President Paul Kagame opened the 11th African Union Extraordinary Summit on AU Reforms with a keynote speech that celebrated the progress of the reforms while reminding the assembly of the work that still needs to be done to deliver an efficient African Union that serves citizens.
Kagame, who has been at the helm of the AU leadership for nearly a year now, told the leaders of the 55 African countries attending the 11th Extraordinary Session in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, that there was an urgent need to advance the Union's institutional reform.
"The purpose of this Extraordinary Summit is to advance the institutional reform of our Union. Events on our continent and across the world continue to confirm the urgency and necessity of this project," he said.
"The goal is simple: To make Africa stronger and give our people the future they deserve," Kagame added.
President Kagame has been leading the AU Reforms Committee since July 2016. Two years down the road, there is optimism that the proposed reforms could turn around the union's management affairs.
Kagame has been working with a team of other prominent Africans under the Reform Implementation Unit, whose work has already been endorsed by some of the members of the African Union.
"I am pleased to note that we are very much on course. We have passed the halfway point and the end is in sight. But there is still very important work to do," he told the AU Assembly.
"Today the Assembly will consider detailed proposals for making the Commission itself more effective and performance-based, now and in the future. This goes straight to the heart of the Reform Decision," he added.
One of the AU reforms set to be approved includes having a leaner commission with new procedures to ensure performance and accountability, including a merit-based selection procedure while guaranteeing regional and gender representation.
On the other hand, the mandate for the Africa Union Development Agency (AUDA) is set to be approved, completing the integration of the NEPAD Planning and Development Agency into the AU Commission.
Such a proposed reform is particularly meant to make specialised agencies like the AUDA and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) more efficient and to contribute to an integrated and prosperous Africa.
Another highly popular reform that has has already been adopted a 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports, a transformational decision that has been adopted by 24 countries across Africa.
The decisions to be taken by the leaders of the African countries are also expected to determine the future of the Union and its association with other bodies.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers his remarks at the 11th African
AU Peace Fund
Meanwhile, Kagame launched the much-awaited AU Peace Fund, an initiative to ensure the continent owns and finances its peace interventions.
"Promoting peace and security is one of the core functions of our Union. However, up to this point, we have lacked a credible mechanism to fund our priority operations in this domain," he said.
He highlighted that the continent depended extensively on external resources, which sparked the Assembly's decision in 2015 to finance 25 per cent of the African Union's peace and security activities.
"The Peace Fund is the endowment for that purpose," he noted.
Currently, member states' contributions stand at $60 million, the highest level since the Fund's creation in 1993. However, it is estimated that if all outstanding obligations had been met, the Peace Fund today would stand at $100 million.
But with the money available now, Kagame said, the continent is able to finance all of the preventative diplomacy and mediation work of the Union.
"When the endowment reaches its full strength, Africa will be in a strong position to drive the continent's peace and security agenda toward the most appropriate solutions," Kagame said.
Africa is presently pursuing a resolution at the United Nations Security Council to provide stable funding for African Union peace support operations.
Kagame said the launched Peace Fund is a critical piece of that architecture.