“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Pax Aufricana: Africa’s Plans cannot be Slaves to a Donor Construct!
By E.K.Bensah Jr
Perhaps one of the greatest sources of bemusement around African integration is the manner in which citizens remain clueless about the continent—and do not seem to want to change that ignorance into something positive. One is likely to hear more naysayers complaining about the continent than proponents praising it. If we can accept that a continent of now-54 member states would hardly and immediately have harmony on issues of trade; climate change; the environment and much more, why on Earth would we expect it to deliver so much so soon after only ten years in existence? This is also not to wholly put the blame on citizens, for these days, institutions like the African Union cannot get away with excuses that there are no resources for New Media and/or Social Networking strategies.
The visceral itch to refer to new Media is no accident: with smartphones booming across Africa, and an increasing number of Africans accessing the internet on their mobile phones, the 21st century is spawning a new generation of savvy-activists very much into propagating and advocating issues almost at lightning-speed, and using tools like Twitter and Facebook. At the very least, there are many youth on the continent intelligent and New-media-savvy enough to volunteer their time to helping out with the AU’s outreach. If no less than the UN Economic Commission for Africa can employ an Australian communications company to market the Africa Mining Vision, it beggars belief that the AU cannot source Pan-African volunteers to help them sell the image of the AU.
This message-selling cannot be divorced from the strategies I referred to last week, as, in my view, when an institution like the AU cannot sell its vision and its plan to the people of Africa, it constitutes a big problem. Inevitably, what one gets are many policy processes taking place on the blind-side of both citizens and the media, ineluctably making it imperative for “African integration watchers” everywhere to fight the good fight of promoting what the AU normally should.
Even if we forget the AU has had Strategic Action Plans since the establishment and operationalisation of the AU in 2002, we surely cannot think that the AU has been working as slaves to a donor construct. While it is true that this-same construct has both helped and hindered Africa’s progress, it is not for a want of trying to break free – as Africa has done back in 2001 with the Lusaka Appeal, when it admitted that much of the funding offered by donors was slow and unrealistic. Even before the explosive events of Cote d’Ivoire in 2011 and the demise of Qaddafi, the AU had been discussing – by way of a committee – alternative sources of financing.
Indeed, one of the major outputs of the Fourth Conference of African Ministers of Integration (COMAI IV) was on innovative financing that would lend a great deal of independence to the AU to finance its integration. This development must surely be seen as a boon to the efforts of African integration policymakers. If it fails to whet one’s appetite, how about this for size: the fact that the AU has no less than four sector-specific architectures in place for the radical transformation of the AU.
Let’s not even get to the fact that since 1994, the AU has been operating under the framework of the Abuja Treaty that has set continental integration for 2034. And these are even things I have not mentioned in detail. But, seriously, the things I will elaborate on are important. They concern peace and security; agriculture/food security’ governance and international trade, with a view to the establishment of an African Common Market—as envisaged by policymakers back in December 1976, when they proclaimed it as the Kinshasa Declaration—and one that is also consistent with the sixth stage of the Africa Economic Community.
Where’s the AU’s Strategic Plan?
Although we can freely and justifiably criticize the AU for a number of non-adhered-to policies, we must give them the credit for posting a considerable number of their material on their website. It is true the website on www.au.int might be incomparable to the EU’s on europa.eu.int, but at the end of the day, it is serious work in progress – as is the AU’s Strategic Action Plan of 2009-2012. Unbeknownst to many Africans, this can easily be found in a Google search [if Africans knew at all it had a strategic plan is moot!] and downloaded for perusal. At 46 pages, it does not make bedtime reading, and can be read within a few days.
Some of the sections include the “vision” of the African Union; “mission and values of the African Union Commission”; even a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses; Opportunities; and Threats) analysis; and a “comparative strategic analysis”. There are elaborations on “peace and security” (pillar 1); “development, integration and cooperation” (pillar 2); “shared values” (pillar 3); and “institution and capacity-building” (pillar 4). Finally, there is an implementation strategy, followed by a “monitoring and evaluation system.”
Pillar One – peace and security
It is fair to say that since its inception, the AU has been preoccupied by peace and security. Given the unpredictable nature of conflicts on the continent, the Peace and Security Council—voted the most powerful organ of the AU in 2011 and arguably the most visible manifestation of the AU’s efforts resolving continental conflict—has been meeting on average around five times a month since 2006. This has inevitably added a burden on the 15-member Peace and Security Council—especially those with skeletal staff at their embassies.
The PSC is meant to serve as the collective security and early warning instrument for “timely and efficient response” to both existing and emerging conflict crises and situations on the continent. It is supported by the AU commission; a Panel of the Wise; a Continental Early Warning System (CEWS); an African Standby Force(ASF); and a Special Fund (including an AU situation room located in the Peace and Security Directorate of the AU). Collectively, this is what is known as the AU Peace and Security Architecture. It is to promote peace, security, and stability in Africa. Inevitably, given this structure, it remains imperative that peace and security be strategic issues for the AU. By close of 2012—as per the strategic plan—the Commission expects, inter alia, to have a fully functioning APSA; significantly reduced conflicts on the continent; promoted the development and stablisation of security, political and economic systems; and promoted a policy on combating transnational organized crime.
Pillar Two – Development; Integration and Cooperation
Critical to the AU Commission’s work is the identification of key challenges to social and human development, such as poor health and education systems; lack of social welfare and protection of vulnerable groups…, gender inequalities..., creative industries and sports development. The AU intends to achieve sustainable economic development through accelerating infrastructure development to boost interconnectivity, reliability and cost-effectiveness; promoting the growth of intra-African trade and investments, and through integrating Africa into the global market. This includes the development of an African private sector and informal economy; as well as the promotion of agricultural development and food security through the Comprehensive Agricultural Africa Development Programme (CAADP).
By the end of 2012, the AU Commission expects to have achieved some of the following results: promoted agricultural development and food security; promoted the development of an African private sector and informal economy (note how widespread this is on the continent); and implement programmes for youth development.
In my next piece, I will be elaborating a bit more on the two other parts of the second pillar, and expatiate on the third pillar. Further I will offer an analysis of what we can learn from the SWOT analysis that came out of brainstorming by the AU’s staff and senior management meetings of the 2004-2007 Strategic Action Plan. Suffice-to-say, it is eye-opening in a way that takes us away from being slaves to the traditional donor construct the AU has been so used to!
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on email@example.com / Mobile: +233-268.687.653.