The African Union: regional and global challenges

The African Union: regional and global challenges

The Centre for Confl ict Resolution (CCR), Cape Town, South Africa, hosted a three-day policy research seminar in Cape Town, from 27 to 29 April 2016, on the theme “The African Union: Regional and Global Challenges”.

The meeting was convened with about 30 prominent African, Asian, and Western policymakers, scholars, and civil society actors to reflect critically on the historical mission, achievements, challenges, and prospects of the African Union (AU) in a changing regional and global environment.

The following 10 key policy recommendations emerged from the Cape Town policy seminar:

  • the AU Commission should engage more strategically with African civil society, think tanks, the private sector, and the philanthropic sector in order to implement its mandate more effectively. There is an urgent need to revisit Adebayo Adedeji’s 2007 five-year review of the AU Commission in order to implement its main findings on reforming the AU’s institutions and accelerating regional integration and economic development efforts in Africa. Key parts of the 2013 Olusegun Obasanjo Report on alternative sources of funding for the AU should also be implemented to ensure a sustainable source of future financing
  • there is an urgent need to sanction non-performing AU staff members and to implement results-based management at the AU Commission in Addis Ababa. Recruitment, retention, and training of personnel should be greatly improved. There is also a need for better coordination between the AU’s Department of Political Affairs and its Peace and Security Department. The AU Commission must further strengthen its administrative and financial management capacity to be able to absorb and manage donor funds
  • the AU’s continental early warning system needs greater coordination with the mechanisms of sub-regional bodies such as IGAD, ECOWAS, and SADC. Furthermore, African leaders must provide greater financial and political support to the APRM, strengthening its capacity and restoring its previous consistent funding
  • there is an urgent need to create institutionalised mechanisms for regular consultation and coordination between the AU’s Peace and Security Council and the organs of the RECs; this must include the increased participation of civil society and parliaments in decision-making to promote greater synergy and complementarity between the policies and initiatives of the AU and the RECs in this area
  • regional integration in Africa should take into account the configuration of interests in member states, and put in place mechanisms to compensate groups that may lose out from integration. There is an urgent need to cultivate a national entrepreneurial class to drive socio-economic development across Africa. The continent also needs more “Afrocrats” – young, highly competent officials with a strong commitment to Pan-Africanism, similar to many of the EU’s “Eurocrats”
  • the AU needs to rationalise relations between the RECs and the African Economic Community in light of the multiple membership of the former. It might also be necessary to create a smaller grouping of African states in which conditions for entry involve sound economic and political performance, resulting in greater aid and investment for its members
  • in line with the Common African Position devised by the AU, five key principles should underpin relations between the AU and the UN: promotion of collective security in the context of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter; support for African ownership and priority-setting; fostering a partnership on the basis of consultative decision-making, division of labour, and burden-sharing; mutual respect and adherence to the principle of comparative advantage; and establishment of a division of labour underpinned by the concept of complementarity
  • by 2016, the EU had contributed over €1.3 billion to support the AU’s peace and security agenda. The EU-UN joint consultative mechanism must, however, be made more effective in order to facilitate cooperation between both organisations in planning, training, communication, and sharing “best practices” in African peace operations, while fostering trilateral cooperation with the AU
  • the AU and its member states must invest in understanding China’s strategy in Africa and developing the technical capacity to engage effectively with Beijing in order to promote African interests more effectively; the AU should also develop the capacity to coordinate Africa’s interests in the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation
  • finally, Africa should learn lessons from how the Israel lobby has influenced policy in the United States (US) Congress. The tens of thousands of highly educated Africans in America must be mobilised to build a viable constituency for Africa. There is also an urgent need for the AU to develop programmes that build new bridges between Africa and its Diaspora, while also devising strategies to tap into the large African population of 169 million in the Diaspora for investment and development. The AU should thus develop a Diaspora strategy that looks beyond remittances to harness the expertise of the Diaspora to address the skills gap in Africa, especially in the area of science and technology
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