High food and oil prices on the world market are challenges to Africa that should be checked to save many economies in the continent from collapse, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete said on Monday.
“If these challenges are not checked, they will cripple many African economies which have been doing very well in the last few years,” Kikwete, who is also the Chairman of the African Union (AU), said at the installation of the newly elected executives of the AU Commission.
After witnessing the handing-over of the symbols of the union by out-going AUC chairperson Alpha Oumar Konare to his successor, Jean Ping, Kikwete said the voice of the AU has to be heard and its leadership on this matter needs to be seen visibly.
“These are some of the challenges that lie ahead of our organisation and for all of us. “However, I take comfort in the fact that our organisation is in the very able and experienced hands of Jean Ping, Vice-Chairperson Erastus Mwencha and the new commissioners,” the AU chairman added.
To mark the assumption of office by the new commission, Konare handed Ping the AU flag and the Union Constitutive Act at a ceremony attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as well as African and other heads of diplomatic missions based here.
Despite the many achievements of the AU in recent years, Kikwete noted the new leadership of the AUC was inheriting, among other challenges, the continuing conflicts in the Darfur region of Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic and Somalia.
He also mentioned the situation in the DR Congo, Burundi and Zimbabwe as demanding close attention of the AU.
On the international stage, Kikwete said the AU has established itself “as a credible and dependable regional institution.”
As a result, he stated, the AU has succeeded in establishing strong partnerships with the European Union, Japan, China, South American countries, South Korea and India.
“We look forward to the new leadership to consolidate and develop further, these partnerships for the benefit of our continent,” Kikwete said, urging the new team at the AUC to ensure the vision of the AU up to 2015 as developed by their predecessors was realised.
“The out-going leadership has successfully steered the commission through the difficult formative stages and transition period. The foundation has been laid, the AU is up and running.
“The AU is well-known and respected globally. You are now charged with the enviable task of consolidating the gains and propelling this institution to greater heights.”
Kikwete paid tribute to Konare as a person who served the AU very well and with a lot of zeal, devotion and fidelity, noting “he has always been a source of inspiration to all of us.”
According to Kikwete, Konare has written an indelible chapter in the annals of the history of the AU, adding he (Konare) and his team succeeded in building a strong organisation and recorded visible achievements.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi echoed the same sentiments, paying tribute to Konare “for having raised to a very high level, the profile of the AU internationally.”