Xinhua (China)
By Lu Di
June 30, 2009

NAIROBI, June 30 (Xinhua) — Agricultural investment, food security, as well as the state of peace and security in Africa are likely to top the agenda of the upcoming 13th African Union (AU) summit, which will open Wednesday in Sirte, Libya’s port city.

With the theme "Investing in agriculture for economic growth and food security", the summit is scheduled to take place from July 1 to 3.

Leaders of AU member states are expected to extensively discuss how to increasing the continent’s agricultural investment in order to face the challenge of ensuring Africa’s food security during the summit.

The recent sharp increases in the prices of food, especially cereals and oilseeds, created hardships for consumers in the region. The World Food Program (WFP) said in a release that the situation of food prices increase is most dramatic in sub-Saharan Africa with domestic prices of rice are much higher than 12 months earlier in all countries analyzed.

Food price rising contributes to more difficulties in addressing the hunger and undernourished problem as the WFP disclosed that there are 236 million people undernourished in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some effective approach to agricultural production growth will involve strengthening agro-dealer networks and farmer organizations to increase access to affordable quality seeds and fertilizers, improving farmers’ knowledge of integrated soil fertility management and strengthening farmers’ opportunities.

During the opening ceremony of the 15th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU on June 28, Abdoulie Janneh, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), called on Africa to speak with one voice in trade negotiations so as to better structure policies related to markets, land, development of intra-regional trade and the promotion of diversity of agricultural produce throughout the region of the continent. 

The heads of states will also discuss on strengthening the role of the AU in the prevention, management and resolution of election disputes and violent conflicts in Africa. Madagascar’s political crisis will be another hot topic in the summit.

While referring to the situation in Madagascar at the opening ceremony of the Executive Council meeting, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, expressed his concerns about the resurgence of coups d’etat and unconstitutional changes.

Soon after the political stalemate broke out last December, international communities, including AU, called the two rivals, Madagascar’s former President Marc Ravalomanana and the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, to find a peaceful way out of the political crisis, the worst in years in the Indian Ocean island.

Madagascar was suspended the AU membership in March and later cancelled the hosting of the summit, due to be held in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo, after the army forced out Ravalomanana and installed the opposition leader in his place.

At the official opening ceremony of the Executive Council meeting, Jean Ping further pointed out that the 13th Session of the AU Assembly would be called upon to pronounce itself on the recommendations of the Executive Council on the transformation of the Commission into the Authority of the AU.

Moreover, the summit is expected to discuss a number of issues, including the situation of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons in Africa; racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia; the implementation of the joint Africa-EU dialogue strategy and its action plan; the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals; the progress on water and sanitation goals in Africa and on the AU Women’s Fund, among others.

The establishment of the AU to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was founded in 1963, was envisaged at an African summit in September 1999 in Libya’s Sirte, with a view to further African cooperation, development and integration. The Constitutive Act of the AU entered into force in May 2001 and the AU was formally formed in July 2002.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-06/30/content_11626984.htm