Seychelles pushes for Agenda 2063 to include small island issues at AU summit
Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Paul Adam led the Seychelles delegation at the AU Summit in Equatorial Guinea (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, has called for unity among all small island developing states (SIDS) in making island issues heard at an African Union meeting held in Equatorial Guinea this week.
Minister Adam was representing Seychelles President James Michel at the 23rd Summit of the African Union Commission in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, which was attended by 44 heads of state. President Michel is currently engaged with welcoming Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on an official visit to Seychelles, his second to the Indian Ocean archipelago following a state visit last year.
The AU summit opened in the Equatorial Guinea’s island capital of Malabo on Thursday with calls for the continent to continue to push a united African agenda and resist external influence and pressure.
According to a press statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Seychelles joined other AU SIDS such as Cabo Verde, Mauritius and São Tomé and Principe to call for issues affecting SIDS to be included in the Agenda 2063 document for Africa, which is currently in the final stages of drafting by the Commission.
The document, designed as a blueprint for Africa's development for the next 50 years, will be presented to the next AU summit for adoption.
Minister Adam expressed appreciation for the AU’s efforts towards mobilizing the potential of the blue economy – an issue he says is vital for the development of the continent.
|Minister Adam attending the AU meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Photo License: Attribution
"Agenda 2063 is about increased economic independence from development partners,” said the minister. “It is about moving beyond the shackles of our debts, which are a particular burden for islands. It is about ensuring good governance and sustainable development for the next 50 years.”
The minister added that Africa needed to focus on development that was stable, empowered and people-centred, away from the “curse of civil and conflict”.
Tourism levy proposal opposed
Seychelles and other island states also joined with several other African countries to strongly oppose the AU’s already widely condemned proposal to collect a tax on tourism levy, saying that any proposed levies on tourism would have a negative effect on the development of the tourism industry in Africa, particularly for those states that depend heavily on revenue from tourism.
The proposal, which was originally made to find additional internally-raised funding for the AU and end a reliance on Western funding, is for African countries to charge a $2 tax on hotel rooms in Africa and $5 or $10 on flights to and from African countries.
“Seychelles joins other countries in agreeing that we need to be innovative to identify ways to fund our Union more efficiently and be less dependent on outside sources,” stated Adam, adding that the AU must ensure that whatever measures are agreed did not place a disproportionate burden on any state.
“Tourism has the potential to be one of the greatest creators of inclusive wealth on our continent – these types of levies will hamper this potential immeasurably.”
Seychelles also reported to the AU Executive Council on a new strategic direction it is proposing for African tourism, to make Africa the world's preferred tourism destination and develop a unique brand of African tourism.
The Council has endorsed Seychelles’ proposals, which will be further deliberated upon by AU heads of state.
Creating an East African Standby Force
In the margins of the AU summit, members of the East African Standby Force Coordinating Mechanism (EAFSCOM), including Seychelles, Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda met to officially establish an East African Standby Force.
Representing the Seychellois head of state, the island’s foreign Affairs Minister joined the East African leaders in signing the agreement and the policy framework for the establishment of the security force, which is expected to act decisively and effectively to address threats to peace and security in the region.
|Minister Jean Paul Adam signing agreement and the policy framework for the establishment of the security force (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Photo License: Attribution
“While Seychelles is a small country, we have already shown that we can make a meaningful contribution towards regional peace and security through our efforts in fighting piracy, and also by facilitating the sharing of intelligence in the region,” commented Adam.
“While we are not a troop contributing country, we will continue to offer our support in the areas where we are most capable – maritime security and intelligence sharing.”
The ministry has stated that wherever possible, it would second Seychelles’ security experts to the organization. The current Head of Political Affairs for EASFCOM is Seychellois citizen and former Seychelles Police Force member Benediste Hoareau.
Adam added that he believed that terrorism and organized criminal syndicates engaged in money laundering as well as drug and human trafficking could only be defeated through multilateral initiatives such as these.