AEP welcome by AU and AUF Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

When Africa adopted its 50-year vision, Agenda 2063: The Africa we want, it committed current and future generations to a vision of shared peace and prosperity in an integrated continent. The continent has come a long way, and its fortunes have changed. Vibrant cities across the length and breadth of Africa are an example of developments, entrepreneurship, innovation and expansions in infrastructure. 

Africa is a continent of great possibilities, a continent endowed with mineral and natural resources. But its most precious resource is its people. We are a continent of a billion people and by 2050 it is estimated that we will be more than two billion. And what characterises this population is that it is a young population. 

As the youngest continent, with more than half of the population being girls and women, we can reach for more, do much more, do it faster and more inclusively, to ensure the structural transformation of African economies to make shared prosperity a reality.

It is therefore very important that we invest in this young resource - our people, especially in health and education. We need to skill them especially in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics areas so that they can innovate and drive our transformation. 

To transform our continent we need to ensure that we can industrialise, add value and beneficiate our natural and mineral resources. Starting with agriculture, we are going to modernise agriculture but also improve and grow our agro-businesses. We are going to be industrialising and off course to industrialise and add value to our natural and mineral resources we need skilled young men and women. It is the youth and the women who will be driving the transformation of our continent, and of course entrepreneurship is amongst the skills they will need,because it is an acquired skill.

In addition, we need mobilisation of resources so that indeed when our young people have innovated, they can commercialise their innovations, but also those who want to be entrepreneurs can start up their businesses and those who are small businesses can grow their businesses. 

The Summit of the African Union in Kigali reflected on the importance of the Continental Free Trade Area and Free movement of people, in the context of promoting intra-African trade and investment, industrialisation, tourism, agro processing as well as services, and develop Pan African businesses more generally. 

Our pledge in Agenda 2063 is to use the diversity that is our strength as a force for peace and democracy, to transform our economies, and to eradicate poverty and create a better life for all Africans. 

I would like to announce that on 20 – 22 March 2017 we shall convene the inaugural African Economic Platform in Mauritius to have the conversation with the African private sector, academics, and think tanks on the urgent issues of trade, resources, skills, industrialisation, integration and free movement on our continent. I look forward to seeing you in Mauritius.