Iceland becomes a Non-African State Member to the African Union
Iceland took a major step in its relationship with the African continent at a simple ceremony on 12 April 2007: Ambassador Dr. Sigridur Duna Kristmundsdóttir presented her credentials as Permanent Representative of Iceland to the African Union (AU). Receiving her credentials was Mr. Patrick Mazimhaka, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission. The presentation was made at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The African Union comprises 53 African member states. Founded in July 2002 in South Africa, the AU was formed as a successor to the amalgamated African Economic Community (AEC) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The purpose of the union is to help secure Africa's democracy, human rights, and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing an end to intra-African conflict and creating an effective common market.
Dr. Sigrídur Dúna Kristmundsdóttir used the occasion to emphasise the importance of the AU in the development of Iceland's relations with the continent. It was important for Iceland to have this access to learn at first hand where Africa's hopes and ambitions lay. This was doubly important in view of Iceland's candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
In response, Deputy Chairperson Mazimhaka welcomed Iceland into the group of non-African members of the Union. In this connection he raised two issues: he thanked the Icelandic nation for its contribution, through NATO, to peacekeeping issues in Africa, and he hoped that Iceland could contribute even more than it had in the past to Africa's need to develop alternate energy sources. Climate change was likely to hit Africa harder than anywhere else in the world; fuel sources other than wood were in desparate need, not just for sustenance but also as energy for industrial development; and thus Iceland's experience in sustainable fuel generation was of great importance.