Avatar photo

Greg Dorey


Part of UK in Ethiopia

31st January 2012

African Summitry

For the past week, the African Union (AU) Summit has been taking place in Addis Ababa, building up to a weekend meeting of Heads of Government and State. What has this to do with Britain? Well, we are partners and observers of the AU (I am the UK Permanent Representative to the organisation, as well as being Ambassador to Ethiopia). And because the aims of the AU mirror our hopes and aspirations for Africa – peace and security; democracy and good governance; and sustainable growth – we want to be engaged in their work and help where we appropriately can do so.

Two British Ministers – our Secretary of State for International Development and our Minister for Africa – have been here for the past few days (not simultaneously) to meet Africa’s leaders as well as to conduct bilateral programmes and regional visits. No doubt you have seen the media coverage about the Summit’s main business – in particular the election for the role of AU Commission Chairperson. But, as with many international meetings, much important business can be done “in the margins”, as the jargon has it – outside the formal sessions. Most of these took place in the spanking new, impressive AU Headquarters, a present from the Chinese government.

And so in just a few days our Ministers were able to hold dozens of bilateral conversations with a wide range of Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and other important players in Africa. Key themes included preparations for the London Somalia Conference at end-February; the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan; and the recent violence in Syria. But this was also a great opportunity to cover Britain’s development programmes in the region and our commercial goals in a Continent containing 6 out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing countries over the past decade.