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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Do you know which Heads of State/Government champion your issues at the African Union?

Over the years the Assembly of the African Union has been appointing Heads of State/Government to champion/lead on key issues and initiatives on the continental agenda. The aim is to give greater awareness and to mobilize continental and global support for the implementation of those initiatives/issues. Thematic assignments have played a role in enabling the Union to tackle wide array of issues on its agenda. 

Who are those Champions?

  1. Continent’s Political Integration: Republic of Uganda: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
  2. Combating Early Marriage of Young Girls: Republic of Zambia : President Edgar Chagwa Lungu
  3. Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA): Republic of Niger: President  Mahamadou Issoufou
  4. Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investment in Youth: Republic of Chad: President  Idriss Deby Itno
  5. Domestic Health Financing: Republic of Rwanda: President  Paul Kagame
  6. Institutional Reform of the African Union: Republic of Rwanda: President Paul Kagame
  7. Implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP): Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: Prime Minister  Abiy Ahmed
  8. Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa: Republic of Togo: President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe
  9. Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa: People’s Republic of Algeria: President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
  10. Migration: Kingdom of Morocco: King Mohamed VI
  11. Implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063: Republic of Cote D’Ivoire: President  Alassane Dramane Ouattara
  12. Gender and Development Issues in Africa: Republic of Ghana: President Nana Akufo Addo
  13. Committee of Ten (C10) on the United Nations Security Council reform: Republic of Sierra Leone: President  Julius Maada Bio
  14. Education, Science and Innovation: Republic of Senegal: President Mr. Macky Sall
  15. AUDA/NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC): Republic of Senegal: President Macky Sall
  16. Malaria: Kingdom of Eswatini: King Mswati III
  17. Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation: Federal Republic of Nigeria: President  Muhammadu Buhari
  18. Climate Change (CAHOSCC): Republic of Gabon: President Ali Bongo Ondimba
  19. Revitalization and operationalization of the African Union Policy on Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD): Arab Republic of Egypt: President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi
  20. Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation: Burkina Faso: President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré
  21. Refugees, Returnees and Internal Displaced Persons (IDP): Republic of Equatorial Guinea: President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
  22. High-Level Committee on Libya: Republic of Congo: President Denis Sassou Nguesso
  23. African Union- United Nations Cooperation: Republic of South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa
  24. Development of Blue Economy : Republic of Seychelles: H.E. President Danny Faure.

So far there are no standard modalities for the selection of those champions, the duration of the assignments are not clear and it is not sure if the assignment is transferable in case of change of leadership at the helm of the country. The African Union needs to clarify these. 

This list may not be exhaustive. Please drop me a line on assogbavi@me.com or Desire.Assogbavi@assodesire.com should you have additional information or suggestions on this.

Merci !

African Union Summit February 2019: What is on the Agenda?

The 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) will be held at the headquarters of the Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as follows:

–          Executive Council (Ministers of Foreign Affairs): 7th – 8th February 2019

–          Assembly (Heads of State and Government): 10th – 11th February 2019

Citizens’ Pre-Summit Gatherings: The Gender is my Agenda (GIMAC) pre-summit is scheduled for the 3rd and 4th February and the    7th Citizens’ Continental Conference will be held from 4th -7th February in Addis Ababa.

As usual, I am sharing below a personal overview on what is expected to be discussed during the Summit.

Closed Summit

A decision taken in January 2017 by the Assembly of the Union stipulated that “External parties shall only be invited to AU Summits on exceptional basis and for a specific purpose determined by the interests on the African Union”. According to a note verbal recently circulated by the AU Commission, Addis Ababa based Representatives of non-African Union Member States and International Organizations accredited to the African Union will be allowed to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the Summit.

Organizations that are involved in an approved side event in relation to the agenda of the Summit will only have access to the specific event and not to other meetings of the Summit.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the Driving Seat for 2019

President Paul Kagame (Rwanda) will step down from the rotational chairmanship of the Union and President El-Sisi (Egypt) will take over for the next 12 months. As part of its chairmanship priorities, it is expected that Egypt prioritizes a revitalization of the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) framework policy in link with peace building in Africa and as part of the solutions to forced displacement in the continent.

What is on the Agenda?

au summit image

The AU theme for the year 2019: “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa” will be officially launched during the Summit and a road-map of activities will be considered and eventually approved to be implemented throughout the year and beyond. Beside the main theme, the following key issues will likely dominate the Summit agenda:

–          Institutional Reform of the Union and its implementation: President Kagame will present an overview of the reform and the Chairperson of the AU Commission will report on its implementation. A report of the Commission regarding the alignment of the legal instruments will be considered as instructed by the Extraordinary Summit held in November last year.

–          State of Peace and Security in Africa and the implementation of the African Union Road-map of Practical Steps to Silence the Guns by 2020.

–          Humanitarian Situation in Africa.

–          African Peer Review mechanism and the State of Governance in Africa.

–          Post-Cotonou negotiations with the European Union.

–          Free Movement in Africa: The AU Commission will present, for adoption, guidelines on the design, production and issuance of the African Passport to boost free movement on the continent.

–          Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development: Egypt is expected to table an agenda item on revitalizing and operationalizing the African Union’s policy on PCRD.

–          Migration: Morocco is expected to present a report on the establishment of the African Union Migration Observatory.

–          It is also expected that recent and ongoing developments in the continent such as the post-election situation in DRC and the raise of terrorist attacks  will make it to the Summit’s agenda.

The following draft legal instruments are scheduled to be considered and adopted:

–          Draft Treaty for the Establishment of the African Medicines Agency

–          Draft Statute of the African Audio Visual and Cinema Commission

–     Draft Statutes of the African Union International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa

–          Draft African Union Transitional Justice Policy

Elections: The Summit will elect/appoint the following:

–          5 Members of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union: The following countries are candidates for the PSC: Burundi (Central),  – Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan (Eastern) –  Algeria (Northern) – Lesotho (Southern) – Nigeria (Western)

–          1 Member of the African Union Commission on International Law

–          1 Member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

–          7 Members of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption

About the AU theme of the Year 2019: Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa” 

Africa is home for more than one-third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons, including more than 6 million refugees and asylum seekers and 14.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Forced displacement in Africa is caused mostly by conflicts, poor governance, human rights violations and environmental issues. In the framework of the long-term vision contained in the Agenda 2063, the African Union adopted the Common African Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness (CAP) and called for a ten-year period of transformation to strengthen humanitarian action on the continent. The CAP defines Africa’s new humanitarian architecture including the creation of an African Humanitarian Agency as a vehicle for Africa’s humanitarian action. The new humanitarian architecture also emphasizes addressing root causes and achieving sustainable solutions, as well as bolstering the capacity of States and other stakeholders to tackle the challenges of forced displacement on the continent.

Throughout 2019, the African Union will mark the theme of the year focusing on refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and returnees. The Union will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAU Refugee 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 ( the Kampala Convention).

The draft Road-map for 2019 to be considered by the AU Summit for approval includes among others the following activities:

–          6 regional consultative meetings of AU Member States and other stakeholders, focused on refugees, returnees, IDPs or statelessness issues, as well as cross-cutting consultative meetings to focus on issues affecting all these persons of concern.

–          An African Humanitarian Summit on Refugees, IDPs and Returnees to be held in November 2019, which will generate state commitments in a decision/declaration and pledging of requisite resources for the implementation of the CAP on Humanitarian Effectiveness in Africa.

–          A multi-year law and policy humanitarian action training.

–          Promotion of  ratification and  implementation of the AU Convention on IDPs -Kampala Convention.

While focusing on the theme of the year 2019 and the institutional reform of the Union for a greater impact is commendable, it is important for our Union to ensure that, embracing a new theme each year does not stop or slow down efforts and investments towards implementation of commitments, policies, road-maps etc, that we have adopted under the themes of previous years. For example, what have been the impacts of the AU Year of Human Rights (2016 theme) on African people’s life?  where are we with our commitments under the Road-map for Harnessing Demographic Dividend in Africa  (2017 theme)? How much have we advanced in fighting corruption in the continent (2018 theme) ? … How close are we to “silence the guns by 2020″as decided several years ago? Our Union’s Member States must regularly give account to citizens on what has been achieved at national level on those previous commitments, and, this accountability mechanism should be part of  the ongoing institutional reform of the Union. The AU Commission should be empowered to carry this on by holding Member States accountable for the implementation of adopted policies.  

It is also important to keep in mind that people of Africa aspire to a greater democracy, rule of law and the respect of all their human rights, fundamental liberties as well as good governance, which have been reaffirmed in several AU instruments and recognized as our shared values. Those values are the pathways to our 2063 and 2030 aspirations. There are no other ways. The African Union has the necessary leverage to make it happen. Let’s just do it.

Feel free to drop me an email on assogbavi@me.com should you have any questions, suggestions or comments.

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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