Africa's leaders are heading to Addis Ababa for the semi-annual African
Union summit. Foreign-minister-level meetings are in progress through
Saturday, and more than half of Africa's 50-plus heads of state and
government are expected to attend, along with a host of dignitaries led
by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The preliminary sessions are
devoted to one of Africa's most glaring deficiencies, its weak
The three-day heads-of-state meeting beginning
Sunday is expected to be taken up with Africa's most urgent crises.
Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Darfur are at the top of the agenda. Hanging
over it all is the pending International Criminal Court arrest warrant
for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The normally two-day
summit agenda has been expanded to three, to include a day-long
discussion of a proposal to create a pan-African governmental
authority, similar in scope to the European Union. The so-called
United States of Africa is a pet project of Libyan leader Moammar
Gaddafi, who is due to take over the African Union's rotating
The theme of the gathering, developing
infrastructure, has been relegated to a pre-summit meeting of experts
and 85 minutes of summit time.
At the opening experts'
session, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Elham Ibrahim
said better roads and shared energy systems are essential in realizing
the dream of an interconnected and unified Africa.
"I am sure
they are basic elements to build our integration by roads and transport
means, and also by energy, which gives the base, the main element, the
engine for development as a whole. To build a road we also need
energy, so they are together working for developing our continent and
building our infrastructure, which will support our United States of
Africa," said Ibrahim.
African Business Roundtable President
Bamanga Tukur deplored the political and economic obstacles that
prevent Africans from enjoying the fruits of prosperity. He called
infrastructure "the backbone of Africa's development."
example, take Cotonou and Lagos, it is 80 kilometers or so, you find
about 16 obstacle roadblocks, yet they sign an agreement. Remove it.
Removing that alone will make, if we remove only these obstacles, I can
assure you our communities will have cheaper goods through trade,
stronger economies, richer culture," said Tukur.
States is playing an unusually low-key role at this summit. In the
past, senior State Department officials have used these continental
gatherings as a forum for articulating U.S. policy goals for Africa.
the Obama administration has not yet named its Africa team, and the
post of U.S. ambassador to the African Union is vacant. The American
delegation will be led by a career diplomat, acting Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs Philip Carter.