Kagame African Union reform team seeks to realign key bloc's institutions

Monday February 06 2017

The African Union Heads of State and delegates in plenary session in the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. PHOTO | FILE

A team of experts led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame have come up with proposals to end duplication of roles by various Africa Union organs; and to cede some roles to regional economic communities. If implemented, the proposals will realign a dozen or so institutions of the AU.

The proposals were collated from views gathered from various experts and regional blocs, and contained in a report presented at the 28th AU summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last week.

“The point is to think strategically about which organisation at which level is best placed to take the lead in a given case. The AU should focus on a fewer number of priority areas that are by nature continental in scope, such as political affairs, peace and security, economic integration (including the Free Trade Area), and Africa’s global representation and voice,” said President Kagame.

The team also proposed a clear division of labour between the AU, regional economic blocs, regional mechanisms (such as Igad), member states and other continental institutions, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.

The reforms also target the efficient and effective management of the business of the continental body at both the political and operational level and also to ensure that they can be sustainably financed by member states.

Working with President Kagame on the reforms were Donald Kaberuka, former president of the African Development Bank; Carlos Lopes, former executive secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Cristina Duarte, former minister for finance and planning of Cape Verde.


Other members were Strive Masiyiwa, executive chair of Econet Wireless; Tito Mboweni, former governor of the South African Reserve Bank; Amina J. Mohammed, Minister for Environment of Nigeria; Mariam Mahamat Nour, Minister for Economy, Planning and International Co-operation of Chad and Vera Songwe, regional director for West and Central Africa at the International Finance Corporation.

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The team, however, said the key problem facing the AU was lack of implementation of resolutions and reforms that have been put forward over time.

“The Assembly has adopted more than 1,500 resolutions. Yet there is no easy way to determine how many of those have actually been implemented. By not following up to ensure that our decisions are implemented, we are effectively saying that they don’t matter. As a result, we have a dysfunctional organisation with limited credibility among member states, global partners and citizens alike,” President Kagame told the summit.

He warned that the reform agenda will come to nothing unless member states resolve to do things differently and take responsibility and ownership of the key changes, adding that, the reforms would require re-evaluation of the AU Commission’s structure to establish the right staffing levels needed to deliver on mandates and an audit of red tape and bottlenecks that impede effectiveness.

The experts also suggested a number of operational management reforms to be considered, including enhancing the election of the chairperson of the AUC, to make the process more transparent and robust.

The team’s report says that the AU’s top leadership should be lean and performance-oriented, giving special attention to governance organs.


“Although the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) has been incorporated into the Commission as a technical body, in practice it has not been fully integrated,” the report says, proposing it be institutionalised as the AU’s development agency.

The experts say the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should be strengthened to track implementation, and oversee monitoring and evaluation in key governance areas of the continent.

For the judicial organs and the Pan-African Parliament, the recommendation is that their roles and functions be reviewed and clarified, while assessing progress to date.

“To ensure that the Peace and Security Council meets the ambition foreseen in its Protocol, a reform is recommended that could include strengthening its working methods and its role in conflict prevention and crisis management, as well as developing clear rules for cases where the situation in a Council member country is on the agenda of the Council,” the report is quoted.

It was also proposed that the African passport be made available to all citizens without delay.

The experts found that the current working methods of the AU are inefficient and impede decision-making and implementation. The delays in summit sessions and overloaded agendas, which have turned the AU into a meeting room, were also highlighted.

The team also suggested reforms in the way meetings are conducted to make them more productive.


President Kagame’s team said the continent must finance Union activities, calling it “a question of independence and dignity and the ability to set our own agenda.

“Our programmes are 97 per cent funded by external donors and as of December 2016, less than half of member states had paid their assessment in full,” the reports notes.

The team backed a new financing formula known as the Kigali Decision fronted in Kigali in July 2016 by Dr Kaberuka, that proposed how member countries could raise $1.2 billion annually to fund AU activities.

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However, several countries are already asking for more time to include the commitment in their national programmes and to come up with the necessary legal frameworks to guide it. The new formula was to kick off in the 2017/18 fiscal year.

“The main recommendation in this area is that the Kigali Decision on Financing should be implemented in full and without undue delay. In addition, some complementary measures to reinforce the Kigali Decision should also be considered,” the report says.

The reform team further suggested that the current scale of contributions be revised based on the principles of ability to pay, solidarity and equitable burden-sharing to avoid risk concentration.

It was recommended that a high-level panel of heads of state and government supervise the implementation process and establish a reform implementation unit at the Commission.

The reform proposals were discussed at the Addis summit and incoming AU chairman President Alpha Conde of Guinea and AUC chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat will take the initiative in implementing the changes.