Never before has Africa been led by such a tiny island country, and therefore, it brings a tide of change and focuses perhaps on the problems of small developing countries
The Ukraine crisis forced Africa to deal with post-COVID economic recovery with difficulty because of the disruptions of fuel, food, and fertilisers.The AU Summit manifested the range of its partners who are seeking influence as the world is again divided. Many African countries need to adjust due to their own internal conflicts and crisis. The uncertain financial future draws a big question mark on their priorities. The AU needs to look at its own systems and strengths to deal with the international crisis in an appropriate manner. The summit had some important outcomes. It was focused on implementing the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and expediting its implementation. A report on the AfCFTA by Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of Niger, was presented. The Free Trade Area is trying an experiment through a Guided Trade Initiative (GTI), approved at the previous Summit. It fast-tracks eight countries trading 96 products. By giving it the Summit theme, the idea was that Africa’s biggest initiative under its own efforts must be given political impetus. Efforts to improve implementation through the Africa Prosperity Dialogues were made in Ghana. The organisers presented the Outcome Document and Compact of the conference to the summit. The AU Chair emphasised, “The activation of various mechanisms of internal resilience, intra-African solidarity, rapid implementation of African financial institutions, all supported by virtuous governance seems in my view to be the way to salvation.” In this, alleviation of debt stress, seeking larger write offs than adjustments, and not getting into International Monetary Fund (IMF) vs China issues was the main concern. Some African countries are now seeking direct adjustments with China as it is its largest creditor. The AU Commission must participate proactively in the Bridgetown Initiative on the reform of the global financial architecture. Africa also seeks its own rating agency to improve its ability to draw on market capital than sovereign guaranteed loans.
The AU Chair emphasised, “The activation of various mechanisms of internal resilience, intra-African solidarity, rapid implementation of African financial institutions, all supported by virtuous governance seems in my view to be the way to salvation.”Besides this, a focus on internal issues among member states was seriously undertaken. Sudan’s suspension from the AU continues; Mali, Guinea, and Burkina-Faso too are suspended from both the AU and the Economic Community of West African States. They face difficult futures in managing transition to democracy while facing radical groups. Six presidential elections are in 2023; Nigeria just concluded in February, Sierra Leone in June, Liberia in October, Madagascar in November, the DRC and Gabon in the latter half of 2023. Elections in Libya and South Sudan have not been feasible. Elections and the lack of them can both disturb the harmony the AU seeks. This time the Summit was more conciliatory, though it did not rescind the suspensions, but did not push for sanctions on any country where coups take place. The problems with Ethiopia, notably Tigray, are yet unsettled and the issues in the DRC and Rwanda over M23 saw the East African Force deployed; the Peace and Security Council authorised its first ever use of the Peace Fund for that operation. US $5 million of the US $400 million Fund will go to the deployment, which is a sign not a solution. Africa’s place in the international order is important as despite the AU’s reservations, partners head for AU Summits to hold meetings on the side-lines. India has given up that opportunity. Since 2021, the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the Europe-Africa Summit, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development were held. The Russia-Africa Summit is in June 2023 and the India Africa Summit may be this year too. These summits pledged investments for Africa and support for Africa internationally. Can the AU mange the expectations generated by these Summits? The AU seeks seats in various international bodies, including permanently at the Group of Twenty (G20) and the UN Security Council. Its committee of ten, chaired by Sierra Leone, had been charged with seeking UN seats since 2005. On the UN reform, the Ezulwini Consensus demanding two permanent and three non-permanent seats for Africa with veto, and with Africa, not the UN deciding who these will be, continues. Its evidently going nowhere. Now, the Committee of 10 (C10) is also charged with upgrading the permanent invitation from the G20 to a membership. At present, the AU Chairperson, currently the Comoros President, and the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson attend. The Summit approved their participation. There is an invitation normally for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), but since that is now an AU department (AUDA-NEPAD), it is normally occupied by the AUC Chair. It was originally carved out to bring in Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister till 2012 who was the visionary NEPAD head. Though China and the US endorse a membership for the AU, as the European Union is a member, they have not moved to create a consensus for AU upgradation as that opens the ambitions of others who are on the guest list. As UN Secretary-General Guterres said, “The least affected by climate change, (Africa) was bearing the brunt of climate change and needed climate action.” COP 27 was held in Egypt. The expectation was that it would be an Africa focused COP. If the world was disappointed, then perhaps Africa had more reason to feel so. Africa believes it has a vision on the climate issue and provides the African Green Bank that helps to ameliorate the challenges of climate. In fact, the green cover in Africa compensates for the critical failures that the climate change community has faced over the years. Annually. US$ 55 billion debt to Africa emerges from the value of carbon absorption that is provided in the Congo Basin, the largest carbon sink globally. It covers six countries in Central Africa. But this has never been monetised, mainly due to the lack of a clear vision and an ability to use this as a challenge to obtain more direct climate finance.
The AU welcomed the proposal by the Congo to introduce an African and World Decade of Afforestation to combat climate change in 2023.The AU’s Committee on Climate Change met alongside the Summit. Kenyan President Ruto sought to leverage the African capacity for renewable energy and abundant minerals for green technologies. His direct message to the World Bank, IMF, and International Finance Corporation was “Africanise or perish!” The Summit endorsed participation in the legal proceedings initiated by the Commission on Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The proceedings were launched in December 2022. Welcoming the just transition, the Summit conveyed urgency of operationalising the Loss and Damage Fund. The AU welcomed the proposal by the Congo to introduce an African and World Decade of Afforestation to combat climate change in 2023. The Summit considered, among others, reports like the Report on the Institutional Reforms of the AU, presented by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Report on the Peace and Security Council; Report on global political, financial, and energy policy governance by Macky Sall, President of Senegal; and the Report on Global Food Crisis. Reports of the forum of Leaders participating in the African Peer Review Mechanism by Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, the Report of the AUDA-NEPAD, and the Report of the AU Committee of Ten on the Reform of the UN Security Council, were noted during the summit. The AUC Chairperson announced the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity will be celebrated this year along with the first decade of Agenda 2063. This follows the twentieth anniversary of the AU commemorated in 2022. The AU needs to get its partners, who are its main financiers, to help fulfil Agenda 2063 rather than pursue their individual objectives. Despite years of effort, 66 percent of the AU budget is still funded by donors. The AU seems unwilling to follow the Economic Community of West African States example of a 0.2 percent tax on imports of its member countries to fund its activity.
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Gurjit Singh has served as Indias ambassador to Germany Indonesia Ethiopia ASEAN and the African Union. He is the Chair of CII Task Force on ...Read More +