The First Ministerial Retreat for the African Union in Bahir Dar


With the aim of brainstorming and exchanging ideas on critical issues relating to Africa’s Agenda 2063, and the state of the African Union, a three day Ministerial Retreat of the AU Executive Council hosted by and under the Chair Personship of Ethiopia was held in Bahir Dar, capital of the Amhara Regional State (January 24-26). The overall theme was “Defining Agenda 2063 for Africa”, and the retreat was attended by AU Foreign Ministers and Members of the Executive Council, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. Carlos Lopez; Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission; AU Commissioners, and members of the Permanent Representatives Committee and other officials.

Agenda 2063 seeks to elaborate the agenda for Africa for the next fifty years, to galvanize and unite all Africans and the Diaspora in action around a common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa, driven by its citizens and taking its rightful place in the world. The proposed overall framework will provide internal coherence and coordination for various continental, regional and national structures and plans adopted by the African Union, Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).

The discussions in the Bahir Dar retreat were guided by presentations from lead speakers on five sub-themes: “Learning from the Past: State of the Union, Achievements and Challenges over the last 50 years”; “Towards a Paradigm Shift: Keeping the Momentum for sustainable peace and structural transformation in Africa”; “Agenda 2063: strategizing for the realization of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa”; “Threats and Risks: addressing internal and external challenges confronting Africa”; and “Critical Success Factors: creating the enabling condition to unleash Africa’s potential”.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Chairperson of the AU Executive Council, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, in his opening remarks highlighted Africa’s need to address such issues as economic emancipation, peace and stability, acceleration of rapid economic growth, governance and democratization, leadership and the need to build a critical mass of people with a developmental mindset, in order to realize the continent’s long term agendas. He emphasized the significance of Agenda 2063 for the future of Africa and the achievement of the African Renaissance. “If we want to claim the 21st century as ours and realize the African Renaissance, there is a need for a paradigm shift in our political and socio-economic governance and development”, Dr. Tedros stressed.

Dr. Dlamini Zuma, African Union Commission Chairperson, said that Africa had just emerged from the collective reflections on Pan Africanism and African Renaissance that preceded the Golden Jubilee celebrations and looked ahead towards the next fifty years. She noted that the Retreat presented an opportunity to revisit some of the debates in a convivial atmosphere. Dr. Dlamini Zuma said that the decision to hold the retreat to discuss Agenda 2063 was well-timed, offering the opportunity “to enable this august body to add its collective contribution towards the Africa we want and the milestones we must set towards this end”. She pointed out that the Africa’s Agenda 2063 discussions were coming after a year of robust consultations with civil society on the future they wanted.

Representing the host Regional State, Mr. Gedu Andargachew, President of the Amhara National Regional State, welcomed participants to Bahir Dar, noting that the event would offer a good opportunity for our people to enhance their understanding of our continental organization and its activities, and for participants to see something of the development of Ethiopia outside Addis Ababa.

Among presentations was an imaginative e-mail from the future (2063), to Kwame Nkruma written by Dr. Dlamini Zuma, underlining the dreams and aspirations of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa, the dream shared by all Africans. The Chairperson noted in her e-mail “from the future” that “Planning fifty years ahead allowed us to dream, think creatively, and sometimes crazily – to see us leapfrog beyond the immediate challenges.” (

At the end of the Ministerial Retreat, members of the Executive Council acceded to the continental consensus of the African vision and agreed that the dream of an Africa that is integrated, peaceful and prosperous was achievable, provided the future is constructed on the basis of action taken now. The Retreat noted that Africa’s transformation was taking place in the context of an unfolding global situation and various trends. These included ongoing realignments of the global economic, geopolitical, security and social landscapes; changes and advances in technology, production, trade, knowledge and labor markets; the opportunities presented by global demographic trends; and the appearance of a growing global middle class in emerging and developing countries and regions. After analyzing previous and potential threats to the continent, the Retreat agreed that the challenges could be mitigated and turned into opportunities through collective strategies and effective public policies and actions. The Ministers agreed on the need to position Africa in the world by strengthening their common perspectives on partnerships that reflects the unity of the continent and on its priorities and perspectives on matters of global importance. This in turn would provide for increased bargaining power.

During the three-day meeting, key enablers that could be expected to facilitate Africa’s drive for transformation were identified. These included, among others, effective management and the use of African resources to provide for the structural transformation of African economies and societies, for investment in human capital development, for the building and promotion of peace and security, and for effective and visionary leadership with political commitment and accountability coupled with effective, accountable and participatory institutions and governance, domestic mobilization of finances and resources, accelerated regional integration, paradigm shifts in attitudes and values, and taking charge of the narrative and the development of Brand Africa. Two specific propositions were made, one to establish a Ministerial Committee, which will work together with the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank to finalize Agenda 2063. The second to create an African platform where political and business leaders as well as all other concerned stakeholders could regularly meet to brainstorm about the continent’s development and integration agendas.

Agenda 2063 is a broad strategic framework for collective action to fast-track Africa’s socio-economic and political development. Participants of the Retreat identified a number of strategic initiatives to give added impetus to this process. Among key initiatives proposed was accelerating human capital development, encouraging regional integration, strengthening the financial independence of key continental bodies and expanding efforts to end conflicts.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Tedros Adhanom expressed satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the Retreat. He emphasized that “dreams and aspirations will not be translated into a reality without making a paradigm shift in our political and economic governance,” and urged that the meeting “should be the beginning of a strong political commitment to implement our vision and meet the aspirations of our peoples”. Acknowledging Africa’s internal and external challenges still militated against the prospect for peace and prosperity, Dr. Tedros underlined the responsibility of African leaders to lay a solid foundation for the realization of the continent’s dream. We should demonstrate the necessary strong leadership, political commitment and selfless sacrifice to take the tough decisions to ensure a better future for the African peoples, he said.