Keeping the African Union (AU) and its aspirations relevant to Africa’s citizens should be a major objective of the continent, according to new publication by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
The ISS, an African non-profit organization, in its latest publication on Thursday entitled “Keeping the AU relevant to Africa’s citizen”, has stressed the prospective advantages of AU’s various initiatives, which include the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the single air transport market as well as a protocol on the free movement of people.
“These are important achievements,” read the report, adding “But they come at a time when the AU faces major divisions and uncertainty about how reforms of the institution should be implemented.”
According to the ISS, keeping the AU relevant in the present day global sociopolitical uncertainties would bring benefits as it serves a “huge continent of 55 member states with very diverse cultures and histories.”
“Brexit and the breakaway by the United States from global agreements such as those on climate change have set a trend that has tarnished the reputation of cross-border cooperation and multilateralism,” the report read.
“In this regard, Africa is the counter-example. In fact, a new member, Morocco, joined the organization last year, indicating the AU’s relevance,” it added.
According to ISS, the signing of various regional trade agreements, as well as the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area on March 21 this year in Kigali, are examples of cooperation among members of the union.
The report also lauded AU’s contribution and aspirations in the realizations of the protocol on the free movement of people as well as the agreement on a single air transport market, the latter was signed in January during the summit of African heads of state and government at the headquarters of the union in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.
“Both (the single air transport market and protocol on the free movement of people) will potentially have major advantages for economic growth on the continent,” the report read.
Noting the challenges that AU currently faces mainly on how reforms of the institution should be implemented, the report stressed the AU’s upcoming summit, scheduled for next month in Nouakchott, Mauritania, “will be a test for the implementation of the reforms – spearheaded by Rwandan President Paul Kagame,” who is also the current chairperson of the AU.
Funding is another perennial sticking point. While African leaders all agree the AU should be self-funded, there are strong divisions over how to achieve this, according to the report.
AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat told delegates at the recent Tana Forum in Ethiopia that 20 countries had already started implementing the proposed 0.2 percent levy on imports to finance the AU.
“This is not nearly enough, given that implementation of the levy by member states was set for the beginning of 2017,” according to the ISS.
Currently more than 70 percent of the total AU budget (including operations, programs and peace support operations) is funded by international donors, which the AU frequently said would affect its independence.