Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Home Affairs in the Republic of South Africa, has been sworn in as the new African Union Commission Chair. The decision was made at the Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on July 15, 2012., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Dlamini-Zuma’s gargantuan task
Monday, 23 July 2012 00:00
Dr Chinua Akukwe
It is not going to be a stroll in the park for recently elected AU Commission chair, Madam Dlamini-Zuma. The new chairperson faces a gargantuan task of turning the AU Commission into a dynamic, forward-looking continental organisation. The AU Commission had a torrid 2011 due to uninspiring performances during the political impasse in Cote d’ Ivoire and the crisis in Libya.
The African Union had negligible impact on the resolution of both problems. Multiple critical issues await the attention of the new chairperson. First, move quickly on healing the continental divide from the protracted struggle for the chairperson position. The new chairperson should move quickly to close ranks with African nations that supported Dr Jean Ping, the outgoing chairperson, during the January and July 2012 rounds of voting.
In particular, Nigeria, Ethiopia and mostly Francophone African countries that supported Dr Ping should be part of the broad-based continental support for the new chairperson during the next four years.
Second, urgently transform the day-to-day operations of the AU Commission. Africa faces unprecedented challenges from ongoing global economic crisis, climate change, the issue of global commons and global public goods and the emergence of powerful middle income countries of which South Africa is so far the only certified member from the continent.
Africa has to act on regional integration issues, trade within the continent, freer movement of people, goods and services as well as strengthening regional economic communities. The AU Commission is Africa’s first line of interaction and decisive action in the global stage.
The Commission must transition from a first order organisation primarily focused on putting structures and procedures in place to an entity known for its proactive, dynamic, solution-oriented and forward looking representation of Africa’s interests and priorities.
The US$200 million Chinese donated and built conference centre is a landmark edifice.
However, AU leadership and staff need to work with sophisticated information and communication technology to drive the quest for evidence-based programming, including monitoring and evaluation of continental resolutions and platforms in member states.
The commission needs a deep in-house bench of technocrats with subject matter expertise on various continental issues. It also needs to revamp its day-to-day relationship with member states, especially in the implementation of early-warning systems on conflicts and the conduct of national elections.
Ultimately, the AU Commission should become a knowledge-based institution on Africa’s political and development issues in the 21st century. Policy makers, researchers and advocates in Africa and around the world should rely on AU Commission in the near future for guidance on issues critical to Africa’s renaissance.
Third, address the perennial financial woes of the AU Commission. Since it became operational eight years ago, the AU Commission’s struggle with insufficient financial resources is well known. The new chairperson should come up with a new financial strategy for the AU Commission that emphasises prudence, priority-based budgeting and long-term financial commitment.
South Africa, Angola and Botswana as staunch supporters of change in the Commission leadership should provide the new chairperson with sufficient funds to transform the AU Commission.
Richer African countries such as Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Kenya should also support the AU Commission with additional resources.
The road to the financial viability of the AU Commission is unlikely to lie beyond continental borders. The next AU Summit should be devoted to the long-term financial viability of the AU Commission with a firm understanding that financial contributions from the 54 member nations are unlikely to be sufficient, especially since 35 African countries are among the poorest nations in the world.
In addition, creative financial viability of the AU Commission will likely include a substantial role for the African Development Bank and possibly unrestricted voluntary contributions from the organised private sector in the continent.
Fourth, establish the Africa Standby Military Force as soon as possible. The inability to establish such a force by 2010 as earlier promised, even on a scaled down basis, remains one of the most enduring blows to the outgoing AU Commission leadership. The lack of a standby force cost Africa and the AU Commission dearly in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya.
It is also likely to prove costly in Mali that is now facing down Islamic insurgents active in the northern part of the country. The imbroglio in the DRC and the tense situation between Sudan and South Sudan are additional recent examples.
It is important to note that the envisaged standby force will face serious financial, logistics and operational challenges. However, the much vaunted Africa renaissance in the 21st century is unlikely to materialise unless the continent gets a solid handle on conflict deterrence and resolution issues. Negotiating cost sharing with the United Nations peace keeping operations may give the standby force financial and logistics breathing room during the early years.
--The author is former Chair of the Technical Advisory Board, Africa Centre for Health and Human Security, George Washington University, Washington, DC. He has written extensively on health and development issues, including four books. This article is taken from the African Executive.