capitals during the two-day event which ends on Sunday.
Handing over the chair to Tshisekedi, Ramaphosa said he was proud of his country’s AU leadership for presiding over important accomplishments in the past year.
One of these, he said, was getting the African Continental Free Trade Area off the ground on 1 January as a major achievement for Africa on its way to economic liberation.
The AU-led fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the bloc’s efforts to secure millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses for its member states also preoccupied his leadership, Ramaphosa said
The fight against the deadly virus, however, would continue using AU mechanisms already set up to work in cooperation with international development partners, he added.
The president said even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank had deployed significant financial resources towards the coronavirus response, more needed to be done to contain the mutating virus.
“Access to concessional finance will remain crucial as countries rebuild their economies,” the South African leader said.
He added: “An injection of fresh resources by the IMF through reallocating and issuing new special drawing rights, with bias towards the developing world, will correct the glaring inequality in fiscal stimulus measures between advanced economies and the rest of the world.”
Africa, with 1.3 billion people, has lost over 94,000 lives to Covid-19, according to records.