Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Sunday that African states have proven over the past year that the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic could not stop the progress of the African Union (AU) 2063 Agenda.
The president's remarks came as he inaugurated in a virtual speech the second edition of the Aswan Forum for Sustainable Peace and Development, which is held 1-5 March.
The second edition of the Aswan forum, which is organised under the theme "Shaping Africa’s new normal: Recovering stronger, rebuilding better” kicked off virtually today with the participation of various African leaders.
The president said coronavirus-related challenges and repercussions increase “our insistence on proceeding with implementing our plans and restoring construction in a better way in order to achieve the African Union 2063 Agenda.”
“Egypt has been keen to hold the second edition of the forum virtually in order to build on the momentum and success achieved by the first edition,” the president said.
This keenness “also stems from [the Egyptian] belief that the current time is ideal to discuss the other serious challenges facing our continent,” El-Sisi said.
The president said the forum is also a chance to discuss “the best ways and mechanisms to support our joint efforts to recover from the pandemic, restore construction [efforts] in a better way and steer our continent to safety.”
The president highlighted in his speech that the serious economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have contributed to exacerbating the dangers facing the continent, including the smuggling and proliferation of weapons, human trafficking, irregular migration, and forced displacement.
El-Sisi also reiterated the African demand on the international community to ensure the fair distribution of the coronavirus vaccine worldwide.
“The current stage has brought new challenges, on top of which is securing the vaccine [doses] required for our peoples. I am keen to emphasize on this occasion the African demand of the necessity to secure them in a more equitable and just way,” the president said.
He called on fellow African leaders to unify efforts to support the African mechanisms which aim to prevent or settle conflicts in the continent, and to enhance various states’ capabilities in facing ongoing threats.
During his speech, the president affirmed Egypt’s support for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), saying that its activation earlier this year serves as a “good example for the success of our collective work.”
“I reiterate Egypt’s full support for the AfCFTA and the need to accelerate the implementation of its entitlements, complete its negotiation process and activate its policies,” the president added.
El-Sisi said the continent is currently in need for “ambitious projects” including in the fields of transportation, roads, cross-border electricity linkage.
These projects aim to “enhance the desired economic and regional integration, create an appropriate environment to achieve high levels of development and secure job opportunities in a way that contributes to overcoming the economic implications of the pandemic,” El-Sisi said.
The president also highlighted the pivotal role of information technology in helping nations tackle the impact of the coronavirus, calling for boosting investment in the digital transformation field.
“Full recovery from the pandemic requires developing sustainable development policies that include economic, social and environmental dimensions,” the president said.
He also said that the AU theme for this year, titled ‘Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want,’ reflects “the soft power to bring nations together in a way that helps to address challenges with enlightened thought that fits the culture and civilisation of our African nations.”
The president affirmed Egypt’s commitment to carrying out its responsibilities in post-conflict development and reconstruction through activating the AU Centre for Reconstruction and Development (AUC-PCRD) in Egypt.