As the 29th annual African Union summit drew to a close in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, there was renewed hope for a brighter future for the continent. During the nine-day session that preceded Tuesday’s meeting of heads of state and government, AU statutory organs met to get status updates. The organs were also expected to make decisions on issues of importance to the continent, summarised at a final press conference in the Ethiopian capital. The updates were presented by African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Among the issues highlighted was the planned institutional reform of the union, which has been on the cards for years.
Peace and security, which Mahamat said was worrisome, was discussed. Citing fragile situations in South Sudan, Somalia, Libya, the Central African Republic and other hotspots, he called for greater efforts at peace-building. While decrying tension between Djibouti and Eritrea, Mahamat also pointed out the difficulties of implementing peace pacts in Mali, where terrorism is rife.
The commission’s chairman also raised concern about the political situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Guinea-Bissau. Given the instability in the continent, there was an undertaking for Africa to speak with one voice on major peace and security issues. It was also agreed that Africa would do its best “to silence the guns by 2020”. According to Mahamat, throughout the summit, which started on June 27, emphasis was on the need for Africa to give priority to conflict prevention and anticipation.
With regard to the quest for peace, the chairman called upon regional blocs and mechanisms to intensify their action “in close cooperation with the relevant agencies of the AU”.
On planned institutional reforms, he said follow-up of the implementation had been ongoing in accordance with the July 2016 and January 2017 summit decisions.
The follow-up responsibility had been entrusted to presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Idriss Deby Itno of Chad and Guinea’s Alpha Conde.
At Tuesday’s forum, President Kagame presented a report to heads of state and government.
The summit agreed to speed up reforms, taking into account the input received from member states. Other issues discussed were migration and implementation of the decision to impose a levy on imports to Africa. In July 2016, AU leaders had agreed to impose a 0.2 per cent levy on certain imports to cover its operational costs. The charges are aimed at ensuring “predictable, sustainable and equitable financing of the AU”.
The 2017 AU budget stands at $782 million. Ironically, only 30 per cent of it is received from member states, with the rest coming from external partners like the European Union, the World Bank and China.
Such irony aside, the summit, whose theme was “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth”, ended with an undertaking to invest more resources on Africa’s young population.
While laying emphasis on empowering girls and young women, the conference underscored the four pillars of what was referred to as “the demographic dividends roadmap”. These are employment and entrepreneurship; education and skills development; health and wellbeing; and rights, governance and youth empowerment.
Regarding the perennial issue of the relationship between AU decisions and the willingness to implement them, the chairperson made proposals on how the challenge could be addressed.
“Either we take decisions and adopt the texts to apply to them,” Mahamat said, “or we defer the adoption of these decisions until we are ready to implement them.”