Chair of the African Union Commission Underscores The Importance Of Science and Tech

By Own Correspondent – ADDIS ABABA – The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Jean Ping has returned to Addis Ababa after participating in the 14th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa (COMESA). The meeting was held in Ezulwini, Swaziland from 31 August to 01 September 2010 under the theme: “Harnessing Science and Technology for Development.”

Addressing delegates at the summit, Dr. Ping observed that there is a positive correlation between scientific and technical development on the one hand and development in general. He noted that Africa’s contribution of less than 2% to the global scientific knowledge base was unacceptably low and underscored the urgent need to promote  science and technology research on the continent.

With regard to the regional and world economic climate, the Chairperson said that following the recent systemic financial and economic crisis, Africa now appears ready to resume growth and move a step closer towards achieving its economic potential. He added that Africa was determined to take action in order to achieve its rightful place on the emerging global strategic arena. Using its enormous potential, he continued, the continent has been working in the last few years to create the requisite conditions for its success and assume the ensuing responsibilities.

Dr. Ping regretted that the insufficiency and inconsistent flows in the financial resources of regional economic communities and the Commission continue to hinder the continent’s integration. To that effect, he recalled that the recently concluded AU Summit in Uganda had asked the Commission, through the Conference of Ministers of Finance and Economy, to finalise ongoing efforts to identify alternative sources of funding and have a proposal ready for review and adoption by the Executive Council in January 2011.

He appealed to COMESA and its member states to support the Commission’s efforts in that regard and called on COMESA member states which have not yet done so, to accelerate the signing and ratification of the Protocol Agreement creating the African Investment Bank, one of three Panafrican financial institutions established by the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

The Chairperson commended COMESA for its leading role in promoting sub-regional integration and development and reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to continue supporting the efforts of sub-regional economic communities towards regional and continentalintegration.

In his keynote address the outgoing Chairperson of COMESA, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe said the regional organisation had come a long way, with free trade agreements now exceeding US$15 billion, up from US$3 billion last year. He lauded the great achievements in the agriculture sector, especially in countries such as Malawi and Egypt which have produced surplus staple foods like maize and sugar, thereby enhancing the region’s food security and creating jobs.

On peace and security, Mr. Mugabe said despite several challenges, conflicts in the region had been resolved peacefully and COMESA was working proactively to develop an early warning conflict prevention and mitigation system.

On his part, the incoming COMESA Chairperson and Summit host, His Majesty King Mswati III of Swaziland promised that his kingdom would do everything to ensure that COMESA programmes receive the full support they need. He appealed to member states to continue moving towards deeper economic integration and the expansion of trade through the tripartite Free Trade Area.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is an organisation of 19 member states created to promote regional economic integration through trade and investment. Covering a geographical area of 12 million square kilometres and a population of 430 million, COMESA has an annual import bill of US$152 billion and an export bill of over US$157 (2008).

On the sidelines of the summit, Dr. Jean Ping held fruitful consultations with regional leaders on a broad range of issues of mutual interest.