by Kizito Sikuka – SANF 17 no 1
African leaders are meeting in late January to chart the continent’s development agenda, including the appointment of a new leadership team for the African Union secretariat, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The 28th Ordinary Assembly of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government is set for 30-31 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
According to a draft agenda, one of the key issues for discussion is the appointment of a new leadership at the AU Commission to steer deeper integration in Africa. The commission is responsible for the running and delivery of the AU agenda aimed at advancing greater continental integration for a more prosperous Africa.
All members that make up the top leadership at the AU Commission have reached their first or second term limits or resigned, hence the need to appoint a new team. As per the AU Commission Constitution, the terms are for four years, renewable once.
The summit will elect a new chairperson, deputy chair and eight commissioners. The eight commissioners are responsible for peace and security; political affairs; trade and industry; infrastructure and energy; social affairs; rural economy and agriculture; human resources, science and technology; and economic affairs.
A total of five candidates are vying for the position of Africa’s top civil servant. These are Botswana Foreign Affairs Minister – and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) candidate – Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi; Dr. Moussa Faki Mahamat of Chad; Agapito Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea; Dr. Amina Mohammed of Kenya; and Dr. Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal.
Of the five candidates, only Dr Venson-Moitoi and Mokuy participated in the earlier elections held in July 2016 that failed to produce a winner as none of the candidates garnered the required two-thirds of the votes in the polls, hence the need to reschedule the elections to January this year.
The other candidate in the July election was Dr Specioza Kazibwe of Uganda, who has since withdrawn her candidature.
The elections of a new chairperson follows an announcement by the incumbent, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa to resign after her first term of office came to an end in June 2016.
Dlamini-Zuma, who was a SADC-sponsored candidate when she etched her name in history books after becoming the first southern African to head the AU Commission in 2012, has decided to re-join active politics in South Africa.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma became the first southern African, and first woman, to head the AU Commission since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – predecessor to the AU – in 1963.
Other regions in Africa have previously had their candidates occupying the top AU post.
A key achievement of the AU during the leadership of Dlamini-Zuma was the continental vision of the future, titled Agenda 2063, and related planning documents such as the “Concept Note on Domestication of Agenda 2063 in Member States of the Union”.
The concept document defines the proposed role of individual countries and Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as SADC, in achieving the targets and goals of Agenda 2063. The roles assigned to the RECs include:
- Being the focal points for the facilitation of the adoption, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all continental frameworks related to Agenda 2063 by member states;
- Issuing regional specific Agenda 2063 implementation, monitoring and evaluation guidelines to member states; and;
- Organizing annual forums for member states to review regional implementation performance on Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 is a continental strategy adopted by the AU in 2013 and aims to optimize the use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans.
The AU Summit, which will run under the theme “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth” will also deliberate on a report to reform the AU.
The idea to reform the AU follows a decision made during the 12th AU summit held in Ethiopia in 2009 where it was agreed to set up a committee to look into the modalities of turning the AU secretariat into an authority.
The decision to transform the AU Commission into an authority was reached as a compromise step toward eventually forming a continent-wide government. The proposed authority would have a broader mandate than the existing commission.
Another major issue for the leaders at their annual summit is the establishment of a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017.
Negotiations to launch the (CFTA) whose main aim is to promote the smooth movement of goods and services across the continent began in June 2015 and are progressing well.
When operational, the CFTA will bring together all African countries, creating a combined population of more than one billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product of more than US$3.4 trillion.
The summit is also expected to consider a request by Morocco to rejoin the AU. Morocco withdrew from the OAU 32 years ago in protest at the continental body’s support for the Polisario Front and its recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as an independent state.
The admission of Morocco will bring the membership of the AU to 55.
The political situation in some hot spots in the continent including the Democratic Republic of Congo, will also be discussed. Other issues on the summit agenda include trade, food security and climate change. sardc.net