President James Michel participated in the 25th African Union Summit, which started yesterday at the Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together with other Heads of State and Government of the African Union, they discussed the year’s theme; “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.
In his address to the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the President brought forward a clear message that women will change and make Africa better if they are involved in the centre of development of their countries, adding that for them to be able to do so, Africa needs to put an end to wrong cultural activities.
“We cannot have economic development, or economic integration without the active participation of women. But to do so, we must remove the barriers that stand in their way. It is time we free ourselves from the internal dynamics that are holding us back. Africa cannot stand still; we have to move forward. Indeed, we cannot ignore our culture. But we need to acknowledge that as our societies progress and evolve, so too, does our culture,” said President Michel during his intervention.
He added, “We must put an end to child marriage, and other cultural practices that are detrimental to their development and deny them access to the tools they need. Education and healthcare are prerequisites. We know it because Seychellois women have changed Seychelles.”
The President continued by highlighting Seychelles’ experiences on empowering the women. He noted that Seychelles has been able to make progress by putting people at the centre of development and that gender equality has been its core values. He noted that this can only be achieved without any form of discrimination.
“With access to education, and maternal healthcare, women have transformed the economic landscape in Seychelles. Beyond the political spheres, where we have strong female representation in our national assembly, we have over 50% of female students in our university, we have women leading the workforce in management positions, and growing in numbers in non-traditional sectors such as our maritime and defence forces, as well as IT and computer sciences, and, when given access to affordable loans, women are demonstrating their entrepreneurship with new and varied enterprises. They are an important pillar of our economy. Without women, we are trying to build a better Africa with one hand tied behind our back,” President Michel said.
As he continued his intervention, the President said Seychelles welcomes the First Ten-Year Plan for Agenda 2063 and commended the African Union for taking up the main concerns of the African Island States and in having more participation of women as part of the ‘transformative components of the Agenda 2063′.
“These key areas include a strong focus on the development of the Blue Economy within Africa, as an opportunity for all African States; the fight against climate change; the growth and development of tourism; and Maritime connectivity sectors as drivers for change and growth. These are all sectors in which women can have an important role to play,” President Michel emphasized.
He further stated that financing is required to create these opportunities and to be able to empower women and people. From there, the President proposed that the Blue Economy concept can be a pioneer in paving the way to financing especially in the marine sector and he gave Seychelles’ own experiences.
“Beyond the obvious benefits, the Blue Economy can also open new avenues for innovative financing, particularly for financing marine projects. Seychelles has made headway in this new chapter, whereby our landmark Debt for Adaptation Swap, a proposal for a partial exchange of our debt in return for financing marine action to mitigate against climate change, has been approved by the Paris Club. This has freed up U$ 30 M of our debt to be used to protect our Marine Space – our Blue Economy,” the President said.
He continued, “This landmark financing innovation can provide other African Island States and other African countries with a tested model of sustainable financing for development driven initiatives. I would therefore like to propose the inclusion of this mechanism as part of a financing model in the First Ten – Year Implementation Plan. We stand ready to work with the African Union on this matter.”
President Michel also spoke about Peace and Security which he said ‘are pillars of world governance so central to the development and inclusive growth of Africa’. Being the Chairman of the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), he reaffirmed Seychelles’ commitments in bringing peace and stability in the Eastern African Region.
“As a country having a shared interest in peace and security in our region, Seychelles should like to reiterate its commitment to continue enhancing regional cooperation in responding to security threats and ensuring the safety of our seas. Maritime Security is our common good and an element of our collective human security,” the President highlighted.
“We therefore welcome the focus on the setting up of a Regional Maritime Security Strategy consistent with Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050,” he concluded.
President Michel is accompanied at the African Union Summit by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Transport, Mr. Joel Morgan, Diplomatic Adviser in the President’s Office, Ambassador Callixte D’Offay, Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Claude Morel, and Ambassador to the African Union, Mr. Joseph Nourrice.