6 February 2021

Your Excellencies, Members of African Union Bureau,
Your Excellencies, Members of the African Union Assembly,
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Executive Council,
Heads of AU Organs,
Heads of Regional Economic Communities,
Commissioners of the AU Commission.
Distinguished Guests,
Fellow Africans,

I call to order this meeting of the 34th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

Allow me to begin by thanking you all for attending this virtual meeting of the Assembly.

We are holding this 34th Ordinary Session as a virtual meeting instead of a physical gathering following a decision of the AU Bureau at its meeting of 30 January 2021, which was also attended by the Chairs of the Regional Economic Communities.

This decision was based on an assessment by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of the risks of holding a physical gathering of this nature at this time.

As a continent, and as a global community, we are engaged in an unprecedented struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

This disease has caused great suffering and hardship across our continent.

It is not only a severe health emergency; it is also a grave economic and social crisis.

It has deepened global inequality and threatens to set back progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Despite the upheaval caused by this disease, our response as a continent has been about partnership, resilience, innovation and the sharing of strategies and resources.

The people of this continent have shown themselves to be resourceful and agile.

Significantly, this pandemic has demonstrated the importance and the value of our continental body, the African Union.

It is through the structures of the AU that we have been able to drive a collective response to this crisis, marshalling resources for the benefit of all, and striving to ensure that no country is left behind.

As we prepare for the massive task of vaccinating our populations against COVID-19, we are looking to the AU and its partners to provide the assistance and support we need.

Even as we have fought a monumental struggle against this disease, our continental body, the African Union, has brought into existence the African Continental Free Trade Area.

We know that COVID-19 is not yet defeated, and that there will be difficult times ahead, but we draw encouragement from the great opportunities that the AfCFTA presents for the growth, development and prosperity of our continent.

We also draw encouragement from the progress we have made in bringing peace and stability to parts of the continent that have long been plagued by conflict.

We know that there is still a long road to travel to silence the guns in Africa, but we have shown that we are both determined and capable of achieving that goal.

The events of the last year have demonstrated that no country, no people and no continent can stand alone in the face of the challenges that confront humanity.

From pandemics to climate change, from war to poverty, we need to overcome shared problems through collective action.

As the countries of Africa, as the Member States of the African Union, we have once again reaffirmed – through our actions – our commitment to the principles of unity and solidarity.

It is this commitment that has enabled us to travel this far, and it is this commitment which will enable us to travel further, towards a peaceful, just and prosperous future.

With these words, I once again welcome you to this esteemed meeting.

I thank you.