Every year, heads of state and cabinet officials from across Africa gather in Addis Ababa to meet with political, civil society, and business leaders at the annual African Union Summit. Last week, I was honored to lead the USAID delegation to my first AU Summit.
The AU’s role is critical to the future of Africa.
Established in 2001, the African Union’s vision is to support “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own people and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” As President Obama’s Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa indicates, the United States is committed to achieving that same goal, which is why our decade of partnership with the African Union has been indispensable to USAID’s work.
The African Union named 2014 the Year of Agriculture and Food Security—a pillar of USAID’s strategy on the continent because of its enormous potential to lift communities out of extreme poverty. Through our Feed the Future initiative, we provide support to the AU’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, an African-owned and -led initiative to boost agricultural productivity.
CAADP turns 10 this year, and so far more than 20 countries have developed collaborative investment plans. While these plans are country-specific, they have been created through the African Union’s regional leadership, and their shared principles allow for the peer review, cooperation, and shared experiences that improve the quality of the individual plans—and their results.
But agriculture is the focus of just one of USAID’s collaborations with the African Union.Together, we’ve strengthened democracy and governance by training electoral observers. We’ve joined with the African Union Commission to reduce maternal mortality and increase youth employment and volunteerism. We are also partners in supporting the UN Climate for Development in Africa program, providing data, adaptation planning, analysis, policy planning, and strategy development for climate change in Africa.
A highlight of my visit was sitting down at the AU headquarters with 50 young women from 15 African countries who were participating in the 2014 Young Women Forum. These young leaders led a high-level discussion that included topics like how to create more agribusiness, land ownership and financing opportunities for women in their countries. They also advocated for increased access to sexual and reproductive health and opportunities for higher education.
Talking with these young women, I was inspired by their deep knowledge and dedication to improving their communities, their countries and their continent. Hearing about the gains we’ve made in our partnership with the AU and listening to the ideas of these young African leaders, I left the Summit with great optimism for the future of Africa.
This article originally appeared on the USAID blog.