After the summit: Agenda for the African Union
By Richard Mammah
Heads of States from within the African Union have risen from yet another session where they discussed issues relating to the continent. But the agenda was simply not exhaustive, and in the view of this writer, many important issues were left unaddressed or were not properly addressed.
Yes the Chairperson of the Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat got another term in office, and indeed, an unprecedented second term at that. And yes, Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC President, Felix Tshisekedi successfully replaced South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa as Chair of the Heads of States Council. But the rulers of what is clearly the most unflattering continent in the world today in Human Development terms, really needs more when they converge for such summit events.
One other seemingly positive point was that the rulers paid attention to the Coronavirus pandemic. They talked about the need to address the issue more frontally and reviewed efforts made this far in addressing it. But they did not raise a whimper on the reality that the continent was once again a net recipient of basic help from outside in this matter. Added to this is the fact that very little research activity is being undertaken all across the continent in finding a determinate antidote for the problem. Meanwhile about a quarter of the nations that make up the UN system are African.
Equally notable, even on a symbolic level, is the fact that the summit made no remark as to the seeming profiling of South Africa in the reference to the ‘South African variant’ of the virus. It may sound a small point but if China is resisting being branded as home of the ‘Chinavirus,’ why should South Africa and the rest of Africa so casually accept a brand identity that does not exactly help?
There were other substantial omissions. The Ethiopia-Eritrea invasion of Tigray that has expanded tension in the sub-region was not discussed. Not even a call for restraint and civility. And of course, given the laid back structure of electoral observations by the AU Observer teams, no word was also said on the recent instances of problematic electoral conduct in Uganda, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Guinea. And of course there was also no admonition to Zambia, Gambia and other states that have elections later in the year.
Also on the seemingly positive side is the fact that a show was made of reducing the number of commissions inthe AU system from 8 to 6. Good for cost-cutting. But the challenge is deeper. The AU for example has a flagship project, the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA that has taken off but looks like it has not. Robust engagement on the imperative of boosting AfCFTA is critical.
Also is the issue of the Pan African Parliament. The truth of the matter is that the present practice of running the continent at the whims of the controlling rulers in the respective nations, an AU bureaucracy that is seemingly isolated and a limp AU parliament would not deliver the greater traction that the people of Africa want, desire and deserve. Truth be told, this popular disconnect is one of the chief impediments of the AfCFTA initiative today. If Africa is to make stellar progress, it must ensure the popular involvement of its people in the running of matters that concern them. And speedy, AU Parliament reforms is a good place to begin to generate that much helpful popular buzz. The AU must be the organisation of the people.
The AU needs all the help it can get now but for this to happen, its current prime drivers must look outside of its current operating practices to find the answers that will get the job done and deliver the results that will be pleasing.
AU Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat