Flags hoisted at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
By Edmund Kagire
When African leaders convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next weekend for the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the thorny issue of financing the organisation is, once again, expected to take centre stage.
A self-financing scheme adopted in June 2015 in Johannesburg and July 2016 in Kigali has registered modest success with only 21 out of 55 countries having implemented it. The scheme requires member states to levy a 0.2 per cent tax on eligible imports to finance the AU.
Last weekend, Rwanda President Paul Kagame, who has been leading AU institutional reforms and is the incoming chairman, and the AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat met a group of experts who have been helping the Rwandan leader implement the reforms.
After the meeting with President Kagame and his team, and the meeting of Committee of Ministers of Finance of the AU, the AUC chairperson urged all AU member states to move with speed to implement the funding mechanism.
“To date, member states have contributed $29.5 million to the Peace Fund, enabling us to fund some of our prevention and mediation activities,” Mr Faki Mahamat revealed after the Kigali meeting.
The two meetings in Kigali reviewed progress of AU financing initiative which seek to have member states raise at least $1.2 billion to fund AU activities and make the continental body less dependent on aid.
The meetings came up with recommendations to be submitted to the Heads of State Summit. Both Faki Mahamat and President Kagame said “significant progress” has been made towards achieving financial independence.
The EastAfrican understands that at least 14 of the 21 member states which have made progress have gone as far as starting to collect the tax and depositing the funds in special accounts opened in central banks for the purpose.
They include Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Gambia, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Morocco.
Others are Senegal, Ghana, Malawi, Benin, Mauritius and Seychelles.
The above countries have also put in place legal and administrative instruments to collect the money.
Amid concerns of several countries not acting swiftly, the AU chairperson said that the self-financing initiative is a crucial one for AU to help end the continental body’s high level of financial dependence on international partners and improve its credibility.
Observers say that countries not moving at the same pace with others or not making progress at all could affect the plans to have the self-financing model implemented by the end of 2018 but both Faki Mahamat and President Kagame remain optimistic.
In a commentary published by Brookings Institute, President Kagame said that the countries that have made headway in implementing the AU financing model are a sign of political will.
“This strong momentum is solid evidence that there is political will to strengthen the capacity of the African Union, despite the complex politics involved in coordinating among more than 50 member states.
“The shift to self-financing has had another important consequence: Increased attention to the efficiency and performance of the African Union Commission and associated organs. After all, when you’re spending your own money, you want to make sure it’s being used well,” President Kagame said, adding that depending on donors presented an unpredictable future for the union.
In the past, AU leaders came up with different reform initiatives but fell short during implementation, with most of them abandoned along the way, but President Kagame said the current reforms are being implemented without leaving room for failure.
“From the outset, we were conscious that the risk of failure was real. The political obstacles are complex because change is required not only in the African Union Commission, but in each member state,” he said, outlining the work of the reform implementation unit.
President Kagame will officially receive the mantle of the African Union Chairperson from President Alpha Conde of Guinea on January 28.