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African Union Summit Opens In Ethiopia

posted 25 May 2013, 04:10 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 25 May 2013, 04:11 ]

During a special summit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn thanks China for its investments in the continent.

ADDIS ABABAETHIOPIA (MAY 25, 2013) (REUTERS) -  African leaders gathered in Ethiopia on Saturday (May 25) to celebrate 50 years since the launch of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) - a regional block for the continent.

Africa is home to some of the world's fastest growing economies, but it remains dogged by coups, corruption and human rights abuses.

Despite the focus on economics and celebrating the African Union that the OAU eventually developed into, security is expected to dominate conversations at the summit over the next two days, including the battle against al Qaeda linked militants in Mali and Somalia and Nigeria's brutal military campaign against Boko Haram insurgents in its north.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told the summit it was important to overcome poverty and bring economic growth to Africa.

"The African renaissance cannot be realised without bringing about a paradigm shift in our political and social economic governance. We all recognise by now that the policy orthodoxy imposed on us from outside to simply get the price right did not help us to break the vicious circle of poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth. Therefore we have to do more than getting the prices right and play a proactive role in pushing forward our transformation agenda, taking due cognisance of the nature of our respective political, economic and development potentials."

Desalegn explicitly thanked China for investing in Africa and supporting infrastructure projects.

"It is encouraging to note that some of our friends and partners have given priority to infrastructure development in Africa in terms of their strategy partnership with our continent. In this regard I wish to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to China for investing billions [indistinct] to assist us in our development endeavours."

Africa's project to forge deeper ties was launched with the Organisation of African Unity on May 25, 1963, as a wave of African nations won independence from colonial rule.

It was, though, a largely ineffective collection of states which, wary of surrendering national sovereignty, adopted a policy of non-interference in other countries' affairs.

That allowed a raft of autocratic leaders to shun democratic elections and abuse human rights. It became the African Union in 2002 as Africa tried to shake off its reputation for repressive dictators, civil war and famine.

AU forces in Somalia and Mali point to deeper military cooperation against cross-border threats, particularly al Qaeda-linked militants. But it took West African nations weeks to deploy in the wake of the French military's lightning strike against Islamist insurgents this year.