The just concluded United Nations General Assembly was an opportunity for the African Union to showcase itself as a reformed continental body with a plan for Africa.
Current chairman Rwandan President Paul Kagame and AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, used the annual gatherings at the UN Headquarters in New York to sell the agenda of a new look continental body, with President Kagame saying that Africa is ready to take up its global position.
“The trend in our continent is for closer and more productive co-operation, both through the African Union and our regional economic communities,” President Kagame said in his address to the UN General Assembly.
President Kagame, who has been leading reforms since 2016, said there has been an “urgent need to get our house in order and fundamentally change how we do business. That is why the African Union initiated a major financial and institutional reform more than three years ago,” adding that the reforms are already resulting in practical results.
“New financial discipline has produced an African Union budget that is 12 per cent lower than last year. The share of funding by member states has also increased substantially. Contributions to the Peace Fund, which helps pay for African Union peace support operations, are at the highest level since its establishment in 1993,” the Rwandan leader said.
According to Mr Mahamat, the AU’s 2019 budget passed this year is the lowest in four years and the first to pass with direct oversight from African finance ministers to ensure rigour and alignment with operational priorities.
“The momentum brought by AU reforms to reinforce financial autonomy through stronger ownership, resulted not only in savings in the 2019 AU budget, but member states contributed more than half of the budget at 66 per cent — the largest to date — while partners covered 34 per cent,” Mr Mahamat said.
According to figures provided by the body, the AU’s 2019 budget is $408 million compared with $515 million in 2018. About $269 million will come from member states while $139 million will come from partners.
Money from member states increased by six per cent. In the 2018 budget, members contributed up to 60 per cent of the budget, equivalent to $311 million, while $204 million came from donors.
The former president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, who has worked with President Kagame’s reform team, praised the reformed budget on Twitter, stating that the decision to downsize the budget is a tipping point and “an important step to sound finances for the AU.”
The reduced budget is $273 million less than the $681.5 million AU budget that was approved in July in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
President Kagame said the Continental Free Trade Area, which was signed earlier this year, will have huge economic benefits for Africa.
“Increased intra-African trade will help our continent attain the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. We will also see new possibilities for public-private partnerships with for the continent’s growing private sector.”
Despite positive developments in the Horn of Africa and the rejuvenation of the Zimbabwean economy, President Kagame said unresolved conflict in the Central African Republic, Libya, the Sahel, and South Sudan still pose a threat to the continent’s efforts for harmony.