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COVID-19 recovery shapes African Union summit

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The African Union launched its 34th summit on Saturday but this year the 55-member pan-African bloc are meeting virtually due to coronavirus.

The pandemic is one of the top discussions during the two-day summit.

While vaccination programmes have begun in some countries on the continent, it has been much slower than in wealthier nations.

The continent has reported over three million infections since the outbreak in March and lockdowns and closed borders have battered economies.

South African president Cyril Ramphosa told the bloc’s summit that more needs to be done especially access to loans on favourable terms despite resources from the IMF and World Bank.

The summit will also take up security issues in Africa, including in the Sahel, Libya, South Sudan and Somalia.

The leaders are also expected to elect the African Union Commission’s chairperson and vote for six commissioners.

The incumbent chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat is the sole candidate for a second and the last four-year term.

He still needs to get two-thirds of the vote, overcoming accusations — which he denies — of “a culture of sexual harassment, bribery, corruption and bullying within the commission,” the International Crisis Group wrote in a recent briefing.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has also taken over the helm from South Africa to serve as a one-year chairmanship of the union.