[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]On Thursday, April 20th, the University of Johannesburg‘s (UJ) Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR) hosted the first official Model African Union (AU) Summit to be held at a South African institution of higher learning.
The event was attended by nearly 300 students and leaders from the African Union, including the Pan African Parliament’s Chief Fortune Charumbira and the Southern Africa Regional Office’s Ambassador David Pierre. Other representatives from specialised AU agencies were also in attendance.
Cultivating leadership skills and understanding of AU processes
The dignitaries had come to witness the students take up the roles of presidents, ministers and ambassadors, in the first-ever official Model AU Summit hosted by a South African institution of higher learning. The Summit marks only the beginning of a new phase of cooperation in the relationship between UJ and the AU, and the partners to the Summit, FES Addis Ababa and ACCORD, based in Durban. “Excellencies, let this be the first of many future summits, let it be one more platform through which the University of Johannesburg cooperates with you for the advancement of the Agenda 2063,” said UJ’s Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Director of University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport.
Dr Vukuza, who was also representing the Vice-Chancellor, emphasised the importance of the Model Summit in cultivating leadership skills and understanding of AU processes. Drawing on experiences of former students she had mentored and who had been part of the Model UN platform, she informed the students that their participation would open doors for them as they build their careers.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”499614″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]H.E. Ambassador Pierre of AU-SARO, SADC and COMESA delivering his opening remarks[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”499611″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]H.E. President Chief Fortune Charumbira delivering his opening remarks[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Areas of Collaboration Between UJ and AU-SARO
On Monday the 17th, UJ’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi, met with the delegation from AU-SARO to offer a welcome to UJ and discuss areas of cooperation. The AU-SARO delegation proceeded to meet with the leadership teams of various faculties, including the Humanities, the College of Business and Economics, the Johannesburg Business School, as well as the School of Communications. The Institute for Pan-African Thought and the SARChI Chair for Foreign Policy and Diplomacy were represented by their directors as well. Areas of collaboration included, among others, student and staff mobility, research capacity development, and opportunities for students.
The Summit was preceded by a three-day orientation and training process. Dr Vukuza opened the Summit, and the speakers included the President of PAP, H.E. Mr Charumbira, H.E. Ambassador Pierre of AU-SARO, H.E. Ibrahima Cheikh Diong, representatives from FES and ACCORD, and United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Director General of Africa Risk Capacity. Ms Lebohang Ayobiojo facilitated the session and encouraged the students to take the words of the speakers to heart and do their part to develop Africa wherever they may be. The speakers inspired the students and encouraged them to use their knowledge and skills to transform Africa and fulfil Agenda 2063.
Student Feedback and Perspectives on the Summit
The students proceeded to hold their summit under the theme ‘The Year of AfCFTA: Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement,’ with Dr Ayabulela Dlakavu of the Department of Politics and International Relations in the role of Director of Protocol. At the end of the Summit, the assembled heads of state and government adopted the motion in overwhelming numbers, for reasons related to employment creation, growing intra-African trade, industrialisation and youth economic participation.
Students who participated in the UJ-AU Model Summit tweeted using the hashtag #UJAUSummit, describing the event as transformative, life-changing, and eye-opening. They were exposed to various skills and esteemed guests, which they found inspiring and valuable for their respective careers. The Head of Department for Politics and International Relations, Prof Bhaso Ndzendze, announced that this was the first of future Summits, and the students had impressed the partners, who look forward to working with them in the future. Prof Ndzendze thanked the partners, the AU, FES, ACCORD, UJ management and staff, and third-party service providers for their roles in making the Summit a success.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]