Refugee crisis top of the agenda at the AU Summit

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Africa Union Chairperson and the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame (7thL), Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (8thL) and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki (6thL) pose for a photo with heads of states and governments after the opening session of the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 17, 2018. (Photo by Monirul BHUIYAN / AFP)

Security across the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa has been beefed up as dignitaries and heads of states from across the continent gather for the annual 32nd African Union (AU) summit which kicked off on Thursday under the theme refugee and internally displaced persons

Statistics from the UNHCR indicate that Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 percent of the world’s 25.4 million refugees. Human rights campaigners are now asking the AU to take concrete steps to address the issue

“African Union member states will not suddenly find money to give to refugees,” Achieng Akena, executive director of the Pan African Citizens Network, a civil society group that campaigns for democracy and human rights in Africa, told Al Jazeera.

“Africa needs to do better in integrating refugees and allowing them to work. Refugees, like other people, need to live a life of dignity,” Akena added.

Away from refugees and IDPs,the AU is also set to reveal the long-awaited design of a passport for all African countries. It is hoped that the passports will bring the continent one step closer to free movement of its people.

African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has also applauded the progress made towards ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), describing it as ‘particularly encouraging’.

“At the current pace of ratification, we can anticipate the entry into force of the agreement in the coming weeks,’‘ Faki said, as he addressed the opening ceremony of the AU Executive meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

‘‘I hope that the six countries that have not yet signed this instrument will do so in the shortest possible time and that those who have already taken this step will quickly conclude the ratification procedures.’‘

The Trade and Industry portfolio at the AU is working towards securing the 22 ratifications required to effectively bring the AfCFTA into force, before the Heads of State Summit next week.

“At the current pace of ratification, we can anticipate the entry into force of the agreement in the coming weeks,’‘ Faki said, as he addressed the opening ceremony of the AU Executive meeting in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

The 55-member pan-African body will also appoint a new leader to succeed President Paul Kagame who is stepping down.