Tackling growing refugee problem placed on top of AU Summit agenda
China stands ready to join hands with the African Union and African countries to promote cooperation related to the Belt and Road Initiative and build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future, President Xi Jinping said on Sunday.
Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message to the opening of the 32nd AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where at least 30 African heads of state and government gathered to tackle complex issues surrounding international and internal migration of people at a time when the global community stands divided on the way forward.
Calling the AU a banner that unites the African countries to pursue self-renewal, Xi praised the integration process of the continent and the great headway made since last year under the guidance of the organization.
African countries continue to speak with a united voice on important international and regional issues, and the international influence of the continent keeps rising, Xi said, adding he sincerely hopes the AU will lead African countries to make greater achievements.
Xi recalled the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in September, saying he and leaders of African countries, along with the AU, mapped out a blueprint on the development of relations between China and Africa.
He called on Africa to take advantage of the opportunities brought by implementing the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and work together with China to advance synergy of the BRI with the AU's Agenda 2063, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations as well as the development strategies of African countries.
The annual AU Summit kicked off under a cloud of uncertainty after five countries, including the United States, opposed the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration during the UN General Assembly in December. The agreement was the outcome of a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier that month.
At the summit, which focuses on refugees and displacement, Africa is expected to come up with innovative approaches to address the unprecedented recent movement of people. Conflict, poverty and climate change were identified as root causes.
Africa contributes about 26 percent of the world's 25.4 million displaced individuals, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. More than half are under the age of 18.
On the eve of the AU summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the continent for enhancing its efforts in devising peaceful political transitions and helping reduce incidences of mass displacement. In January, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Madagascar saw peaceful political transitions.
"I believe that Africa is proving that it is possible to solve conflicts and prevent conflicts. And this wind of hope can be extended to other parts of the world," he said.
While reflecting on his 10-year stint at the helm of the UN Refugee Agency, Guterres said African borders have remained open for refugees. This solidarity is an example to the world, he said.
Vera Songwe, executive director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said the continent will not achieve its desired accelerated economic development if it marginalizes a share of its population. "An Africa in search of growth cannot afford the luxury of camps. An Africa needing to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot keep its children out of schools."
She said the loss of productivity from refugees is dragging down Africa's resurgence at a time when globalization is facing head winds. "The prediction for 2019 remains below the 4 percent (GDP) growth mark. These levels of growth fall far short of what is needed to deliver an emerging Africa, Agenda 2030 or Agenda 2063."
There are nevertheless successful integration projects in Uganda, Rwanda, Morocco and Ethiopia. Rwanda has worked with 3,300 urban refugees, resulting in 2,600 new jobs created nationally.