African Union summit begins with Egypt taking over chair from Rwanda

Egyptian President Sisi expected to focus more on security, peacekeeping and post-war reconstruction

epa07358385 Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) and Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed (R) chat during the 32nd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 10 February 2019. African heads of state and business leaders are gathering in Ethiopian capital for a two-day summit under the theme 'Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa'.  EPA/STRINGER
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Egypt became the African Union chair on Sunday as regional heads gathered in Addis Ababa for a two-day summit, taking over from Rwanda.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi will officially take over the post of ceremonial head of the AU which rotates between the five regions of the continent.

While multiple crises on the continent will be on the agenda of heads of state from the 55 member nations, the summit will also focus on institutional reforms, and the establishment of a continent-wide free trade zone.

The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) was agreed by 44 nations in March 2018, but only 19 countries have ratified the agreement, with 22 needed for it to come into effect.

The single market is a flagship of the AU's "Agenda 2063" programme, conceived as a strategic framework for socioeconomic transformation.

Cairo is backing the initiative, but analysts say it will be less likely to focus on the financial and administrative reforms pushed by Mr Kagame.

Mr Sisi is however expected to focus more on security, peacekeeping and post-war reconstruction, issues closely tied to the AU's 2019 theme of "Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has travelled to the summit and is expected to deliver a speech, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Leaders of the regional bloc also unveiled a statue of Ethiopia's Emperor Haileselassie at the headquarters on Sunday.

The statue is the second to be erected inside the continental body's offices in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, after one of Ghana's first leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who championed pan-Africanism.