Thursday, 22 October 2020

Pretoria: African Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has called on the Nigerian government to desist from the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law amid the #EndSARS protests.

The call comes amid weeks of protests dubbed the #EndSARS protests on social media, calling for an end to police brutality by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Nigeria.

Amid mounting pressure, the SARS was disbanded by the Nigerian government.

“As we meet here, we are deeply concerned about the violence that has taken place in recent days in Lagos in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“We join the Chairperson of the AU Commission in calling on all political and social actors to reject the use of violence and respect human rights and the rule of law.

“We offer our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” said President Ramaphosa.

The President made the call during the second mid-year coordination meeting of the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms held on Thursday.

The mid-year coordination meeting is the principal forum for the AU, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) to harmonise their work and coordinate implementation of the continental integration agenda.

Economic recovery post COVID-19

The meeting comes as the continent is still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the continent’s economy.

Through cooperation at a continental level, the AU formed the African Task Force for Coronavirus, which established the Partnership for Accelerated COVID-19 testing campaign, and launched the innovative Africa Medical Supplies Platform to ensure that all African countries have access to affordable medical equipment, diagnostics and other essential supplies.

“That we have been able to respond proactively to the COVID-19 threat is due to the great work of the AU Commission and the Member States.

“On behalf of us all I wish to thank His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Commissioner for Social Affairs, Mrs Amira Elfadil Mohammed and the Director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr John Nkengasong, for their efforts,” said President Ramaphosa.

Economic integration

With eyes set on economic recovery, President Ramaphosa said the continent remains united in its quest for economic integration.

“While some Regional Economic Communities have made significant progress in key areas of integration, others have struggled to achieve the goals set out in their respective treaties and conventions and in meeting the milestones set out in the Abuja Treaty.

“We welcome the fact that all the Regional Economic Communities affirm the importance of trade in advancing economic integration,” he said.

With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) set to come into operation next year, President Ramaphosa said economic integration will be given added momentum.

The AfCFTA offers the continent a great opportunity for job creation, industrial linkages, economic diversification and structural transformation.

“The pandemic will in the long term lead to a trade rebalancing, with economies in the developed world turning to localisation, local job retention and other programmes to support their respective recoveries.

“So too must we use this opportunity to engage in greater trade with each other and to create more jobs and opportunities for our people, especially for youth, women and persons with disabilities,” said the President.

AfCFTA Protocol for African Women in Trade

With women identified as the driving force for trade in both the formal and informal economies, President Ramaphosa said greater economic opportunities must be afforded to women, including higher levels of public procurement for women-owned businesses.

“The African Union should consider an AfCFTA Protocol for African Women in Trade as a legislated instrument for trade facilitation for women in Africa.

“Without targeted trade facilitation, women will be excluded from the benefits of the AfCFTA by virtue of the structural barriers that women face in Africa’s economies,” he said.