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Can the AU improve governance in Africa?

The joint briefing session aimed at providing a platform for an animated discussion on the governance and peace and security decisions taken at the 32nd AU summit. In the opening remarks, it was commended that a partnership between IPSS and ISS brings together institutional comparative advantage to effectively influence policies and dialogue at the AU.

News

13 March 2019

 

On 15 February, IPSS in partnership with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) held a joint briefing session on “After the Summit: Can the African Union (AU) improve governance in Africa”. The speakers included: Dr. Roba D. Sharamo, Kenyan Commissioner of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission; Ms. Leisl Louw-Vaudran, ISS Senior Researcher; Dr. Solomon Dersso, Founder of Amani Africa and Dr. Mohammed Diatta, ISS Researcher. The session was moderated by Dr. Andy Atta-Asamoah, ISS Senior Research Fellow.

 

 

The joint briefing session aimed at providing a platform for an animated discussion on the governance and peace and security decisions taken at the 32nd AU summit. In the opening remarks, it was commended that a partnership between IPSS and ISS brings together institutional comparative advantage to effectively influence policies and dialogue at the AU.

In summary, the defining moments at the 32nd AU summit that were highlighted included; the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM); the change of AU chairpersonship; the relationship between AU, RECs and the issue of state sovereignty; and lastly, the status of AU taking ownership of its finances.

 

African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)

 

This was the first time in 15 years that the APRM made it to a summits Agenda. APRM is Africa’s self-assessment tool for good governance through sharing experiences, reinforcing best practices, identifying deficiencies, and assessing capacity-building needs to foster policies. The APRM rapportage on Côte d’Ivoire and Mozambique is indicative that the organ can work independently of donors. However, it was also noted that while the APRM has been resuscitated it faces critical challenges due to the transition of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA), the technical body of the AU.

 

The change in of AU chairpersonship.

The discussion recognized the exchange of the AU chairperson position from the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame to the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for 2019 noting that Egypt will have to meet high expectations following the efforts of Rwanda. Moreover, South Africa has been elected to take over the rotational chair of the AU in 2020. Due to South Africa’s strong democratic system, their leadership could support the AU member states to flourish democratically.

 

The relationship between the AU, RECs and the issue of state sovereignty.

 

Contentions have arisen between the AU and RECs regarding the jurisdiction of regional issues. Here the example of Zimbabwe was drawn to show a discrepancy of messaging between the African Union and SADC. Similarly, the example of Nigeria claiming sovereignty on the issue of Boko Haram, declaring it as an internal matter rather than a continental issue thus undermining the chance for regional intervention.

 

Accordingly, the first coordination summit between the AU and RECs is scheduled to take place this year in Niger allowing the opportunity for consolidation. In 2019, the continent will host 19 national elections. RECs are to play a key role in conflict prevention, finance, capacity and political will, and address the known challenges for observers in past elections. As the AU assumes a monitoring role, the fate of governance in Africa will be tested.

 

Financial AU reform progress

 

Speakers emphasized that since the establishment of the AU reform, the AU has made significant amount of progress which includes the establishment of the AU Peace Fund, the improved accountability organs including adoption of new sanctions regime, and the 100% financing of AU’s operational budget by the member states. However, it was also highlighted that the financial independence of the AU remains ambiguous due to the following:

  • Unpredictability and risk concentration because 75% of the total contribution five of the top Member States contribute 75% of the total contribution made by other member states;
  • Lack of rigorous planning and transparency in the financial administration;
  • Excessive dependence of the AU on external funding, particularly, in peace and security;
  • Ineffective oversight and accountability mechanisms; and
  • The weakness of the AU sanction regime as Member States are expected to make their contribution from their national budget.

 

Participants input reflected on the following questions: the importance of President Kagame’s leadership in the AU reform process and whether the new leadership will ensure continuity; Silencing the Guns by 2020, what progress has been registered in this regard? The APRM progress, what sort of risks should we expect considering two important countries are leading the 2019 and 2020 chairpersonship on the continent. More so, it was emphasized that all the member states of the AU are equal, so the “size” of the countries in the AU chairmanship ought not to influence the decisions of the AU in anyway. However, the more economically independent should shoulder more responsibility.

 

In conclusion, the AU needs to place governance at the centre of its activities, in line with the implementation of Agenda 2063. AU organs should integrate the ‘African Governance report: Promoting African Union shared values’, a report aimed to assess the state of governance in Africa, providing Member States with a comprehensive baseline to assist and enhance governance. Hence, the prioritization of transformative leadership, the improvement of constitutionalism and the feasible transformation of the rule of law in Africa. Given the progress made and the complex matters that continue to challenge the continent, it is important to remember that good governance speaks of legitimacy and accountability through free and fair elections, respect of the law and protection of human rights.

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