China stands ready to join hands with the African Union and African countries to promote cooperation related to the Belt and Road Initiative and build an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future, President Xi Jinping said on Sunday.
Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message to the opening of the 32nd AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where at least 30 African heads of state and government gathered to tackle complex issues surrounding international and internal migration of people at a time when the global community is divided on the way forward.
Calling the AU a banner that unites the African countries in their pursuit of self-renewal, Xi praised the integration process of the continent and the great headway made since last year under the organization's guidance.
African countries continue to speak with a united voice on important international and regional issues, and the international influence of the continent keeps rising, Xi said, adding that he sincerely hopes the AU will lead African countries to make greater achievements.
Xi recalled the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in September, saying he and leaders of African countries, along with the AU, mapped out a blueprint for the development of relations between China and Africa.
He called on the African side to take advantage of the opportunity to implement the outcomes of the FOCAC Beijing Summit, and work with China to advance synergy of the BRI with the AU's Agenda 2063, the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the development strategies of African countries.
The annual AU Summit kicked off under a cloud of uncertainty after five countries, including the United States, opposed the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration during the UN General Assembly in December. The agreement was the outcome of a conference in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier that month.
At the summit, which is focused on refugees and displacement, Africa is expected to come up with innovative approaches to address the unprecedented recent movement of people. Conflict, poverty and climate change were identified as root causes.
Africa contributes about 26 percent of the world's 25.4 million displaced individuals, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. More than half are under the age of 18.
On the eve of the AU summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the continent for enhancing its efforts to devise peaceful political transitions, and helping reduce incidences of mass displacement. In January, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar saw peaceful political transitions.
"I believe that Africa is proving that it is possible to solve conflicts and prevent conflicts. And this wind of hope can be extended to other parts of the world," he said.
While reflecting on his 10-year stint at the helm of the UN agency for refugees, Guterres said African borders have remained open for refugees. This solidarity is an example to the world, he said.
Vera Songwe, executive director of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, said the continent will not achieve its desired accelerated economic development if it marginalizes a share of its population.
"An Africa in search of growth cannot afford the luxury of camps. An Africa needing to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot keep its children out of schools," she said.
She said the loss of productivity from refugees is dragging down Africa's resurgence at a time when globalization is facing head winds. "The prediction for 2019 remains below the 4 percent growth mark. These levels of growth fall far short of what is needed to deliver an emerging Africa, Agenda 2030 or Agenda 2063," she said.
There are nevertheless successful integration projects in Uganda, Rwanda, Morocco and Ethiopia, she said. Rwanda has worked with 3,300 urban refugees, resulting in 2,600 new jobs being created nationwide.