|18th AU summit opens to discuss intra-Africa trade|
ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The 18th African Union (AU) summit opened on Sunday here in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, as African leaders gathered with the theme of "Boosting Intra-African Trade."
AUC Chairman Jean Ping, addressing the opening ceremony, said that Africa needs to continue to strengthen its peace and security. He noted that there are still outside interference into African internal affairs, which must be avoided.
Ping hailed the rapid economic growth of the continent. "In spite of the difficult international situation, growth on the continent has remained robust in 2011, reaching an average of five to six per cent. Several countries have exceeded this figure, some even reaching double figure growth rate," he said.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for establishing a peaceful world with sustainable development, respecting the rights of women and children, and dealing with climate change.
He called on the head of states attending the summit to help countries in transition. "This year, 25 African countries will hold elections at either the presidential, legislative or local level. Let us work to ensure all the elections are well-managed, transparent and inclusive," he said.
Ban also expressed his gratitude to China for funding the new AU Conference Center. He said that the new conference center of AU is "another sign of a rising Africa, a meeting ground for African peace and prosperity for generations to come".
Ban praised the relocation of UN political office for Somalia to Mogadishu last week, and for the first time in 17 years. ''This one modest office is a symbol. An unmistakable symbol of the struggle and sacrifice of all those who it possible, most notably the brave soldiers of AMISOM," he said.
Top Chinese political advisor Jia Qinglin delivered a speech at the opening ceremony.
Before his speech, Jia, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, presented the congratulatory message from Chinese President Hu Jintao to the summit.
"Since the beginning of the 21st century, China-Africa relations have grown rapidly and made in-depth progress on all fronts. The establishment and development of the Forum on China- Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa have boosted bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the political, economic, trade and cultural fields, making our political trust stronger, our shared interests closer and the friendship between our peoples deeper," said Hu in his message.
"Going forward, we will continue to work with the African side to build upon past achievements and take the new type of China- Africa strategic partnership to a higher and broader plane, thus making even greater contribution to the cause of peace and development in Africa and the world as a whole." Hu added.
After delivering Hu's message, Jia said: "We are glad to see that the AU has become an important force for peace, stability and development in Africa and the world as a whole thanks to its growth over the decade. We have every reason to believe that, under its guidance, Africa will make even greater and more solid progress along the path of strength through unity."
Jia said: "China views and develops its relations with Africa from a strategic and long-term perspective. We will look harder with African countries to bring the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to higher level."
The Chinese top political advisor put forward five proposals to boost China-Africa ties including promoting the traditional friendship between China and Africa, intensifying coordination and cooperation on international and regional issues, endeavoring to raise the level of economic cooperation, expanding people-to people exchanges, and enhancing the building of FOCAC.
Jia also announced that China will provide a total of 600 million yuan (about 95 million U.S. dollars) free assistance to the AU in the next three years.
At the first day of the two-day meeting, AU appointed President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni to succeed Equatorial Guinea's President Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as the rotating president of the African Union for one year.
The summit is also set to elect new members of the AU Commission (AUC), namely, the Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and the eight Commissioners. The current AUC members are coming to the end of its four year mandate in January 2012.