Kigali last week played host to scores of African foreign affairs ministers and envoys accredited to the African Union for yet another round of consultations on the recently adopted AU reform agenda.
The reform plan, spearheaded by President Paul Kagame at the request of his counterparts, seeks to make the Union more efficient, people-centered and self-financing to ensure it delivers on the aspirations and restores the dignity of the people of Africa.
One of the key elements of the revolutionary plan, adopted earlier this year by the African Heads of State and Government, is for member states to fully finance the Union and stop relying on foreign aid to conduct the bloc’s operations.
Under the self-financing scheme, each of the 54 member states is required to introduce a 0.2 per cent levy on imports from outside Africa.
The member states would dispense the funds through their respective central banks which would subsequently remit the contribution to the AU Commission.
It’s a great, ambitious plan.
Nonetheless, it would still come to nothing in the absence of the necessary political will to see through this reform.
Now, as you would expect, the plan is not without challenges. One is related to the will on the part of each member state to fully embrace and implement it, while the plan also naturally faces external challenges.
Already, it emerged last week that the US government and the World Trade Organization (WTA) had written to individual African countries warning against implementing the proposal on the self-financing mechanism, claiming the move would go against trade-related principles.
In response, the AU has tasked 10 finance ministers and a group of experts from around the continent to look into the issue with view to finding the best way forward.
That the Union is already responding to these concerns is encouraging and laudable as it demonstrates that it attaches a great deal of importance to this reform effort.
It’s time Africa stands up for itself. African leaders and people must seize the opportunity and shape their own destiny. It’s unacceptable that foreign actors continue to decide the fate of Africans. If it means renegotiating certain trade regimes so be it, but Africa must not lose this golden opportunity to change the status quo and claim its future.