A lack of infrastructure development was the biggest challenge facing the African continent, newly elected African Union (AU) commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in Pretoria on Sunday.
Addressing a gathering of representatives of the Progessive Women's Movement of South Africa, Dlamini-Zuma said the African Union's vision of more integration could only be reached if infrastructure on the continent was drastically improved.
"How do we connect ourselves?," she asked, pointing out that transport and communication links gravitated outwards from the continent.
She said there could be no integration, as envisaged by the AU, unless there was proper infrastructure linking the African countries.
Dlamini-Zuma also said she thought integration would be further helped by the Pan African Parliament (PAP) becoming a legislative body which would "harmonise legislation" across the continent.
But integration could not be successfully achieved if peace was not achieved on the continent.
"How do you build a railway in the middle of a war (zone)?"
She said that while the continent had many challenges it also had many opportunities of which it needed to take advantage.
She said the continent had enormous agricultural potential, energy potential and human resource potential.
"The challenge, is how to use them for the benefit of Africa."
Speaking about her appointment, she said: "When I go there, I will be working as a servant of Africa and not South Africa."
She said the direction that the AU took would need to be determined with the involvement of its citizens and not its governments alone.
"If it's left to government, its not going to go anywhere fast."
The Progessive Women's Movement of South Africa is made up of various women's organisations including the ANC Women's League.