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)
- 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
- What are the Proposed Continental Priorities to be handled by the African Union
- Political Affairs
- Peace & Security
- Economic Integration
- Africa’s Global Voice
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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