African Continental Free Trade Area Launch: Opportunities and Challenges

Last update: 7 July 2019

In this blog, I am sharing 7 takeaways from the African Union Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area, held in Niger on the 7th July 2019, but also some possible pitfalls that may obstruct or delay the implementation of the AfCFTA in Africa.

The idea of the an Africa Free trade area was first raised by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the then President of Ghana, during his famous speech at the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the 25th May 1963 in Addis Ababa, as part of his proposed business plan for African integration. In 2013, the African Union launched Agenda 2063 with 14 flagship projects including the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Adopted in Kigali, Rwanda in March 2018, the negotiated framework has entered into force on the 30th May 2019 and officially launched during a special Summit of Heads of State of the African Union in Niamey, Niger this 7th July 2019. As of today, 54 out of the 55 African Union Member States have signed the Treaty and 27 of them have ratified it, the latest being Nigeria and Benin at the launch ceremony of the operationalization phase of the Treaty. Eritrea is now the only African country that has not signed the Treaty. The launch of the AfCFTA  is probably the most important concrete step in the African integration project since the setting up of the OAU and its replacement of the AU.

7 Key Takeaways from the AU Summit:

AU Summit

  • Trading under the AfCFTA will commence on the 1st July 2020
  • Ghana has been chosen to host the continental Secretariat of the AfCFTA
  • 7th July will be officially celebrated as the Day of African Integration in commemoration of the historic operationalization launch of the AfCFTA
  • The following 5 operational instruments of the AfCFTA have been negotiated, adopted and launched together with the AfCFTA operationalization phase: A/The Portals of The Rules of Origin, B/The Online Negotiating Portal , C/The Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers, D/The Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) and E/ The African Trade Observatory Dashboard.
  • The 2nd phase of the negotiations should end in December 2020 and the documents will be submitted to the AU Assembly for adoption. Phase 2 issues are investment, competition policy, and intellectual property rights. These will provide important complement to the Phase 1 issues of trade in goods and services.
  • AfCFTA aims to progressively reduce and eliminate customs duties and non-tariff barriers on goods. The goal is for 90% of products to have a zero duty across the continent. 6 countries have been allowed for 85% only for the first 15 years.
  • Afreximbank committed to support the AfCFTA with 25 Billion USD mostly for the establishment of the online payment platform which will result in 5 Billion USD savings in transaction costs annually.

About the African Continental Free Trade Area

AfCFTA pic

The Treaty establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area aims to 1/ Create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, therefore, pave the way for accelerating the establishment of a continental customs union, 2/ Expand intra-Africa trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization, facilitation regimes and instruments across the continent, 3/ Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes , 4/Enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources in Africa.

The African Continental Free Trade Area then provides an opportunity to promote policies and resources that could create conditions for harnessing Africa demographic dividend in the context of creating space for jobs, especially for the youth and economic diversification. This requires attention to expediting domestic capital formation and using capital market strategies to drive the creation and expansion of small and medium enterprises involving youth ownership.

If genuinely implemented, the AfCFTA will provide a framework to ease the cost of doing business within Africa. It will aggregate the very fragmented African market but will the continent quickly address non-tariff barriers, such as infrastructure backlogs, border corruption, heavy bureaucracy, poor communication means etc? Above all do we have enough to trade among ourselves with this ambitious trade agreement while our economies are mostly alike and largely dominated by the exportation of raw material? To take full advantage of the AfCFTA African leaders should deliberately and aggressively invest in industrialization without waiting. An initial focus should be on agriculture and agro-industry development.

If fully ratified, the AfCFTA will open the largest free trade zone in the world with a combined GDP of around $3 Trillion and more than 1.2 billion consumers. AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, which is less than 17% (70% in Europe, 50% in Asia). The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated that intra-Africa trade would likely increase to 52.3 % by 2020 due to the AfCFTA.

Pitfalls that may threaten the implementation of the AfCFTA

The implementation of the AfCFTA is not going to be as easy as it looks in a continent currently fragmented in several economic/trade zones with a poor business infrastructure and with the existing numerous trade agreements with outside partners. The following issues are some of the gray areas that may delay the implementation of the AfCFTA beyond the July 2020 target date:

  • The treaty on free movement of people adopted even before the AfCFTA treaty is not attracting ratification from member states. As of end of June 2019 only 3 countries have ratified it. How can we trade without being able to move freely within the continent?
  • Will poorer countries with insufficient natural resources and landlocked benefit from the AfCFTA the same as mineral-rich countries that are in an advanced stage of industrialization? For example about 50% of Africa’s cumulative GDP is contributed by Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa only. Without a compensation mechanism for poorer and disadvantaged countries, will the argument of benefits from free trade be convincing for all? There is a need for comprehensive policy-preferential treatment for the most at-risk economies. As we move, Member sates should then build an efficient and participatory institutional architecture to avoid leaving some economies behind.
  • How will the 90% tariff line rule fairly apply if – as it is the case in some countries – a single product (oil, coffee, cocoa for example) represents more than 70% of all the country’s exportation?
  • What will happen to the existing specific and competitive  bilateral and multilateral trade agreements between African countries and current outside partners such as the European Union?

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African Union Summit in Niger: Historic Rendezvous!

Last update: 1st July 2019

The African Union Heads of State will hold an extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) on the 7th July 2019 in Niamey, Niger. The Summit will be dedicated to the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA as well as its operational instruments.

The extraordinary Summit will be held in the margins of the inaugural session of the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities (8th July) that replaces the previous mid-year AU Summit, as decided within the framework of the ongoing African Union reform.

The Executive Council of the AU (Ministers of Foreign Affairs) will have its ordinary session on the 4th & 5th July on the same occasion deliberate on important documents and reports of AU organs including most likely the 2020 budget of the Union the legal documents of the new African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the theme of the year 2020 among other things.

In this personal blog I am sharing an overview of the key items on the Agenda of these important gatherings, the outcome of which would be a big step toward the  implementation of the Agenda 2063, the Africa we want.

The Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area: What Expectations?

The Treaty establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area aims to 1/ Create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, therefore, pave the way for accelerating the establishment of a continental customs union, 2/ Expand intra-Africa trade through better harmonization and coordination of trade liberalization, facilitation regimes and instruments across the continent, 3/ Resolve the challenges of multiple and overlapping memberships and expedite the regional and continental integration processes , 4/Enhance competitiveness at the industry and enterprise level through exploiting opportunities for scale production, continental market access and better reallocation of resources in Africa.

The African Continental Free Trade Area then provides an opportunity to promote policies  and resources that could create conditions for harnessing Africa demographic dividend in the context of creating space for jobs, especially for the youth and economic diversification. This requires attention to expediting domestic capital formation and using capital market strategies to drive the creation and expansion of small and medium enterprises involving youth ownership.

If genuinely implemented, the AfCFTA will provide a framework to ease the cost of doing business within Africa. It will aggregate the very fragmented African market  but,… will the continent quickly address non-tariff barriers, such as infrastructure backlogs, border corruption, poor communication means etc? Above all I am also wondering if we have enough to trade among ourselves with this ambitious trade agreement while our economies are mostly alike and largely dominated by the exportation of raw material. To take full advantage of the AfCFTA African leaders should deliberately and aggressively invest in industrialization without waiting. An initial focus should be on agriculture and agro-industry development.

The Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) entered into force on 30th May 2019 for the 24 countries that ratified it. 52 of the 55 AU Member states signed the AfCFTA. Only Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria have not signed the Treaty. If fully ratified, the AfCFTA will open the largest free trade zone in the world with a collective GDP of over $3 trillion and more than 1.2 billion consumers. AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, which accounts roughly for 17% only of all the continent’s exports. The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has estimated that intra-Africa trade would likely increase to 52.3 % by 2020 due to the AfCFTA.

The Extraordinary Summit

Hotel Niamey

Beside the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA, the AU Summit’s delegations to be hosted in the newly built Radisson Blu Hotel of Niamey are expected to launch the following operational instruments of the treaty.

  • Rules of Origin Portal
  • Tariff Concession Portals
  • Portal on Monitoring and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers
  • Digital Payments and Clearing System
  • African Trade Observatory Dashboard

The Niamey Summit will surely be one of the most attended  AU Summit by Heads of State and other personalities in recent time.  Special guests will likely include the Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres, the Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevêdo, the Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Dr.  Mukhisa Kituyi, the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Export–Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) Professor  Benedict Okey Oramah, the Executive Director of International Trade Center Dr. Arancha Gonzalez, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica among others.

The Summit will also consider and approve a set of other decisions coming from the Executive Council as part of the reform of the African Union.

On the Agenda of the Executive Council

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs will most likely discuss and eventually make decisions on the following:

  • The legal instruments of the new African Union Development Agency – NEPAD including the statutes and the rules of procedures of its governing structures
  • The new statutes of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)
  • AU budget for 2020: the current draft budget is around 647 Million USD, more than 60% of which will be paid by external partners
  • The Theme of the year 2020. The current proposal is:“Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”
  • The Implementation of Agenda 2063
  • The African Court on Human and People’s Rights
  • The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights
  • The Challenges and Ratification/Accession and Implementation of the OAU/AU Treaties and decisions

In addition the Council will consider the agenda, working documents and expected outcomes of the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

Discussions and decisions on the new departmental structure of the AU Commission in the framework of the African Union reform will likely be differed  to the February 2020 Summit.

Several side events are also on the Summit agenda.

The Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities: The way forward toward Effectiveness and Efficiency?

au-summit_banners_july2019_website

From now on, according to a decision of the Assembly of the Union, there will be only one ordinary AU Summit per year instead of the two Summits previously held. The Mid-year Summit has now become a Coordination Meeting with the Regional Economic Communities (RECS). The Permanent Representatives Committee (Ambassadors) and the Executive Council of the Union will normally convene as before, prior to the Coordination Meeting. In Niamey, the rules of procedure of the coordination meeting will be considered and eventually adopted. The Mid-Year Coordination Meeting will normally be the highest committee for the African Union and RECs to align their work and coordinate the implementation of the continental integration agenda. The rules of procedures to be discussed in Niamey will define the composition of the gathering, criteria for participation, the running of its business, powers and decision making mechanisms. These policies would have to be adopted ultimately by the Assembly of the Union.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are regional groupings of African States each lead by a Head of State or Government on a rotational basis.  Currently the African Union recognizes 8 RECs from the 5 geographical regions of the continent. They are seen as the building blocks of the African Union in its economic integration process. The 8 RECs are: AMUCEN-SADCOMESAEACECCASECOWASIGAD and SADC.

The RECs work more and more closely with the African Union and are expected to serve their member States with the implementation of the regional integration agenda. The RECs were formed on either historical, political or economic basis. Their members are generally of more than one regional economic community and they operate at different levels of capacity and efficiency. You can read more about the RECs here.

The launch of the mid-year coordination meeting between the AU and the RECs carries the hope to deal with the cumbersome issue of overlap, duplication and sometime competition between the African Union and the RECs, to finally insure complementarity, subsidiarity and to use the comparative advantages  of each of the regional bodies vis a vis the African Union. It will also create an important platform to track the implementation of the African Union decisions at country level; more than 80% of which remain in the shelves untouched according to various reports.

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L’Union Africaine Suspend le Soudan: Quelles en sont les Conséquences ?

English version here 

En réponse à la répression sanglante le Lundi 3 Juin 2019, du sit-in des manifestants civils soudanais,  qui exigent des  militaires au pouvoir depuis la chute d’Omar Bashir , un gouvernement civil et démocratique, le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité (CPS) de l’Union Africaine a sorti ses muscles.

La 854eme Session du Conseil  a décidé, «conformément aux instruments pertinents de l’Union Africaine, en particulier l’Acte Constitutif de l’Union, le Protocole relatif à la création du Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité et la Charte Africaine de la Démocratie, des Elections et de la Gouvernance, de suspendre, avec effet immédiat, la participation de la République du Soudan à toutes les activités de l’UA, jusqu’à la mise en place effective d’une Autorité de transition sous conduite civile, seule voie à même de permettre au Soudan de sortir de la crise actuelle». C’est une décision sans appel, claire et non équivoque qui suscite quand même quelques questions juridiques, politiques et de clarification. Je vais en aborder quelques-unes dans ce blog.

AfricanUnionHeadquarters

Je rappelle que les affirmations de ce blog sont purement personnelles et n’engagent pas mes employeurs actuel ou passés.

 Quelles sont les implications directes de la suspension d’un Etat membre des Activités de l’Union Africaine ?

Les textes évoqués par le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité dans ses différentes sessions  sur la situation au Soudan n’ont pas donnés tous les détails  sur les conséquences d’une suspension d’un état membre.

Sur le plan politique Il faut reconnaitre que la suspension du  Soudan affaiblit la légitimité internationale, déjà fragile du Conseil militaire de transition au pouvoir. L’Union Africaine a un poids politique incontestable dont la décision influencerait certainement des partenaires  internationaux du Soudan.  Aucun régime politique ne voudrait être dans une situation de suspension d’une organisation de 55 états membres, la plus importante institution pan Africaine sur le continent. En outre, les violations odieuses des droits de l’homme qui ont conduit à cette suspension, notamment le viol présumé de femmes et de filles, ont rendu la situation encore plus sombre. Les Nations Unies ont également condamné le recours excessif à la force par les forces de sécurité à l’encontre de civils et ont appelé à une enquête indépendante.

Dans la pratique la suspension d’un état aux activités de l’Union implique que les représentants dudit état  ne seront plus invités  aux activités des organes de l’Union jusqu’à la levée de la suspension. Ils perdent naturellement  leurs droits de vote. L’état en question ne pourra pas non plus abriter de réunions des organes de l’Union. Tous les organes et programmes sont concernés.  Ses représentants élus dans les comités et groupes de travail n’y auront plus accès comme membres.  Il n’est cependant pas clair si les représentants de l’état suspendu peuvent être  autorisés  à siéger dans les séances non-fermées  comme observateurs et sans droit de vote. A mon avis si la séance admet des observateurs (non-états membres de l’UA), un représentant d’un état suspendu devrait pouvoir y assister sans avoir droit à la parole et au vote. Il faut quand-même préciser que la suspension d’un état des activités de l’Union n’arrête pas  l’appartenance de cet état  à l’Union Africaine. En conséquence l’état suspendu doit continuer d’honorer ses obligations vis-à-vis de l’Union telles que les cotisations au budget de l’Union. D’ailleurs c’est dans cet esprit que l’Union Africaine continuera d’accompagner le processus de normalisation en collaboration avec la Communauté économique régionale géographiquement concernée. Dans le cas d’espèce, c’est l’IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) dont fait partie le Djibouti, l’Erythrée, l’Ethiopie, le Kenya, la Somalie, le Soudan, le Sud Soudan et  l’Ouganda.

Quels en sont les effets sur les citoyens de l’état suspendu ?  La Déclaration de Lomé de Juillet 2000 sur les changements inconstitutionnels de gouvernement suggère qu’il  faut veiller à ce que les citoyens ordinaires du pays concerné ne souffrent pas de manière disproportionnée du fait de l’application de sanctions aux tenants du pouvoir. Néanmoins dans la pratique l’impact de la suspension sur les citoyens est inévitable surtout si la suspension dure dans le temps.  Par exemple la Centrafrique avait été suspendue pendant trois ans, mais j’imagine que ce qui importe le plus ici pour les citoyens soudanais c’est le soutien politique et moral que représente la décision du Conseil par rapport à leur droit légitime à l’avènement d’un état démocratique.  Le Conseil a notamment réaffirmé « la solidarité continue de l’Union Africaine avec le peuple soudanais dans ses aspirations à un cadre constitutionnel et à des institutions pouvant permettre à leur pays de connaitre des avancées dans ses efforts sur la voie de la transformation démocratique »

Pourquoi la suspension du Soudan n’as pas été automatique aussitôt après le coup d’Etat comme dans d’autres cas dans le passé ?

Le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité semble utiliser ce mécanisme au cas par cas  pour plusieurs raisons. La plus importante est que  le mécanisme de la Déclaration de Lomé et les autres instruments cités par le Conseil  avaient été rédigés dans un contexte de coups d’état classiques ou on ne connaissait pas tellement de soulèvements  populaires et les révolutions de la rue qui ont lieu de nos jours. Il est aussi vrai que l’espace démocratique s’est largement étendu en Afrique…  Il y a donc un problème de caractérisation des faits face à la  situation du Soudan aujourd’hui, mais aussi à celle de l’Egypte par le passé, de l’Algérie, du Zimbabwe etc. Il importe que l’Union Africaine se penche sur la définition du cadre d’intervention en cas de soulèvement populaire. Dans le cas du Soudan par exemple, le Conseil a  visiblement tenté de donner une chance aux militaires pour parvenir rapidement à un accord avec les civils, mais les évènements sanglants de cette semaine et l’absence de progrès dans les discussions ont fait changer la donne.

ETHIOPIA-ADDIS ABABA-18TH AU SUMMIT

Au-delà de la suspension du Soudan… le jeu des alliances avec ou sans l’Afrique.

D’aucuns se demandent si la suspension du Soudan des activités de l’Union Africaine est suffisante pour  faire courber les militaires au pouvoir.  Il faut déjà reconnaitre que le langage et la position du Conseil dans le cas soudanais est l’un des plus fermes de l’histoire. En plus, le Conseil menace qu’au cas où les militaires ne transféreront pas sans plus tarder, le pouvoir à une Autorité de transition sous conduite civile, le Conseil imposera automatiquement des mesures punitives aux personnes et entités faisant obstacle à la mise en place de l’Autorité de transition sous conduite civile. A l’ère où tout se mondialise y compris la justice et la redevabilité surtout en matière de droits de l’homme  personne ne veut prendre le risque  de faire face à ces éventualités.

Cependant, la tâche ne semble pas être si simple  dans une situation ou d’autres alliés du Soudan dans le continent et en dehors du continent  ne semblent pas aller dans la même direction que l’Union Africaine.  Il n’est donc pas étonnant de voir que dans son Communiqué, le Conseil de Paix et de Sécurité dans un langage fort a souligné, « la primauté des initiatives entreprises par les pays africains dans la recherche d’une solution durable à la crise au Soudan et a réitéré  son appel à tous les partenaires pour qu’ils soutiennent les efforts de l’UA et de l’IGAD et s’abstiennent de toute action susceptible de compromettre les initiatives entreprises par l’Afrique ».

Même si le Conseil de Sécurité des Nations Unies n’a pas pu s’entendre sur un texte commun et la conduite à tenir, une grande partie de la communauté internationale semble être alignée sur la position de l’Union Africaine. L’Union Africaine a en effet du potentiel et un poids politique assez important à ne pas négliger pour résolution du problème soudanais et bien d’autres sur le continent.

J’ai espoir que la raison prévaudra entre les parties prenantes soudanaises.  L’Afrique que nous voulons en dépens.

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African Union Suspended Sudan: What are the Consequences?

La version en Francais ici

In response to the bloody removal on Monday 3rd June, of the sit-in of Sudanese civilian protesters who are demanding a democratic government to the military in power since the fall of Omar Bashir, the African Union Peace and Security Council has pulled out its muscles yesterday 6 June 2019.

The 854th Session of the Council decided, “in line with the relevant AU instruments, in particular the AU Constitutive Act, the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, to suspend, with immediate effect, the participation of the Republic of Sudan in all AU activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from its current crisis”. This decision is clear and unambiguous but it raises some legal,  political and practical questions. I will address some of them in this blog.

AfricanUnionHeadquarters

Please note that affirmations of this blog are purely personal and do not engage my current or past employers.

What are the direct implications of the suspension of a Member State from the activities of the African Union?

The instruments referred to by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) in its various sessions on the situation in Sudan have not given full details of the consequences of a suspension of a member state.

Political significance: It should be recognized that the suspension of Sudan weakens the already fragile international legitimacy of the ruling Transition Military Council. The African Union has an undeniable political weight and its decision will certainly influence international partners of Sudan. No political regime would enjoy to be in a situation of suspension from an organization of 55 member states, the most important Pan African institution on the continent. In addition, the heinous violation of human rights that led to this suspension, including alleged widespread rape of women and girls, made the picture even darker. The United Nations has also strongly condemned the violence and the use of excessive force by the security forces on civilians, and called for an independent investigation.

In practice the suspension of a state from the affairs of the Union implies that representatives of that State will no longer be invited to the activities of the organs of the Union until the lifting of the suspension. They naturally lose their voting rights. Nor can the State in question host meetings of the organs of the Union. All AU bodies and programs are concerned. Elected representatives of the suspended state in the various AU committees and working groups will no longer have access to them as members. It is unclear, however, whether suspended state officials may be allowed to sit in an open session as observers and without the right to vote. In my opinion, if the meeting admits observers (non-member states of the AU), a representative of the suspended state should be able to attend the meeting without the right to speak and to vote. However, it is necessary to specify that the suspension of a state of the activities of the Union does not stop the membership of the said state to the African Union. As a result, the suspended state must continue to honor its obligations to the Union, such as contributions to the Union budget. Moreover, it is in that spirit that the African Union will continue to support the normalization process in collaboration with the Regional Economic Community geographically concerned. In this case, it is IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) which includes Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.

What are the effects on citizens ?

The Lomé Declaration of July 2000 suggests that care must be taken to ensure that ordinary citizens of the affected country do not suffer disproportionately from the imposition of sanctions on those in power. Nevertheless in practice the impact of the suspension on the citizens is inevitable especially if the suspension lasts long. For example, the Central African Republic had been suspended for three years, but I can imagine that what is most important here for Sudanese citizens today is the political and moral support that the PSC decision represents for their legitimate right for a democratic state. In particular, the Council reaffirmed “the solidarity of the African Union with the Sudanese in their aspirations to constitutional order that will enable them to make progress in its efforts towards the democratic transformation of the country”.

ETHIOPIA-ADDIS ABABA-18TH AU SUMMIT

Why was Sudan’s suspension not automatic immediately after the coup as in other cases in the past?

The Peace and Security Council seems to use this mechanism on a case-by-case basis for several reasons. The most important is that, the mechanism of the Lomé Declaration and the other instruments cited by the Council had been drafted in the context of classic coups. Popular uprisings and street revolutions where not envisaged at that time. It is also true that nowadays the democratic space has spread widely in Africa so strong and persistent popular movements could not be ignored anymore … There is therefore a problem of characterization of the situation in Sudan today, but also that of Egypt a few years back, in Algeria, Zimbabwe etc. It is important for the African Union to look at defining the framework for action in the event of popular uprisings. In the case of Sudan, for example, the Council apparently tried to give the military a chance to reach an agreement with the civilians quickly, but the bloody events of this week and the lack of progress in the discussions had changed the situation.

Beyond the suspension of Sudan from AU activities and the game of alliances

Some question whether the suspension of Sudan from the activities of the African Union is sufficient to bend the ruling Transition Military Council. We should recognize that, already the language and position of the PSC is one of the firmest in history. In addition, the PSC threatens that, should the Transition Military Council fail to hand-over power to a civilian-led Transitional Authority, the PSC shall, without any further delay, automatically impose punitive measures on individuals and entities obstructing the establishment of the civilian-led Transitional Authority. There is also a move towards investigating the massive human rights violations. In a world where everything is globalizing, including justice and accountability, especially in the area of ​​human rights, no one wants to take the risk of facing these eventualities.

However, this does not seem to be so simple in a situation where other Sudanese allies within and outside the continent do not seem to be moving in the same direction as the African Union. It is therefore not surprising that in its Communiqué, the Peace and Security Council stressed “the primacy of African-led initiatives in the search for a lasting solution to the crisis in Sudan; and reiterated its call to all partners to support AU and IGAD efforts and refrain from any action that could undermine African-led initiatives”.

Even though the United Nations Security Council has not been able to agree on a common text and what to do, a large part of the international community seems to be aligned with the position of the African Union. The African Union has the potential and a significant political weight, to help solve the Sudanese problem and many others in the continent.

I hope that reason will prevail between the Sudanese stakeholders. We need that for the Africa we want.

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African Union Reform Decisions: How will Change Happen?

The Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, dedicated to the institutional reform of the Union ended this 18 November 2018 in Addis Ababa.

Here are the main decisions and a few personal reflections on how change may happen in our continent.

This blog comes to update/complement my previous blog published prior to the Summit and should be read together with it.

Adopted New Structure & Portfolios for the African Union Commission

The new structure of the AU Commission will be as follows:

  • Chairperson of the AUC
  • Deputy Chairperson of the AUC
  • 6 Portfolios/Commissioners as follow (instead of 8 previously)

1) Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment;

2) Economic Development, Trade and Industry and Mining

3) Education, Science, Technology and Innovation;

4) Infrastructure and Energy;

4) Political Affairs, Peace & Security;

6) Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development

The change include mainly the following:

–   Merging of Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Departments. The Humanitarian Division previously under Political Affairs moves to the Social Affairs Department renamed

–   Merging of Economic Affairs and the Trade & Industry Departments with addition of Mining

– Human Resource, Science and Technology Department is renamed as Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

– Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment added to Agriculture Rural Development Department

This new structure will come into effect at the end of the current tenure of the AU Commission in 2021.

Important principles to guide the selection process of the senior leadership of the Commission;

  1. Equitable regional representation and gender parity;
  2. Predictable inter and intra-regional rotation following the English alphabetical order to be applied to each senior leadership position
  3. Attracting and retaining Africa’s top talent;
  4. Accountable and effective leadership and management;
  5. Transparent and merit-based selection;
  6. The principle of rotational gender parity shall be applied to the posts of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson; ensuring that if the Chairperson is male then the Deputy Chairperson shall be a female and vice versa

The Mandate of the African Union Development Agency – AUDA (Transformed NEPAD) adopted as follow:

  • To coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration towards the accelerated realization of Agenda 2063;
  • To strengthen capacity of African Union Member States and regional bodies; advance knowledge-based advisory support, undertake the full range of resource mobilization, and serve as the continent’s technical interface with all Africa’s development stakeholders and development partners.

The Assembly called for the conclusion of a permanent Host Country Agreement for the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) with the Government of South Africa.

Reform of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)

  • APRM budget to be integrated in the statutory Union budget funded by Member States: This will bring the institution to a more financial stability but may also incite more member states to join it.
  • APRM capacity to be strengthen in collaboration with the African Governance Architecture and  its functional autonomy enhanced to deliver on its extended mandate,
  • APRM to present an update on the State of Governance in Africa and to report to the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly scheduled to take place in February 2019

An ongoing process

This reform is an on-going process. More and more organs of the Union will be reviewed as we move and the process will surely not stop with the end of President Kagame’s tenure as Chairperson of the Union in January 2019. He will remain the champion of the reform and the issue is likely to remain on the top of AU agenda given the large principle adherence of member states to the reform agenda, despite the divergence  of opinion on the How…

In the end, the refocusing of the AU to a few continental issues, wanted by President Kagame has not happened. We only see a restructuring/reshuffling of portfolios… Now it is important to leverage the principles of subsidiarity, complementarity and comparative advantage while discussing the division of labor with the Regional Economic Communities.

How will change happen in Africa?

My personal view here is that, the restructuring of the Commission and other organs of the Union, to better deliver on their mandates, and the adoption of performance based management principles are excellent steps ahead. However, African people’s life can be really impacted only, if the adopted decisions, standards and values are effectively implemented at national level by member states. For this to happen, there is a need for an effective accountability mechanism to be handled by a strong, empowered and capacitated AU Commission and relevant organs vis a vis member states in transparent and objective manners… and as I pointed it out in my previous blog, a sanction regime for the non-implementation of African Union decisions at national level is still the missing element in the reform agenda. It should be discussed soon. The overall rate of implementation of AU decisions at national level is below 15% according to various reports… We should fix this by all means in order to get to the Africa we want.

The Reform of the African Union in 7 Questions

African Heads of State and Government are gathering this weekend 17 & 18 November 2018 in Addis Ababa for an Extraordinary Summit to discuss the institutional reform of the African Union being championed by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

I would like to share the following 7 key aspects of the reform (my personal views)

Please note that I have published updated and additional information to this article by the link here.

  1. What are the Key Reform Areas?

In his submission titled “The Imperative to strengthen our Union” adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State of the Union, President Kagame identified four main areas that need urgent actions:

  • The AU to focus only on key priorities with continental scope: This will help the Union to make a real difference on these areas in improving the life of African citizens. Anything else could be covered at regional and national levels
  • Realign Africa Union institutions to deliver against those priorities
  • Ensure efficient and effective management of the African Union both politically and at the operational level
  • Finance the Union with African resources
  1. What are the Proposed Continental Priorities to be handled by the African Union
  • Political Affairs
  • Peace & Security
  • Economic Integration
  • Africa’s Global Voice
  1. What are the key decisions taken so far in relation to the reform? a/ The institution of a 0.2 %t Levy on all eligible imported goods into the Continent to finance the African Union Operational, Program and Peace Support Operations Budgets. The amounts collected from the Levy shall be automatically paid by the national administration, into an account opened for the African Union with the Central Banks of each Member State for transmission to the African Union in accordance with each Member State’s assessed contribution. If this decisions is fully implemented, the Union will be able to cover 100% of its operational cost, 75% of its programme budget and 25% of the Union’s peace support operations. Currently, around 60% of the total budget of the African Union is financed by external donors. b/ There will be only one AU Summit per year starting from 2019, instead of two Summits currently held. The Mid-year Summit will now become a Coordination Meeting with the Regional Economic Communities (RECS). The first of its kind will be held in June/July 2019 in Niamey, Niger. The Permanent Representatives Committee and the Executive Council will normally convene as before, prior to the Coordination Meeting. c/ The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency is transformed into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) with an enhanced mandate likely to be adopted by the extraordinary session of the AU Assembly.

 4. What are the Reform issues on which there is no full consensus among member states?

  • A number of AU Member States, for different reasons are not fully onboard with the 0.2% levy on imports to finance the Union.
  • The new structure of the AU Commission, the mode of designation and the authority/power of its leadership are viewed differently by AU Member States. The power dynamic between the Chairperson of the AU Commission and the Commissioners is another issue on which member States have divergent opinions.
  • The role of the Permanent Representative Committee and its relation with the AU Commission have been pointed out by President Kagame as an area to review. Here also, Member states positions are unlikely to match each other.
  • The planned reform of the Peace and Security Council of the Union would probably show serious diverging opinions within Member State.
  1. What are the proposals on the table for the new Structure of the African Union Commission?

The proposed new structure of the AU Commission to be considered by the Summit is as follows:

  • Chairperson of the AUC
  • Deputy Chairperson of the AUC
  • 6 Commissioners as follow (instead of 8 previously)

1) Agriculture, Rural Development, Environment;

2) Economic Development, Trade and Industry;

3) Education, Science, Technology and Innovation;

4) Infrastructure and Energy;

4) Political Affairs, Peace & Security;

6) Health, Social Development, Women and Youth Empowerment;

The proposed change include mainly the following:

–     Merging of Political Affairs and the Peace and Security Departments

–     Merging of Economic Affairs and the Trade & Industry Departments

–     Women/Gender Directorate previously under the Chairperson’s cabinet moves to Health and Social Development (previously Social Affairs Department)

–  Youth Division previously under Human Resource, Science and Technology Department moves to Health and Social Development

–  Human Resource, Science and Technology Department is renamed as Education, Science, Technology and Innovation

It is also being proposed to create a non-elected post of Director-General to lead the operational coordination of the Commission’s departments and non-elected staff. The current post of Secretary-General may be renamed Secretary to the Commission.

The Summit will consider a new mode and procedure of designation of the leadership of the AU Commission but it is not expected that the Chairperson will be granted the right to select his/her deputy and the commissioners or even to be part of the process as some actors have proposed. Gender parity will be maintained within the leadership team and even reinforced at the top level. This means for example that if the Chairperson is a male the deputy should be a female or vice versa.

There is  a strong push to enhance performance management at the senior leadership of the Commission. The Summit may order a goal and target setting mechanism and an annual submission of performance report by the Chairperson of the Commission.

The new selection policy will come into effect at the end of the current tenure of the Commission in January 2021.

  1. On the effective division of labor between the African Union, Regional Economic Communities Member States and other Continental Organizations

Deliberations may also include the establishment of a clear division of labor and effective collaboration among the AU, the RECs, the Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the harmonization of policies across the board. The AU Commission together with the RECs and relevant organs would have to develop a proposal on an effective division of labor to be submitted to the first Mid-Year Coordination Meeting in June/July 2019. There needs to be added emphasis on the division of labor in matters of peace in security, currently governed by the principles of subsidiarity and comparative advantage which remain wanting regarding clarity. Redundancy and overlap in mandates and work should be abandoned in favor of efficiency and cooperation.

  1. What are the Missing Elements in the reform:

a/ Accountability for the implementation of AU decisions, treaties policy standards and shared values by member states at the national level

There is an ongoing interesting discussion on improving the African peer review mechanism (a voluntary mechanism), which is a positive development, but for our Union to be able to make a real difference in the life of African people, it is imperative to think about a robust accountability mechanism for the implementation of agreed policies, standards and values at national level.  The African Union Commission, other organs of the Union and ordinary citizens & their formations should be deliberately empowered and enabled to hold accountable our leaders for the realizations of their promises.

We need a courageous debate on sanction, not only sanctions for non-payment of Member States accessed contribution but also sanctions for non-implementation of agreed policies and the values on which the Constitutive Act of the Union is built as well as the seven aspirations of our Agenda 2063, the Africa we want.

b/ Civic Space/Citizens’ participation: A critical enabler of Agenda 2063’s vision is citizens’ rights to organise and their ability to stand against human rights abuses, poverty, inequality, injustice, corruption etc. The reform of the African Union should make a concrete way for independent African Civil Society formations to be able to contribute meaningfully in the affairs of the Union including an efficient mechanism for access to information. It is a common knowledge that the current settings are not meeting the expected results.

Please share your comments on this blog or by email: assogbavi@me.com  

African Union Summit in Mauritania: What is at Stake?

Friends;

As usual, I would like to share with you the following personal notes on the upcoming 31st Ordinary Summit of the AU policy organs to be held in Nouakchott, Mauritania in a few weeks.

The Summit will be held under the theme: “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.”

Beside the main theme of the year, major issues on the Summit agenda include a progress review on the institutional reform and self-financing of the African Union, peace, security and humanitarian situation on the continent, the Continental Free Trade Area and the African Common Position on the future of ACP/EU. I have also anticipated on the theme and the leadership of the Union for next year 2019.

In line with the ongoing reform of the African Union, this Summit is expected to be the last mid-year Summit. From 2019 onward, there will only be one (1) ordinary Summit per year.

According to the draft agenda, the Summit’s sessions are scheduled as follow in Nouakchott:

  • Permanent Representative Committee (Ambassadors): 25th – 26th June 2018
  • Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 28th – 29th  June 2018
  • Assembly (Heads of State and Government): 1st – 2nd July 2018

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A Closed Summit

The upcoming AU Summit will likely be a closed Summit as per AU Assembly decision AU/Dec.582 (XXV) according to which “Only one summit per year should be open for observers (non-African countries, international and inter-governmental organizations, CSOs etc)”. This decision was previously applied during the mid-year Summit in Kigali, Rwanda in July 2017. The only exception to this policy is when the AU decides to invite a strategic partner whose activities are in line with the theme of the year. Organizations that have an authorized side event in relation with the theme may only have access to the specific event and not necessarily to the entire Summit space.

Key Issues to dominate the AU Summit

 Winning the fight against corruption: Corruption is one of the most pressing governance and development challenges that Africa is confronted with today. It’s devastating and harsh effects adversely affect the development progress and stability of the Continent. In 2003, the AU adopted the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption which entered into force in 2006.  The convention, now ratified by 38 Member States provides for the establishment of an Advisory Board on Corruption.  Created in 2009, the Arusha, Tanzania based Board has the mandate to promote and encourage the adoption of measures and actions to fight corruption and related offences on the continent. Member States are required to submit a report to the Executive Council on a regular basis on the progress made in complying with the provisions of the Convention.

Corruption trough Illicit Financial Flows (IFF): According the Thabo Mbeki report in 2015, $50 Billion is lost through illicit flows out of the continent every year. This figure has now mounted to $80 Billion according to the UNECA.

At the July 2017 Summit, it was decided that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari would champion the annual theme. This decision was apparently based on the fact that Nigeria has recently taken a number of initiatives at national level to fight corruption practices.

In Nouakchott a presentation and a presidential debate led by President Buhari will be held on the theme and the Assembly will likely adopt a solemn declaration on fighting corruption in Africa. It is not clear whether the discussions on fighting corruption will be extended to corruption in political governance.

Progress on the institutional reform and self-financing of the African Union: The summit will review progress on the implementation of the institutional reform being led by President Paul Kagame aiming for a more efficient and effective African Union to achieve the objectives of the Agenda 2063. So far it’s hard to believe that there is a genuine consensus among member states on what the new structure of the AU will look like, the power dynamics in the leadership, the scope of thematic interventions and the division of labour between the AU and the Regional Economic Communities among other issues. A group of Member States has even tabled formal concerns in relation with the review process and the initial proposal made by President Kagame.

A progress report on financing the African Union by African countries through a 0.2% levy on eligible imported goods into the continent, is also expected to be presented by Donald Kaberuka. So far the AU is still funded up to 70% by external donors.

Peace, Security and Humanitarian Situation: the number of violent conflicts in Africa and their impact on civilians has hardly changed from the previous year. Re-occurring or relapsing conflicts, riots and mass protests, and shifting threats posed by violent extremist groups are key sources and manifestations of violence and insecurity in Africa and the continent continue to face heavy peace and security and humanitarian challenges. Progress towards a sustainable peace is rather slow due to many reasons mostly linked to governance deficits and the continent continues to face cases of stalled or collapsed peace processes; some of the notable cases include Burundi, CAR, DRC, Mali, South Sudan, Libya, Somalia etc. The Campaign for “silencing the guns by 2020” decided some years back is struggling to show results as we are approaching the deadline in a year and a half. The Assembly of the Union will consider a report on it. The situation between Morocco and Western Sahara is still unresolved. Besides the general debate on the state of peace and security in the continent, the Assembly of Heads of State will consider a special report of the AUC Chairperson on Western Sahara.  The Peace and Security Council will meet at Heads of State level on the 30th June. French President Emmanuel Macron will participate in a luncheon on financing AU-led peace support operations authorized by the UN Security Council. It is likely that discussions between President Macron and African Leaders will be extended to the situation in Libya in which France is deeply involved.

The Continental Free Trade Area: the unfinished business: The recently adopted African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement will cover an African market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member States of the Union. 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. The potential for intra-African trade to drive value creation and development is both palpable and real. The agreement is designed to benefit Africa’s industrial exports, so, in order to trade, Africa first has to produce and not only selling primary commodities. The Free Trade Agreement could not then produce the expected result without an acceptable degree of industrialization of the continent. 11 countries including the biggest economies of the continent – Nigeria and South Africa – have not signed the agreement. The next summit creates an opportunity to have those countries onboard but also to push for more ratifications of the treaty beyond the first 4 countries: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Niger. In addition, the summit will discuss important annexes and appendices to make the AfCFTA effectively functional.

African Common Position on the future of ACP/EU: The Economic Partnership Agreement (Cotonou Agreement) signed in the year 2000 between 79 African, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) States and the European Union (EU) and its Member States for a period of 20 years is coming to an end in February 2020. Reflections between Africa and the EU are under way to determine the nature, outline and configuration of a more appropriate framework for future post-2020 relations. Renewing these agreements creates, a unique opportunity for both continents to reaffirm their individual and collective priorities, opportunities and challenges, so, African Heads of State will consider and eventually adopt a common position ahead of their negotiation with the EU.

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.  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.

Given the important humanitarian component of our 2018-2021 strategic plan, we, at UNFPA, are ready  to engage on the African Union’s 2019 theme alongside other partners.

Do not hesitate to drop me an email on assogbavi@me.com should you have any questions or comments.

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