A somewhat subdued celebration is underway in the Ugandan capital, Kampala as Africa's leaders gather for a summit two weeks after suicide bombers struck the city, killing 76 people. Our correspondent reports Africa's leaders are determined to give a forceful response to the Somali insurgent group that claimed responsibility for the bombings.
'The show must go on'. Those words from Master of Ceremonies Jeff Koinange brought scattered applause from nervous summit participants at the launch of a new Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa.
PIDA, as it is known, is a long-range project to correct the infrastructure deficiencies that hamper trade among African countries, making many goods and services unaffordable or unavailable on the continent. As an example, Koinange noted the cost of a phone call from Africa to the United States is often cheaper than a call from one African country to another.
"The cost of telephone within Africa are ridiculously high," said Jeff Koinange. "Probably three, four, five, sometimes 10 times higher than anywhere else in the world, but whatever price is being charged, we have to pay because we have no choice."
The launch of PIDA has summit participants talking about the new 'can do' attitude on the continent, epitomized by the spectacular success of the World Cup. South African President Jacob Zuma described this moment as the time Africa turns its dreams into reality.
"We have what it takes," said President Zuma. "What everybody's been talking about here is the successful World Cup tournament. There was nothing from out of Africa which made that success. It was all from within. Those who were doubting, who were skeptical, in fact some of them, those who were honest have been confessing that they were wrong, Africa is ready to do it. I think we are, and I think the infrastructure positions us in such a way that the world is going to look at us. I think it's our time to lead the world."
Mr. Zuma, speaking without notes, talked of his dream of pan-African highways stretching from coast to coast.
"We need three major highways in the continent," said Mr. Zuma. "One in the west of Africa connecting from north to south, one in the middle of Africa, one in the east of Africa, together with their rays. We all connect to these. Africa will be a vibrant continent."
The serious summit business begins Sunday. More than 30 leaders will consider Libya's controversial demand for the speedy creation of a union government. They will hear a briefing from former South African president Thabo Mbeki on the possible birth of a new African state next January when Southern Sudan holds an independence referendum. And they will consider ways of correcting Africa's poor maternal health record.
But at the top of the agenda will be Somalia, and specifically how to respond to the deadly bomb attacks in Kampala claimed by the al-Shabab extremist group. AU Peace and Security Commisioner Ramtane Lamamra says the summit communique will reflect the concern of heads of state that Somalia is in danger of becoming a base for al-Qaida terrorists.
"It will convey a message of firmness, resolve, determination, to do what is needed to be done so the international community would prevail," said Ramtane Lamamra.
Lamamra says there is a new determination among member states to give AU peacekeepers the authority to take on the small but well-financed al-Shabab force.
"Al-Shabab can be defeated," said Lamamra. "There are many ways to defeat them. But I believe indeed al-Shabab can be defeated. Anyway they will not prevail."
Sunday's opening session will hear from the summit's guest of honor, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who will be the host of the next climate summit later this year in Cancun. Others on the list include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who will deliver a message on behalf of President Barack Obama.