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Tshisekedi assumes AU chair, vows to address impact of COVID-19 pandemic

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) takes over the chair of the African Union (AU), there is an emphasis on resolving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent, while underlining the need for polio immunisation.

President Tshisekedi
President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo of DRC

On Saturday, February 6, 2021, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, assumed the Chairship of the African Union (AU), on the first day of the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

During a partially virtual, partially in-person ceremony, President Tshisekedi succeeded his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the organisation’s rotating chairperson.

While the official theme of the year 2021 is “Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want,” the focus of the AU will also be on addressing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent, which has disproportionately affected the lives and livelihoods of the African people.

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President Tshisekedi said: “Despite country and continent-wide control measures, the impact of COVID-19 has imposed enormous human, financial and socio-economic costs on the African People. This crisis, however, also gives us the chance to re-examine our socio-economic priorities and work towards a sustainable and inclusive economic growth which allows African women and girls to contribute to our societies to the fullest.

“We must be more self-reliant and find collective solutions to our problems and start an ‘African Renaissance’ as outlined in the seven Aspirations of our AU Agenda 2063: the ‘Africa We Want.’ We must seize the moment and unite to build the “Africa We Want” and an African Union at the service of the People.

“To that end, the Democratic Republic of Congo, during its term as President of the African Union, has chosen to elevate African voices. We will focus on sustainable development by and for the African People. We will work to ensure their integral well-being, peace and security, health care and a strong response against COVID-19, as well as food security. Agricultural transformation, education, gender equality, climate justice, the free movement of people and goods, and freedom of speech and religion, as well as the enhancement of our common heritage: languages, and memorial sites of the history of

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“To that end, the Democratic Republic of Congo, during its term as President of the African Union, has chosen to elevate African voices. We will focus on sustainable development by and for the African People. We will work to ensure their integral well-being, peace and security, health care and a strong response against COVID-19, as well as food security.

“Agricultural transformation, education, gender equality, climate justice, the free movement of people and goods, and freedom of speech and religion, as well as the enhancement of our common heritage: languages, and memorial sites of the history of African people, will also be at the centre of our agenda,” the president added.

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He concluded: “For all of us, the COVID-19 outbreak has been a stark reminder that viruses and diseases know no borders. This is why, I will work with AU leadership to make Primary and Universal Healthcare and immunisation key pillars of our action in the year to come.

“Our commitment to protecting all Africans from disease, and to eradicate disease, as we have done with wild polio in Africa, must sit centre stage in our vision for a prosperous African Union at the service of the People. Because there is no prosperity or well-being without health.”

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