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

Nairobi (Kenya) – 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.

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.

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By Edmund Kagire