Africa pushes for true independence

28 May 2013

The leaders of the African Union’s (AU’s) 54 member states wrapped up their 21st summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday with a set of landmark decisions that they say will lead to a self-reliant continent that is at peace with itself.

It was a historic summit for the continental body, as it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the AU, established in 1963.

The leaders accepted a report recommending that the AU explore rigorous alternative sources of funding in Africa, in addition to using South Africa’s membership of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping is used to attract funding for infrastructure in Africa.

They also agreed to made peace and security the continent’s top priority over the next 50 years.

Own funding options

The idea of exploring alternative sources of funding for the AU has been under discussion for years among African leaders.

The fact that the biggest chunk of the AU’s budget is sourced from donor partners, with some African members failing to pay their annual subscriptions, is seen as resulting in unjustified external influence over how the continent is governed.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is spearheading the drive for financial independence from outside donors. The report of the High-Level Panel on Alternative Sources of Funding the African Union, which he chairs, has been approved by the heads of state and will be sent to the continent’s finance ministers to study and report back on at the next summit in January.

Previously, the panel recommended a number of proposals for more sustainable funding, including a $2 tax on hotel rooms on the continent and a $5 levy on flights to and from African countries.

“It can’t be business as usual,” said AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. “We can’t continue to depend on outside help … Yes, outside help is crucial and greatly appreciated, but we must also look at ways of making ourselves independent, and therefore it is very important that we also fund ourselves and our programmes.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the summit, Dlamini Zuma said the summit had also come up with a plan to take advantage of South Africa’s membership of the economically powerful BRICS grouping to attract much-needed infrastructure funding for the continent.

In March, South African President Jacob Zuma hosted various African leaders and members of regional bloc at a BRICS Leaders’ Africa Dialogue Forum on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban.

Peace and security

On peace and security on the continent, Dlamini Zuma said the summit conceded that while the AU’s Peace and Security Council had made inroads in neutralising conflicts in some parts of the continent, more work needed to be done to avert crisis situations and humanitarian problems arising from such conflicts.

Several countries, including Mali, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Sudan remain in constant conflict, and the AU has had to deploy peace-keeping troops to contain violence in these areas.

“We believe sooner rather than later the guns should be silenced on our continent,” said Dlamini Zuma. “We need more dialogue with those who feel different; we need to find a way of having a discussion about our differences instead of resorting to conflicts and violence.”

‘No tolerance for coups’

AU chairperson and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said conflict was standing in the way of Africa’s development.

Expressing concern over the dangers posed by the unconstitutional seizure of power, something which is common in some African states, Desalegn said the days were gone when generals who took power by force and governed with the gun would be tolerated.

“The summit called on all member states to activate rapid response mechanisms to deal with any threats of coups and other forceful means of governing. The summit agreed that unconstitutional change of governments should be averted and condemned where it happens. This is serious,” Desalegn said.

“The situation in Madagascar and the recent development in Central African Republic are reflections of this worrying trend.

“While noting the importance of looking for political solutions to these problems, I have no doubt that the non-acceptance of unconstitutional change in governance, will remain our firm position.”