19/12/2016 15:06 SAST | Updated 19/12/2016 15:12 SAST

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's AU Swansong: A United, Free Africa Is Better For Everyone

And free education, at every level, is a necessity.

AFP/Getty Images
African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

An integrated Africa with freedom of movement and trade was good for all Africans, outgoing chair of the African Union (A.U.) Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in her final State of the Continent briefing, delivered in Durban on Monday.

"Generally the free movement of people has more advantages than disadvantages," said Dlamini-Zuma, adding that if people were free to come and go from a country they were more likely to leave, knowing they could return if they wanted to.

Read: Your cheat sheet for (almost) all the African news you missed this year

She made a repeated call for continental free trade, given Africa's low levels of inter-continental trade compared to other regions and continents.

Dlamini-Zuma mentioned the controversial elections in The Gambia in passing, noting that the election went well but that president Yahya Jammeh did not want to accept the results. "We are dealing with the issue," she said.

She focused on a few key themes in her speech including education, regional integration and trade, continental free trade and movement, infrastructure, conflict resolution and Africa's place in the world, and began her speech by recounting Africa's rich natural resources. "The paradox is, yes, Africa is rich but the Africans are still poor," she said.

She said the goal of the A.U.'s Agenda 2063, to create a prosperous Africa, could only happen by using Africa's most abundant resources - "our people".

We must start a skills revolution on this continentNkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

"We must start a skills revolution on this continent," said Dlamini-Zuma, who spent a chunk of her speech focusing on education.

"There should be no child who should be denied education at any level because of poverty," said Dlamini-Zuma, in one of the most rousing statements of her speech.

She went on to list the progress so far on the continental Pan African University, with its campuses across the continent at existing universities. An Institute for Space Sciences in South Africa is the latest to join a number of other campuses, including a water resources, environmental studies and climate change centre in Nigeria, and a campus dedicated to governance, humanities and social sciences in Cameroon.

Dlamini-Zuma was also honoured with a humanitarian award for leadership for her work on the A.U.'s Agenda 2063, an action plan calling all segments of African society to work together. Introduction and closing speeches praised her achievement both at the A.U. and previously as a minister in the South African government.

Dlamini-Zuma is being punted as one of the main candidates to succeed Jacob Zuma, her former husband, as president of the governing party in South Africa, the ANC.