Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chairperson of the AU Commission, opened the ceremony with a speech that set the tone for this week’s meetings that will culminate in the assembly.
She spoke much about the protection of the population, specifically the situation of young people as more and more try to enter the job market. Praising the advancement of the internet, Dlamini-Zuma said the increase in the number of entrepreneurs across the continent comes down to access to the online world. However, she stressed that the main obstacle that many young people complain of is access to start-up capital.
The AU chairperson also took a moment to talk about the “modern form of slavery” that continues to ravage parts of the continent: human trafficking. She said much needs to be done to ensure that these socio-economic fronts are also tackled.
As expected, Dlamini-Zuma talked about Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency group that continues to wreak havoc across Nigeria. She praised Chad’s willingness to help participate in a force to combat the Islamists, before more destruction is left behind by Boko Haram.
In keeping with the talk of terrorism, she said regarding conflicts that the African continent, “is the only continent in the developing world that quickly attends to it so that it does not rage on as we have seen other conflicts raging on for years, destroying property, lives. So I think we are doing well, but we need to do more.”
A moment that garnered applause was talk of a monument needed here at the AU headquarters to honour those killed while on duty with the African peacekeeping force, for example those killed while on duty with AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia), and MISCA (AU mission in the Central African Republic).
Before ending her opening remarks, Dlamini-Zuma spoke about Ebola; the deadly virus that hit hard in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. She admitted that while initial actions were met with “setbacks”, efforts since have “gathered momentum with significant results”. She added the SMS campaign that helped raise awareness proved positive, but sadly only some 30 countries joined. She said she would have expected to see the number of pariticpants in such a campaign more in the number of 50.