AU summit: What lies beyond the nice spectacle of Addis meeting

It is that time of the year when the African Union (AU) Commission in Addis Ababa hosts the heads of state and government of AU member states.

The foreign ministers who make up the AU’s executive council are first to meet in Addis Ababa on February 16. Among other things, the ministers will draw up the work schedules of their mentors.

The leaders will gather in Addis Ababa on 17 February and hold a general session of the AU’s assembly on 18 and 19 February.

The composition of the continent’s leaders as reflected in the family photo taken of them after the opening session of the assembly shows that almost all of them are men.

It is only the presence of the President of Tanzania that prevents observers from concluding that the Assembly is a ‘men only’ club.

I don’t know whether to bless the people of Tanzania or praise God for his intervention, which made possible the rise of Samia Suluhu Hassan to the presidency of Tanzania, which made us a ‘men’s only’ club in the assembly robbed of the opportunity to be

It must also hasten to mention that most of them are in the category of senior citizens. Had it not been for the presence of some young leaders, one would have been forced to conclude that the Assembly is a club of retired men and women.

But I was reminded about the OAU time in a conversation the other day about the progress made under AU.

Unlike OAU times when it was not uncommon for some leaders to pitch in at the summit wearing their military uniforms, today all smile at the camera wearing their suits (some of them custom made and very expensive).

In fact, even military leaders who have seized power militarily will be seen wearing suits rather than their military uniforms. Of course, all five leaders except the one who seized power by military coup are barred from participating, courtesy of AU norms banning coups and other unconstitutional changes of government (to which we should return some other time). .

Curious to know the one military strongman who has the privilege of attending the summit despite having unconstitutionally seized power? If you don’t know, then clearly you have no interest in African affairs and I don’t know why you are reading this.

Attendance at AU summits remains a matter of discussion. For example, this is an issue first and foremost for African civil society organizations (CS), who would love to seize the opportunity to champion specific issues of concern to the wider African public by creating a slot for a CSO representative. . During a statement and talks with the leaders on the corridors of the AU.

Access to AU is also a matter of discussion among AU partner countries during the summit. Even more so this year.

The AU sent a note inviting partner countries to attend the opening session of the summit on a 1+0 representation basis, indicating partners should not bother bringing high-level representatives from their capitals to Addis Ababa gives.

While this means that partner countries will not be able to interact as much as leaders around the summit, for the AU it ensures that it prevents leaders from attending the summit with a divided focus.

It is also curious that this 1+0 invitation has been extended to Israel whose AU observer status has been in dispute, triggering a Heads of State and Government Task Force, which has had no meetings since its inception. No record. Meanwhile, lobbying on behalf of Israel is in full swing in Addis Ababa.

The second issue of attendance is which African leaders will make the pilgrimage to Addis Ababa or hand it over to their minister. The summit is expected to attract a large number of African leaders in attendance.

Even if it does, barring any intervening factors (don’t ask me if I’m saying anything), you shouldn’t hold your breath that we’ll have as many African leaders There will be as many participants as EU-AU, China-Africa. , US-Africa and other summits.

One cannot help wondering whether for purposes of full attendance it would be a good idea if the AU considered holding its summits with our leaders instead of with their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

Of course, as an Ethiopian I don’t think this is a good idea. I have no doubt that Addis Ababa best suits the occasion. Especially, in this time of socio-economic crisis on the continent, if nothing else, being in Addis saves our dear leaders the pain of spending their money on shopping.

Speaking of the socio-economic woes on the continent, I would count you lucky if you are not feeling a very painful pinch on your pocket. The increase in the cost of living which keeps increasing every month and massively seems to have rendered currencies worthless in our continent.

The prospect is also not looking promising. Most of our economies on the continent are facing severe debt crisis during 2023 and 2024.

So, will the leaders of our beloved continent make this debilitating erosion in our pockets as one of the priority agenda items during the summit and ensure that how they negotiate the reform of the global financial system If there are, specific measures will be taken on this. economies have fair access to emergency funding, development finance and a more equitable system for debt repayment?

Perhaps he should invite the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, to draw inspiration from the Bridgetown Initiative for reform of the multilateral financial system based on the Bretton Woods institutions.

In addition, at this time of multiple crises that weigh heavily on Africa, given its historical, governance and socio-economic vulnerabilities, there are enough other pressing issues of continental importance that deserve the attention of the summit.

For example, in this time of fierce struggle for access and/or control of ‘transition’ ‘critical’ ‘strategic’ minerals among world powers, should not African leaders form a common strategy to ensure that these ‘ Competitions’ don’t lead to another round. Resource curse for Africa and how are the continent’s natural resources used to meet the development needs of the continent’s people?

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the depth of the unpreparedness of African health systems to provide any protection to the continent.

It highlighted not only the unreliability, but also the decidedly skewed nature of global supply chains and the world trading system, whose rules are used to circumvent emergency measures in times of global crisis as Covid-19 vaccines and lack of access to TRIP waivers attested.

Will the leaders of the continent report on where we are addressing these issues?

One reason to believe that these issues and the state of the continent’s economy will be in the spotlight in some way is the focus of the AU’s theme this year: the acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).

In addition to COVID-19, the food and energy price crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further increased the imperative of intra-African trade. Clearly the AfCFTA has great potential to facilitate the development of capabilities to meet the continent’s demands for medicines and food.

Nevertheless, much of this catalytic role of the AfCFTA depends on whether the ongoing push towards operating the world’s largest free trade area and the requirements to achieve such capabilities will be prioritized during this upcoming summit. Or not.

These needs include speeding up industrialization (and expanding manufacturing capabilities, including manufacturing drugs – we are told that our governments have left us dependent on imports for 98 percent of our drug needs), people protocols on free movement of livestock (by ensuring ratification confirmation), cross-border cooperation (by ensuring ratification and implementation of the Bamako Convention) and investment in agricultural development (in addition to implementing commitments under the AU’s flagship program CADAP – so that A continent with 60 percent arable land could reduce its dependence on imports (of key food resources from elsewhere in the world).

Not surprisingly, issues of peace and security, including the growing threat of terrorism, are also expected to garner massive attention during the summit.

The Peace and Security Council, the highest permanent decision-making body of the AU on matters of peace and security, will hold a summit-level session on 17 February on the pressing conflict in eastern DRC.

On the same day, meetings are also due to take place on Libya involving the AU Ad Hoc High-Level Committee on the country and the former President of Niger is expected to brief the Secretary-General and Chair of the AU Commission on the Situation in the Sahel . Progress of the AU-UN Strategic Assessment on Security and Governance in the Sahel.

Other issues that are expected to loom large during the summit include the humanitarian situation and the African Humanitarian Agency or (Institute), Africa’s place in partnership and global governance, including the impact of the multi-crisis facing multilateralism Least of all, not all of the war in Ukraine.

On democratic governance, which countries on the continent are doing well according to the Mo Ibrahim Index and the Afro Barometer, but only from the gains registered in previous years, we expect the Africans to adopt the peer reviewed 2023 Governance Report to join the table Will happen. Unconstitutional changes of government focus on one of this season’s top threats.

The summit is accompanied by 37 AU side events jointly organized by AU member states or AU organs.

This is without counting the events organized by the Kenya Embassy on 14 February and those organized by research organizations and civil society such as the high-level event Amani Africa plans to host jointly with Namibia, the Civil Society Summit The CSO will bring representatives from the continent organized by Amani Africa in partnership with OSF, a pre-summit seminar organized by the Institute for Security Studies on 8 February and a book release event organized by the same institute at the Hilton on 17 February.

The shopping list of 37 AU side events, reduced from an initial 53, covers a broad list of topics including climate change, food security, new African humanitarian order, post-conflict reconstruction, ACFTA, education science and technology, improving security. Council, Gender and Agenda 2063.

Will anything major and concrete come out of all these formal meetings and side events?

I want to be optimistic about this but advise that you wait and see what turns out after the delegations leave Addis Ababa and Hyatt Regency does very little business by reducing the price of their rooms to over 11 hundred USD Is done. normal rate.

Solomon Ailey Derso is the founding director of Amani Africa


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