Forty-four Member States have signed the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area and 31 the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment. Seven Member States have already ratified the Free Trade Area Agreement, of which four of which Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda and Niger, have deposited the relevant instruments. One Member State, Rwanda, ratified the Protocol on Free Movement and deposited its instrument of ratification.
I urge the Member States that have not yet done so, to make the necessary arrangements to become parties to these instruments. It is equally important that the Member States that have not yet done so to join the Single African Air Transport Market.
I would like to stress here the crucial importance of the free movement of persons. As I have had the opportunity to say it on many occasions, it is high time that Africans cease to be foreigners on their own continent. I congratulate those Member States that have already taken steps to ease visa procedures or simply abolished them for African citizens.
I seize this opportunity to stress that it is important, for our collective credibility, that Africans be treated with dignity and respect across the continent.
Over the past months, the Commission pursued the initiated within the context of the reform of our Union. A comprehensive report on this issue is submitted to Heads of State and Government. I am delighted at the consensus reached by Member States on this issue. We must persevere on this path, as it is true that without reform there is no salvation for our Union.
One of the important aspects of the institutional reform is the financing of the Union. Although the road ahead is still long, we can legitimately take pride in the progress made. Indeed, 23 Member States already apply or are about to apply the 0.2% levy on eligible imports.
It cannot be repeated enough: without financial autonomy, our ambitious Agenda 2063 will be nothing more than a catalogue of good intentions and our claim to continental leadership and African ownership will be nothing but wishful thinking.
The commitment of the Member States to make greater contribution to the financing of the Union must go hand in hand with a rigorous management of our resources, based on the most transparent, demanding and credible accountability.
I am committed to strengthen the internal governance of the Commission, which must be in line with this exigency and the expectations of our peoples, building on the measures already taken. The Commission, including the elected officials and the organs of the Union must lead by example and be a model of virtue, probity and devotion in the service of the continent.
This Year has been declared "Year of the Fight against Corruption." We must redouble our efforts to eradicate this scourge. A multiform action is required. May I seize this opportunity to stress, once again, the importance of following up the recommendations of the Thabo Mbeki Panel on illicit financial flows. Africa loses at least $ 50 billion a year because of these illicit flows. It is obvious that if these resources were kept on the continent it would greatly help finance its development.
We must go beyond incantations to mark our commitment to fight corruption with the stamp of concrete action. Member States are strongly challenged to take the measures demanded by the situation and to meet the aspirations of our peoples for good governance. If corruption is not aggressively combated, the cohesion of our societies and the viability of our States will be permanently affected.
The objective of silencing the guns by 2020 must fully mobilise our energies. I urge all the Member States still facing the scourge of conflicts and political crises to commit themselves to dialogue and compromise. By mentioning the conflicts that plague the continent, we cannot avoid being challenged by the untold suffering inflicted on civilian populations: from South Sudan to central Mali, going through the Central African Republic, these populations pay a high price for violence.
Nothing is more urgent than the organisation of peaceful, free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the end of this year; the conclusion of the reconciliation process in the Central African Republic; the successful conclusion of the political dialogue in Burundi; measures to defuse the crisis in western Cameroon as well as the reactivation of the negotiation process in Western Sahara.
These are so many measures whose concretisation will bring us closer to fulfilling our ambition for a stable and peaceful Africa.
It is encouraging to note the commitment that Ethiopia and Eritrea are demonstrating to normalise their relations. Similarly, recent progress in South Sudan is a source of optimism. I pay tribute to the leaders of the region, especially Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Presidents Omar Hassan Al Bashir and Yoweri Musevini, for their efforts.
By H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat,
Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union.