|I've shared News on ongoing AU Summit -- Friday 27 Jan, 2012|
Lagos, Nigeria - The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is set to consolidate collaboration with African countries and regional economic communities this year, in order to build on the achievements recorded in 2011, Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Mayaki said.
In a statement made available to PANA here Thursday, Dr. Mayaki said, during the steering committee meeting of the NEPAD Agency in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that to achieve the goal, the Agency would renew and actively engage in dialogue with NEPAD national offices and focal points in various African countries.
"Ten countries registered annual growth rate in agriculture of at least 6 percent in the second half of 2011, 8 countries had reached and surpassed the 10 percent budgetary allocation target, while 9 were in the 5 percent - 10 percent range," the NEPAD CEO said.
The agency has in the last years helped African countries to improve the agricultural sector through the work of its AU-NEPAD Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
Dr. Mayaki said great strides were also made in other areas, including gender, climate change, integration and infrastructure and capacity development, adding that the performance outlook for 2012 is bright.
As the policy-making body of NEPAD Agency, the steering committee, at the two-day meeting, considered the agenda for the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee meeting taking place in Addis Ababa on 28 January, 2012. This will be followed by the 18th AU Summit from 29-30 January 2012.
The NEPAD Steering Committee is currently co-chaired by Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea. It comprises representatives of the 20 African leaders who are members of the NEPAD Orientation Committee, regional economic commissions, the African Development Bank and other UN agencies.
Also speaking at the meeting, a senior adviser to Ethiopian's Prime Minister, Newai Gebread, said African countries must set very high economic growth targets for themselves in order to get out of poverty.
"It is very important that we set our targets as high as possible. Africa's growth rate should be in double digits, above the five or seven percent annual growth it is currently recording," he said.
To ensure such a robust expansion, according to Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, a director at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA ) in Addis Ababa, Africa would require a strong and visionary leadership.
Prof. Nnadozie, who is Director in charge of the Commission's Economic Development and NEPAD Division, said the growth required must be sustainable, be able to create jobs for African youths and preserve the environment.
He also praised the Ethiopian government for ensuring an annual growth rate of more than 10 percent, saying: "It is good news for Africa."
The next Ordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) planned for 29-30 January 2012 in Addis Ababa promises to be unique in many ways. Besides the inauguration of the Chinese-funded new building, aimed at hosting the AU's Headquarters, most of the attention will be focused on the election of new AU commissioners.
The renewal of the AU Commission generally takes place amid impressive political bargaining where member states try to shape the AU's developments by positioning some of their best cadres in an influential position in Addis Ababa. The specificity of this year's elections comes from South Africa's decision to send Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, its former foreign minister and current home affairs minister, as candidate for the top job of head of the AU Commission.
By doing so, South Africa (SA) is challenging the sitting chairperson Jean Ping. This rather "unfriendly" gesture of bidding to replace a chairperson of the Commission, who has only served for one term, has been diversely appreciated in capital cities around the continent. There are many excellent reasons to explain SA's appetite for the chairmanship of the AU Commission and even to justify the choice of Ms Dlamini-Zuma. However, notwithstanding the strength of these arguments, South Africa runs the risk of being perceived as relying on its own strength as a regional power in Africa to get this position.
The reasons to choose Dlamini-Zuma as the new chairperson of AU Commission
There are several reasons why an AU chairperson Dlamini-Zuma would make sense. In typically African consensual manner, the chairmanship of the AU is traditionally expected to follow a rotation principle whereby every sub-region should have its turn. Because it is the last region to achieve its independence,, Southern Africa has never been able to place a Secretary General of the former Organisation of African Unity or an AU chairperson of the Commission.
It is therefore justified to argue that a national from a Southern African country be elected as head of the AU Commission because the region has a lot to offer to the continent. Also, the choice of Ms Dlamini-Zuma appears to be a smart move from SA as she comes with an impressive pedigree for this position. Having served under former president Thabo Mbeki when SA's foreign policy substantially contributed to shape Africa's and the South-South agenda, Ms Dlamini-Zuma is today a rather successful home affairs minister, credited for turning around the fortunes of a ministry previously known for its lethargy. That the election of a woman in that position would bring a much-needed breath of fresh air in a male dominated African intergovernmental institution is another argument in favour of Dlamini-Zuma.
Another important reason why the candidacy of Ms Dlamini-Zuma makes sense from a South African perspective is the current discrepancy between the country's proclaimed prioritization of Africa in its foreign policy and the glaring lack of commitment to support African regional organisations like the AU.
If South Africa remains one of the AU's Big Five (a group of 5 countries accounting for about 75% of the member states' contributions to the AU budget) the country has been widely criticised for committing little more than money. For example, the number of good skilled and experienced South African nationals working for the AU commission is surprisingly low and does in any case not reflect the ambitions of a regional leadership role that the country wants to play. (It is a fact, though, that Addis Ababa does not necessarily exert a strong power of attraction on SA officials who would earn much higher salaries by staying home).
As a matter of comparison, it would be hard to consider a Commission of the European Union without a German or a French Commissioner. In that regard, Ms Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy reflects a shift in SA's foreign policy approach to regional organisations and a welcome move that would probably strengthen the Commission.
In any case, South Africa's decision to send a top official for the AU Commission chair is a sign that the AU is growing in importance and is considered by the continent's biggest economy as a critical position to influence the country's international relations and Africa's voice in the world.
Though is this a question of bad timing?
Despite these positive signs and the apparent confidence of SA's officials regarding their chances of success, it appears that SA might have misinterpreted the current mood in the continent or overestimated itself. There are good reasons to think that Ms Dlamini-Zuma's election is no done deal.
First, it is fair to say that SA put the majority of its African partners in front of a fait accompli by announcing this candidacy. Although this is a sovereign decision for every state, South Africa's failure to consult substantially before taking this decision led to the perception that Pretoria had a hidden agenda. Suspicions of a hidden agenda were centred around South Africa breaking the non-written rule that no 'big country' should apply for the AU's top job. Also, it is alluded to in African capitals that Pretoria is trying to control the AU Commission to boost its bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. Even worse, opponents to Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy fear that she would be taking her orders from Pretoria if elected.
These perceptions have their roots and have been amplified by some recent controversial foreign and security policy decisions taken by Pretoria and which were considered by some observers as rather dividing instead of unifying Africa. SA's management of the Côte d'Ivoire post-electoral crisis will certainly not go down in the diplomatic history of the country as its foreign policy's best hour. By antagonizing Nigeria's and ECOWAS' conflict resolution approach in a West African country where Pretoria's expertise is at best limited, SA not only violated its own foreign policy principles but also divided the AU. In addition, doubts were expressed about SA's commitment to the promotion of democracy in Africa and respect for the stabilising role of regional organisations.
In the Libyan crisis, SA's inconsistency and insistence on an unrealistic political solution to a conflict whose dynamic had long turned violent have raised questions about the country's ability to lead both the AU or play a leadership role in the the UNSC. By championing the AU's roadmap on Libya, which de facto excluded a military solution to end a repressive regime, Pretoria seemed to be more interested in procedural processes of inclusivity than by results-oriented outcomes, particularly when these changes are induced by non-African actors. The involvement of NATO in Libya and of France in the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire gave rise to anti-Western sentiments expressed by various South African officials. The uniformed way in which this primary anti-Western posture was brought to the fore prevented a serious discussion about the grey zones of NATO's rather generous interpretation of UN-Resolution 1973.
Finally, South Africa failed to convince its African partners that Ms Dlamini-Zuma's candidacy was linked to a broader plan to reform the AU, an organization whose political weakness is proportional to the unanimous assertion that it is the only game in town. If Ms Dlamini-Zuma was to lose this election, relationships between the Commission and Pretoria will at best be sour for some time. SA's diplomacy will have suffered another blow that could have been avoided.
By Paul-Simon Handy and Stine Kjeldgaard, Director Research and Intern – Institute for Security Studies (South Africa)
Page last updated at Friday, January 27, 2012 7:07 AM // Leave Your Comment
The 18th African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, which officially opened last Monday, has assigned Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills major roles during the session of heads of State and Government.
Aside delivering the keynote address, which is on the theme: "Boosting Intra African Trade," President Mills, who leaves Ghana for the meeting on Friday, would also be the Guest of Honour at the unveiling of the statue of Ghana's first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah at the forecourt of the newly constructed AU building.
The conference centre project, fully-funded by the Chinese government and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), within Sino-African relations, is China's largest-scale aid project for Africa in decades.
The building would be inaugurated next Saturday in the presence of all the Heads of State and Governments at the meeting.
The centre covers a construction area of some 50,000 square meters, and will house a 2,550-seat big conference hall, a 650-seat medium conference hall, five press conference rooms and two VIP rooms, among many other facilities.
According to Mr Koku Anyidoho, Director of Communications at the Office of the President, President Mills had invited Dr. Francis Nkrumah; and Madam Samia Nkrumah, Chairperson of the Convention People's Party (CPP), who are both children of the first President to join in the unveiling of the statue in honour of their father.
Dr Nkrumah, who also played a leading role in the African liberation struggle, was a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, now the AU, as well as the Pan Africanist Movement.
High on the agenda at the summit would be the voting to elect new leaders to the continental body.
While the AU typically promotes regional diversity in its leadership, some observers have opined that it would be better to favor countries that have best adhered to AU protocols.
The Heads of State and Government as usual at the first meeting in the year, would elect a new chairperson, likely to come from West Africa for a one-year term.
The new chair is usually selected on a rotating regional schedule, with leaders from North, South, East and West Africa getting a fair shot at the top seat.
Meanwhile, a tough diplomatic battle has taken shape at the Union ahead of the Presidential session to elect the Chairperson of the AU Commission.
The AU Commission Chairperson Dr Jean Ping, elected to the position on February 1, 2008 and seeking re-election, is facing South Africa's Interior Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is vying on a platform of change to the continental body, which her country blames for failing to prevent conflicts.
Dr Ping's supporters say their candidate is almost certain of an absolute majority when the elections come on 29 January, but Dlamini-Zuma's backing from the Southern African bloc is not being ruled out.
South Africa has proposed to delay the elections of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson during the AU's ministerial meeting on 26 January, but a counter proposal to delay the election of eight other commissioners had also been tabled.
Ghana's candidate for the post of Political Affairs Commissioner has been withdrawn in favour of Aisha Laraba Abudulai, Nigeria's Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea.
AFRICAN countries can no longer remain indifferent to the suffering and plight of their neighbours if the ideals of Pan Africanism is to be realised, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Mohammed Mumuni, has said.
He said a true expression of Pan-Africanism could be achieved when member states of the AU and societies in Africa regarded peace, security and the well-being of their neighbours as fundamentally intertwined with theirs.
The Foreign Minister was speaking in Accra at the opening of a two-day experience-sharing workshop on 'Improving West African Capacities in Mediation and Peace Process organised by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre.
The CMI is an independent non-profit organisation, working to resolve conflict and to build sustainable peace.
The workshop brought together experts in peace building from ECOWAS countries who would share experiences on past and recent mediation and peace processses in selected West African countries in a manner that allowed participants to reflect on achievement and existing challenges.
Despite many encouraging developments in Africa in recent years, political instability remains a major headache in all regions of the continent, slowing down economic growth, and negatively affecting the people's well being.
While there are still a number of unresolved conflicts on the continent, with many of
them rooted in unequal distribution of power and resources, some of the recent peace agreements have not been implemented, leaving seeds of mistrust within the structures of the society.
But Mr Mumuni noted that the establishment of the African Union had transformed Africa's approach to conflict management on the African continent, and admitted there still remained some challenges.
The advent of the AU, he stated marked a paradigm shift from prior practice on non-interference and non-intervention to the implementation of a policy of non-indifference which is required to generate and sustain a political will to address crisis situations on the continent.
He noted that a very important feature of the instruments which constituted the peace and security was diplomacy and mediation but stated that "the notion of mediation as primarily a diplomatic activity needed to be challenged."
"Diplomats are not the only possible mediators. Thus limiting possible mediators to only one category of actors (state and intergovernmental diplomats) is not judicious and appropriate."
"International mediation needs to be mainstream and incorporate non-official mediators, especially those with sustained presence in conflict zones and established communication channels with protagonists into the peace process," he stated.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr James Victor Gbeho, in a keynote address read on his behalf said after more than twenty years of involvement in mediations and peace processes within the region, ECOWAS had been able to build impressive structures for peace, security and stability in West Africa.
The regional body, Mr Gbeho stated had in place legal documents, structures and procedures as reference materials for its activities, citing the 1999 Protocol relating to the Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-keeping and security as an example.
The document addresses peace-building in a region notorious for rampant conflict situations, with peace, security and political stability as its key components.
The West African sub-region has been, for the last two decades, one of the most conflict-prone areas of the world. The region has witnessed three of the most violent civil wars in contemporary African political history.
In view of that, the Executive Director of the CMI, Ms Tuija Talvitie, said notwithstanding some recent achievements, the persistence of low and high risk intensity conflicts in West Africa required the development of preventive diplomacy in the region.
She, however, commended, The United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) and ECOWAS as well as many civil society organisations for their support for preventive diplomacy and peace mdiation advocacy.
The CMI, Ms Talvitie said had embarked on a three-year project, titled Improving West African Capacities in Mediation and Peace Process from 2011-2013 to further build expertise in peace-building in the region.
Posted by SETH J. BOKPE'S GHANA NEWSREEL at 11:01 AM
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, January 27, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The African Union Commission (AUC) and the Government of Australia have signed an agreement that will enable Australia to support the Institution and Capacity Building Programme of the Commission.
The agreement was signed today, Thursday 26 January 2012, at the AU Headquarters by the Chairperson of the Commission, Dr. Jean Ping and the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Mr. Kevin Rudd MP.
The support of two million Australian Dollars (about USD2.1million) covers two-years and will be implemented and monitored on behalf of the Australian Government by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and for the AU by the Strategic Policy Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Resource Mobilisation Directorate.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chairperson said that he was delighted to welcome the Foreign Affairs Minister and underscored the importance and depth of AU relations with Australia.
Recalling that 2011 was a particularly challenging year for Africa, Dr. Ping expressed appreciation to the Government of Australia for its sustained support of the Commission and renewed the expression of his sympathy to the Australian nation for last year's devastating floods which resulted in several deaths and widespread loss of property in the state of Queensland.
On his part, Minister Rudd said that he was pleased to be back in Addis Ababa and agreed with the Chairperson that AU relations with Australia are excellent. He described the agreement as a concrete demonstration of Australia's strong sense of responsibility towards Africa.
Following the signing ceremony, both personalities exchanged views on issues of mutual interest, including investment opportunities in Africa.
"This Continent of a billion people has the potential to become the next China," the Foreign Affairs Minister stated. He revealed that Australia has 600 projects in 41 African countries and emphasized the commitment of his country to the enhancement of its economic ties with Africa.
"We have been at the receiving end of investment, so we understand the challenges," Minister Rudd added, and underscored the importance to his country of preserving "Brand Australia," – the international reputation and good image of Australia
The Honourable Mr. Rudd was accompanied by Australia's Ambassador to Ethiopia, H.E. Ms. Lisa Filepetto and several other senior Australian diplomats, including the Permanent Representative to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Gary Quinlan and the Minister Counselor of AusAID in Pretoria, Mr. Jamie Isbister.
On the AU side, the Chairperson was flanked, among others, by the Deputy Chairperson, the Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Chairperson, the Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the Deputy Chairperson, as well as the Chairperson's Political and Diplomatic Advisor.
African Union Commission (AUC)
Africa will be a free trade area in five years, according to the dream that African leaders will stamp in the next few days when they meet for the African Union Summit in Ethiopia.
The intention is to increase trade within Africa, to have a soft landing ground just in case Africa's main trading economies of the United States, Europe, China and India slow down, affecting their ability to sustain commodity imports from Africa.
While this possibility was not thought much about before, the debt crisis in Europe and the financial crisis triggered by loan defaults in the US in 2008 have intensified the need for Africa to depend on her own markets to caution her economy from external shocks.
"The options for Africa are limited. The uncertainties facing Africa's traditional export markets in Europe and the US further exacerbate the risk to the region's development prospects if growth in the emerging market economies of China and India were to slow down significantly," said Stephen Karingi, the Director of Regional Integration in the Infrastructure and Trade Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
In a joint briefing early this week with Professor Mwangi Kimenyi, a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, they said ongoing harmonisation of trade among some of Africa's trading blocs offers success models that the continent can replicate.
The numerous regional economic trading blocs have created severe trading barriers within Africa, in some cases making it easier to import goods from Middle East or Europe instead of the neighboring African country because of the high taxation as a result of belonging to a different trading bloc.
As a result, intra Africa trade accounts for 12 per cent of total Africa trade, a very small proportion compared to European Union's 60 per cent trade being internal, according to recently released data by the African Development Bank.
Intra Africa trade
But this reality appears to have dawned on the continent with concerted efforts for example currently ongoing to dissolve several blocs to allow larger trading formations.
For example, negotiations are ongoing to merge Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East Africa Community and South Africa Development Community into a free trade area.
Dominique Njinkeu, a trade facilitation expert at the World Bank, said having a continent free trade area places Africa at an advantage to attract larger foreign investments.
The decision by the African Union to have a continental free trade area comes at a time when evidence is emerging that some of the major global investors are looking at Africa as their next frontier for investment.
A report released on Tuesday by the Economist Intelligence Unit said that global institutional investors intend to make their first significant step into Africa over the next five years because of the continent's growing middle class.
The report was commissioned by fund manager Invest AD.
The report is based on a survey done on 158 senior executives at institutions such as pension and endowment funds and insurance companies.
"Many of the investors surveyed don't have any allocations in Africa, yet looking out over the next five years, the bulk of the investors will have an allocation into Africa and about a third will have more than five per cent allocation," said Invest AD in a statement.
The marginal increase of intra-Africa trade is, however, credited with being one of the factors that saw the continent not become overly affected by the global financial crisis, enabling it to post growth ranging five to six per cent.
Over the past months, the South African government's representatives have travelled the African continent, lobbying support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to replace Gabon's Jean Ping as chairperson of the commission of the African Union (AU).
This weekend, African heads of states will meet in Addis-Ababa to decide on whether Ping will continue in that position or whether new blood is needed.
Such is the dichotomous geo-political nature of the continent, that the contest appears to have pitted southern Africa against its Francophone counterparts.
French-speaking Africa will push for Ping. With the backing of France, a country that still retains a neo-colonial grip on her former subjects and seeks to advance her interests on the continent through them. This is not healthy for an independent Africa.
Especially as the AU is a moribund organisation increasingly bereft of the authority and capacity to effect the required shift towards a continent where citizens are not defrauded of their right to democracy through stolen elections, compromise governments of
national unity or just plain-old dictatorships.
The Mail & Guardian believes Dlamini-Zuma is the antidote for such a malaise.
Behind Liberia's Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson (Africa's first female head of state), she is the most prominent female African politician on a patriarchal continent.
But it has less to do with gender and much more to do with her track record. Her two terms as foreign minister means she is au fait with the requirements of international diplomacy, while her work in brokering an end to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, means she is not afraid to knock heads and ruffle feathers in getting the job done.
And she works tirelessly: anyone who can turn around South Africa's department of home affairs to achieve its first clean audit since the advent of democracy obviously has both vision and stamina. A clinical grasp of what needs to be done, and how to get it done.
We don't buy the argument that the post should not go to a "big" country. A bit of heft behind the commission chair will help it to be more effective, and there is no evidence to suggest that small countries more effectively manage the balance of power at the AU.
South Africa's own dithering, inconsistent foreign policy may work against her, and we would miss her in Cabinet, but Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has our support.
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