The 31st Summit of Heads of State of the African Union held in Nouakchott Mauritania is now over. The Summit was held under the AU annual theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”
Decisions of the Summit are not yet publicly available but, as usual, I would like to share with you, the following unofficial summary of the key outcomes of the Summit.
Over the next following weeks, I will be sharing deeper personal analysis on some of the issues discussed in Nouakchott and on the AU agenda.
The Summit meetings were held as follows:
- Permanent Representative Committee (Ambassadors): 25th – 26th June
- Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 28th – 29th June
- Assembly (Heads of State and Government): 1st – 2nd July
The Summit was overshadowed by peace and security issues including the security incidents in the Sahel; the multiple deadly attacks that happened in Mali and Niger while the Summit taking place. The state of peace and security in the continent was largely discussed by the Assembly including the situation in DRC, CAR, Burundi, Libya, the Sahel, the Horn of Africa etc. The Peace and Security Council of the AU met at the level of Heads of State in Nouakchott to discuss the situation in South Sudan. See Communique here.
10 Key Takeaways from the Summit:
- African Union Reform: There were no substantial progress in Nouakchott on the institutional reform of the African Union. Some disagreements among member States on President Kagame’s proposal remain. For example, there is still no consensus among all Member States on the application of 0,2% levy on eligible importations in order to fund the Union, the mode of designation/appointment of commissioners, power dynamics within the institution, the scope of intervention of the AU and the division of labor between the continental body and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). After all, it seems like not all member states have the same view on how to get a strong, autonomous and effective African Union to drive our development and integration ambitions. An extraordinary Summit will be held on 17 & 18 November this year to focus on the reform agenda.
- The Continental Free Trade Area: Significant progress recorded including the adoption of the five services priority sectors (Transport, communication, financial, tourism and business services). 5 additional countries joined the AfCFTA including one of the biggests economies of the continent: South Africa. The other new signatories are Burundi, Sierra Leone, Lesotho, and Namibia. Now 49 countries in total have signed the AfCFTA and 6 have ratified it. 16 more ratifications are needed for the treaty to enter into force. If all 55 AU members join the treaty, it will create a bloc with a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion and cover a market of 1.2 billion people. In terms of numbers of participating countries, AfCFTA will be the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization. You can get insightful information on the AfCFTA here.
- Western Sahara Conflict: AUC Chairperson presented a comprehensive report and proposed a mechanism to move ahead on the issue. While calling for the Polisario Front and Morocco to resume negotiations, without preconditions and in good faith, the Summit adopted the mechanism including the setting up of a Troika of 3 Heads of State: the current Chair of the Union (President Paul Kagame), the immediate past Chair (President Alpha Conde) and the incoming Chair (President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) to be supported by the Chairperson of the AU Commission. The mission of the Troika will be to provide efficient support to the United Nations-led process (not to replace it) to resolve the conflict. The objective is the resumption of negotiations between the stakeholders to reach a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution, which allows the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. In addition, the Chairperson of the AUC is to reactivate the AU Office to the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara in Laayoune. The Summit decided that the issue of Western Sahara can now only be raised within this framework and at this level.
- Future of ACP/EU Cotonou Agreement post-2020: Professor Carlos Lopes, Former Executive Secretary of the UNECA is appointed as the African Union High Representative to support Member States in the negotiation of the new agreement with the EU Post-2020. Ministers of Foreign Affairs and those in charge of the negotiation will meet by September to consolidate the African Common Position.
- 2019 Budget of the Union: There are important progress toward ownership and budgetary process but the Union’s programs will still be largely funded by external donors in 2019. Total budget: $ 681 485 337 (about 12% less than the 2018 budget)
- Operating budget: $ 416,329,505 including AMISOM operational budget ($ 243,430,467)
- Program budget: US $ 265,155,832
The 2019 budget will be financed as follow: $ 280,045,761 by AU Member States and $ 401,439,575 by external partners.
- Francophonie: Both Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Assembly of Heads of State endorsed the candidacy of Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo to the post of Secretary General of “La Francophonie”; the Organization of French Speaking countries (OIF).
- Migration: Proposed by the King Mohammed VI of Morocco, AU Leader on Migration, the Summit decided to create an African Observatory for Migration and Development (OAMD) to be based in the Rabat, Morocco. Several delegations and personalities including the Chairperson of the African Union Commission publicly spoke against the recent proposal of the European Union to create a Regional disembarkation platforms to be located outside of Europe for migrants recused in international waters. In addition, the Peace and Security Council met to discuss the migration situation in the continent. See the Communique here.
- Sahel: the United Nations launched a revitalized strategic plan at the sidelines of the Summit entitled “Sahel, Land of Opportunities”. The plan targets 10 countries and six key areas including growth inclusive of empowerment of women and youth, cross border security and sustaining peace. The targeted countries, namely Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Cameroon will have continued support for ongoing efforts by governmental, non-governmental, national and regional bodies. 65 per cent of the region’s population is below 25 years of age, the plan then urges specific investments in education and vocational training to achieve higher demographic dividend.
- Fighting Corruption: Recognizing that Africa’s development plans including the Agenda 2063 would be seriously impeded without rigorous measures against corruption, AU Heads of State have reached a consensus on establishing a monitoring mechanism to fight against domestic and cross-border corruption through cooperation.
- In a solemn declaration, Heads of State decided to combat Illicit Financial Flows through various practical measures including the establishment of effective ownership registers, country-by-country reporting of financial information, exchange of tax information agreements, mutual support in reinforcing tax authorities etc. Several leaders spoke strongly against corruption and proposed courageous reform to combat it in the public, and private sectors. For example, President Buhari of Nigeria, the AU Leader on the fight against corruption said: “We must all collectively work to place high on the agenda the need for open and participatory government, as well as the repatriation of stolen assets without procedural technicalities and legal obstacles.” The Gambian President Adama Barrow said: ‘’our successes in the fight against corruption will ensure that resources are retained and used to support structural transformations and expansion of our economies…we cannot afford resource wastages through corruption thereby depriving our citizens the opportunities to improve their living standards”
- Attendance: The Summit has been poorly attended at high level. Only about half of the 55 African Heads of state made it to Nouakchott. Absentee Presidents include Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Abdel Fattah Sissi of Egypt, Patrice Talon of Benin, João Lourenço of Angola, José Mario Vaz of Guinea Bissau, Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, King Mohammed VI of Morocco etc.
- First participation in the Summit: Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone. French President Emmanuel Macron made an exceptional appearance in the margins of the Summit to have side discussions with African leaders on the G5 Sahel initiative and other peace and security issues.
Prospects for the year 2019: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will be the Chairperson of the African Union for 2019 and the theme of the year will be Refugees, Returnees and IDPs in Africa: towards durable solutions to forced displacement. 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Convention) as well as the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention). The Assembly decision at its 29th Assembly in July 2017 mandates the AU Commission to work with UNHCR and other partners to organize a series of commemorative events aimed at raising the visibility and provide thoughts for solutions of forced displacement in Africa. A series of events aimed at increasing ratification and domestication of the two key documents are being planned under the Project 2019, a joint AU-UNHCR initiative.
In line with the ongoing reform of the African Union, the just-finished Summit was expected to be the last mid-year Summit. From 2019 onward, there will only be one (1) ordinary Summit per year. The Union will rather host a mid-year coordination Session with the Regional Economic Communities. The first will be held in Niamey, Niger end June 2019.
The 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly will be held on the 10th & 11th February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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