AU reforms require political will to bear fruits

Delegates during the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali in July 2016. File.

The African Union has embarked on a potentially transformative process of institutional reform that, if implemented, will make it leaner and more efficient and increase its financial self-sufficiency.

It is notable that very little achievements have been made by the continental body in the social, economic and political realms of the African peoples, thus the reforms that will develop institutions and structures which provide a firm foundation for its posterity.

For instance, the transformation would reduce the AU’s focus to just four areas with continental scope: peace and security; political affairs; to the broader agenda of the establishment of a continental free trade area; and Africa’s voice and representation in global affairs.

These steps will need institutional and financial reforms that have significant implications for the relations between the African Union and other regional organizations from the rest of the world.

This includes the ability to strengthen the union’s partnerships with the European Union, Arab countries, Asia, and Americas.

There have been major changes in the global economy, and with its geopolitics but the old aid paradigm with Western nations and rich philanthropists setting the agenda is now seen as no good deal for the African continent.

Relying on donor funding is irrefutably a hindrance to Africa’s progression.

As the reforms in AU come about, it is critically important that it attracts the goodwill of all African countries. This is the best way to drive the reforms; it requires collective consultations and they should enable the union to build the broadest possible consensus on the reform package. Genuine concerns for empowering its people should be expeditiously and comprehensively addressed. 

However, to transform our people requires that we first intimate with sound, proven principles for engaging them at the local level. In whatever thing done, the people must be put at the heart of the reforms, for instance, eradication of poverty, which is one of the most daunting tasks our continent has encountered.

So many efforts have been churned out on poverty eradication to the extent that we have better insights into its pervasive nature. The complexity of poverty has never been clear, yet it is a dragon that has remained scary to us for a century to say the least.

It is not unreasonable to argue that attempts to resolve it cannot be piecemeal as it has been the case before. There has to be an integrated and comprehensive effort, ‘a simultaneous push at both macro and micro levels, through the combined thrust of a powerful battery of strategies at the continental level.

African Union needs to have capacity, efficiency and insight in key areas. Inefficient bureaucracy, cumbersome and costly overregulation, and too high barriers to trade and investment should not characterize our continent.

I am not oblivious of some of the attempts being made to overcome these barriers. These attempts need to be translated on the ground to benefit the people and tangible benefits realized.

AU reform is an opportunity that can now be used to turn around the fortunes of the economies of our East African region. For instance, the deliberations benchmarked on improving the skills of the region’s workforce, reduction of aid-dependence, use of locally available resources, opportunities and human capital, are critical to socio-economic transformation.

In addition, the reforms can be a vital tool for renewal of Pan Africanism. The pan-African attitude can be manifested through increased intra-African trade, increased exchanges within Africa’s universities, continent-wide calls for good governance and the ubiquitous and growing membership of pan-Africanist groups on online platforms.

These will reflects Africa’s conscious need for not only political independence, regional integration and the improvements of its living standards, but also the throwing of the shackles of economic bondage and democratic stagnation that had threatened to reverse the short lived prosperity of the continent.

Africa is on a journey, an African journey to transformation is a journey that requires Africans to carry the move forward. No charitable champion is going to command the survival of the continent with no effort of our own.

The desired goals in this journey is to stimulate increased investment, facilitate key structural changes that can propel a more open and connected Africa, a better business environment granting access to the vast potential the continent has to offer, and economic growth of African nations.

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