Launch of the African Union, 9 July 2002: Address by the chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki

ABSA Stadium, Durban
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Your Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Distinguished delegates and guests,
Premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal,
Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Durban,
People of Africa:

By forming the Union, the peoples of our continent have made the unequivocal statement that Africa must unite! We as Africans have a common and a shared destiny! Together, we must redefine this destiny for a better life for all the people of this continent.

The first task is to achieve unity, solidarity, cohesion, cooperation among peoples of Africa and African states. We must build all the institutions necessary to deepen political, economic and social integration of the African continent. We must deepen the culture of collective action in Africa and in our relations with the rest of the world.

Our second task is that of developing new forms of partnerships at all levels and segments of our societies, between segments of our societies and our governments and between our governments. We must mobilize all segments of civil society, including women, youth, labour and the private sector to act together to maximise our impact and change our continent for the better.

As Africans, we have come to understand that there can be no sustainable development without peace, without security and without stability. The Constitutive Act provides for mechanisms to address this change which stands between the people of Africa and their ability and capacity to defeat of poverty, disease and ignorance.

Together we must work for peace, security and stability for the people of this continent. We must end the senseless conflicts and wars on our continent which have caused so much pain and suffering to our people and turned many of them into refugees and displacees and forced others into exile.

We must accept that dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts are the only way to guarantee enduring peace and stability for our people. The Constitutive Act provides for such mechanisms.

Together we have made one statement against terrorism. As Africans, we must put our resources together to defeat terrorism with all its manifestations in the interest of peace and stability for our people.

In the spirit of the Constitutive Act of the Union we must work for a continent characterized by democratic principles and institutions which guarantee popular participation and provide for good governance. Through our actions, let us proclaim to the world that this is a continent of democracy, a continent of democratic institutions and culture. Indeed, a continent of good governance, where the people participate and the rule of law is upheld.

Let us today, re-dedicate ourselves to those fundamental principles we have adopted of human and people's rights, of gender equality, of worker's rights and the rights of the child.

In doing so, we shall have reminded ourselves that realizing these would entail the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment, that the right to development is a human right, that to end hunger on our continent, food security and nurturing agriculture have to be central to our enterprise, that clean water, and sanitation are as crucial to the health of our people as are other ways of fighting communicable diseases such as malaria, TB and AIDS.

To end ignorance on our continent, we shall invest in education, in research in all fields and endeavour to develop our capacities in science and technology.

A key challenge we have set ourselves is to end the levels of unemployment that has been a characteristic of our societies. To do this, there is no alternative but to garner all our own resources both on the continent, and elsewhere, to invest in factories, mines, agriculture and infrastructure. No longer should Africa be simply an exporter of raw materials to the west. We aspire to produce and manufacture the highest quality products for our own use and for export. In order to do this we shall have to invest in training our own working people. If we are to sustain our development, then we shall have to increase trade among ourselves.

Time has come that Africa must take her rightful place in global affairs. Time has come to end the marginalisation of Africa. We call on the rest of the world to work with us as partners.

This is a moment of hope for our continent and its peoples. We shall act together to build a brighter future, working together with all of us, governments, parliamentarians, trade unions, private sector, civil society, religious communities, cultural workers, for a better future for the peoples of Africa.

We congratulate all the leaders gathered here for the work they have done to bring us where we are today.

Long live African Unity. Long live African Union.