AfricaNewsAnalysis’ Exclusive Interview with His Excellency Dr Badr Abdelatty, Ambassador of Arab Republic of Egypt to Federal Republic of Germany on Africa Union Day celebrations and Egypt’s Presidency of the African Union

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His Excellency Dr Badr Abdelatty, Ambassador of Arab Republic of Egypt to Federal Republic of Germany/Photo: MIM/ANA

AfricaNewsAnalysis: Your Excellency, we are here today to mark the Africa Union Day. How significant would you say; this day is for all Africans?

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Ambassador Abdelatty: Of course, this is the day of whole Africa and all Africans. It is an honour and great pleasure to host and celebrate Africa Day with my brotherly African Ambassadors in Berlin. Today we are celebrating the 56th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of the African Unity…since 2001 the African Union…Tonight we celebrate a success story of more than five decades. Every year we proudly remember in this special day, the efforts of the founding fathers who thought and fought for Africa and the people of Africa. As they thought in the valuable concept of Pan-Africanism, they fought for bringing it to existence. On the 25th of May, we remember the great men who played unforgettable roles in writing history of our continent: This day is for all Africans which brings to us the legacy and memory of Presidents, Nasser, Nkrumah, Ben Bella, Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Haile Selassie and Jomo Kenyatta in addition to the great African leader Nelson Mandela.

ANA: During his acceptance speech as President of the 32nd Session of the African Union, His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi pledged Egypt’s commitment to reform the institutional, structural and financial structures of the AU. Is the president’s commitment on track?

His Excellency Dr Badr Abdelatty, Ambassador of Arab Republic of Egypt to Federal Republic of Germany/Photo: MIM/ANA

Dr. Abdelatty: Egypt, as a chair of the AU, focuses on a number of priorities. These priorities stem from the AU’s current agenda and the work priorities already agreed upon within the framework of the African Union. At the forefront of this is Agenda 2063, in addition to Egypt’s preparedness to harness its power and expertise to advance African joint action to wider prospects, as well as its keenness to achieve tangible results based on the actual needs of the African people. The Institutional and financial reform of the AU is one of the main priorities of the Egyptian presidency. It’s important to reinforce the capabilities of regional economic groups as the building blocks of the African Economic Community. On the other side, it is important to develop an integrated system to evaluate performance and accountability, as well as reinforce transparency. Egypt also prioritizes the need to ensure sustainable funding for the AU and its programs through rationalization of expenditures, equitable burden sharing among member states and encouraging further support to the AU from the international community.

ANA: How important is the adage: “African solutions for African problems” during the Egyptian presidency of the African Union?

Dr Abdelatty: Development cannot be achieved without ensuring peace and stability in the continent, which continues to suffer from multiple intractable conflicts. In this context, we prioritize strengthening the African peace and security architecture during our chairmanship, with particular focus on the revitalization of the AU post-conflict reconstruction and development policy and the reinforcement of the African mechanisms for post- conflict reconstruction and development to safeguard African countries from conflict relapse. The African solution and ownership of the African problems is a principal that Egypt embraces and believes in. therefore Egypt took the initiative and hosted on April 23 a consultative summit to discuss the developments in neighboring Sudan. President El – Sisi confirmed Egypt’s full support for the Sudanese people’s free will for forming their future as well as the keenness to enhance African joint action for solidarity with Sudan.  Egypt also hosted a meeting of the African Union Troika summit and the chairmanship of the Libya committee in the African body to discuss the political and security situation in Libya and means to contain the current crisis and eradicate terrorism.

ANA:His Excellency President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi quoted the first President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah’s assertion that “our division is our weakness but by our unity, Africa will be one of the greatest powers in the world”. As Chairperson of the African Union, does His Excellency President El-Sisi also share this view?

Dr Abdelatty: In our world today, Unity means economic and regional integration. President El- Sisi believes that strengthening African cooperation and solidarity is paramount to achieve the ambitious objectives of the AU Agenda 2063 and driving economic development in Africa. Egypt therefore prioritizes regional and economic integration to achieve the aforementioned goals, primarily through the promotion of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA), as it has the potential of boosting intra-African trade thereby contributing to job creation and poverty reduction efforts in the continent/ support execution of infrastructure projects in Africa, to contribute achieving Economic and regional integration.

ANA: Ambassador, could you please throw more light on the Aswan Forum for peace and sustainable development in 2019 which His Excellency President El-Sisi mentioned during his address at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in February this year?

Dr Abdelatty: Egypt will also host “Aswan forum for sustainable peace and development” later this year, with the aim of fostering dialogue and reaching actionable outcomes on how populations can benefit from the dividends of sustainable peace.

ANA: Is Egypt, and, for that matter, the African Union committed to the Paris Climate Agreement?

Dr Abdelatty: Egypt signed the Paris Climate Agreement in April 2018. climate change does not stop at national borders and neither should our actions. One of Egypt’s most important mitigation measures as outlined in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) is increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. the Egyptian government successfully launched the second phase of the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI). The African Adaptation Initiative (AAI) was launched in Paris during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) that took place in December 2015. AAI represents a bold and innovative step by Africa to galvanize the support needed to significantly scale up adaptation and actions to address loss and damage on the continent with an initial focus on enhancing action in the pre-2020 period. As a president of the AU Egypt will continue playing a major role in protecting African interests in this field.

ANA: Africa has perhaps, one of the youngest populations in the world. Specifically, for Egypt, what are some of the policies put forward by His Excellency President El-Sisi’s government to harness the energy of the Egyptian youth towards the socio-economic development of their country?

Dr Abdelatty: On 25 April 2017, a group of young Egyptians presented an initiative at the National Youth Conference in Ismailia to engage in dialogue with youth around the world. On 24 July 2017, President Abdelfattah El-Sisi officially responded at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina during the National Youth Conference in Alexandria, launching the First World Youth Forum (WYF), which was held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2017. The second edition of the World Youth Forum was held in Sharm El Sheikh from 3-6 November 2018. In its second edition, the World Youth Forum continued stressing on its role being a platform for youth to voice their opinions about global challenges that face our world today from a youth perspective. This is only one example that demonstrate the engagement of president El-Sisi with the Youth as reflection of his sincere belief that the youth represents the future. That is why He instructed the government to start the process of establishing a full partnership with the Egyptian Academy of Youth to prepare cadres trained at the highest scientific level, so that the Egyptian Academy will become the main source for selecting leaders in the country according to the criteria of efficiency and equal opportunities. 

ANA: What is the role of women in the socio-economic development of Egypt?

Dr Abdelatty: Women are the backbone of the society. The progress of any community is measured by the degree of its cultural, moral and intellectual development and is closely related to the development of women’s culture and awareness and their active contribution to the building and development of society. The ancient Egyptian civilization was the first among all human civilizations in its appreciation of women, and its recognition of women’s multiple contributions in all fields, both in preserving the cohesion of the family, as well as women’s social and developmental role and in public life. This privileged status was inscribed on the walls of Pharaonic monuments, which have become conclusive evidence for us – the Egyptians – of the legacy of our ancestors, and the civility of our human relations.

In the modern era, Egyptian women continued their advancement. Women’s struggle continued as they won the right to vote to exercise full political rights, and before that, the right to education and to occupy high-ranking public positions. To this day, women in all fields are working with honour, strength and efficiency, and are active contributors to the development of Egypt.

The Egyptian woman, generation after generation, and throughout the long history of Egypt, proved that she is a fundamental player in the progress of her homeland, and a full partner in all of Egypt’s battles, wars and challenges.

While she remained committed to her family with patience and perseverance, giving with mercy and tenderness, she did not hesitate strong willed and determined as she has always been to extend her giving nature to her society and her country, and to bear the two responsibilities together. This necessitates that we pay women the respect and appreciation they deserve, and provide them with a supporting environment to shoulder these major responsibilities.

Egypt managed to break the glass-ceiling for women’s representation in elected and decision making bodies as follows:

1-      There are 90 women representatives in the Parliament, making up over 15%, compared to 1.5% in the 2012 parliament

2-      Since June 2018, and for the first time, the Cabinet of Ministers include eight female ministers, in charge of international cooperation and investment, planning and administrative reform, social solidarity, immigration and exparties’ affairs, culture, tourism, environment, and health and population. Thus, women representation in the top level Government increased from 15% to 25%

3-      A female was appointed for the first time as the National Security Adviser to the President of the Republic, a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, as well as a governor, deputy of governors, mayors in some villages, deans in a number of colleges.

4-      66 females judges, in addition to others in different branches of the judiciary, were appointed.

During the celebration of the Woman’s day last March 2019, President El Sisi instructed the government to undertake the following: 

–  To study ways to achieve greater participation of women in the labor market and to provide an appropriate and supportive environment for women, one that includes adequate social protection.

– While applauding the government’s adoption of the national strategy to combat violence against women; to put in place appropriate legislation to protect women effectively from all forms of moral and physical violence. Early marriage before the legal age, and the denial of education or a proper allowance for women and children in the event of divorce, are all forms of violence.

– legislation and policies that would reduce this phenomenon.

– To take the necessary measures to achieve financial inclusion, technological empowerment of women and provide more support for small projects that offer women opportunities to work.

-Calling for greater political participation for women and more participation for them in the various sectors.

– To consider the amendment of the Public Service Law, so that it would be a tool for training and qualifying Egyptian girls to join the labor market, and to develop the necessary mechanisms and incentives to achieve this.

ANA: As home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Egypt held many unique attractions for tourists. What are some of the measures being taken by His Excellency President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to further promote Egypt as a secure and safe tourist destination?

Dr Abdelatty: Tourism in Egypt is one of the most important pillars of the national economy. President Al-Sisi and the Government are interested in developing this important sector for the job opportunities it provides for young people, the sector employs about 12% of Egypt’s workforce, and is a source of around 14% of foreign currency revenues. In the coming year, Egypt will inaugurate the Egyptian Grand Museum and an airport is being built close to it. 

The development of the basic infrastructure that serves tourism is important for its revitalization. In this regard, the state is also working to develop the infra structure of roads, bridges and tunnels in a way that makes it easier to move between different tourist destinations in Egypt. It saves the tourists time and money and enhances the chances of attracting more tourists to these places.

Egypt is a safe destination otherwise It would not have been possible to implement these projects. In 2017, Bloomberg said Egypt has “shed its years of social and political unrest” and makes the top 20 list of 2017 travel destinations. The latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has revealed that Egypt is one of the world’s fast-growing tourist destination for 2017.