Africa: AU Reforms Not an End but a Means - Kagame

Delegates at the Extraordinary Summit on African Union reforms.
19 November 2018

President Paul Kagame has said that the adoption of the African Union reforms does not necessarily mean an end to the process, calling for speedy implementation of the reforms by the AU Commission and Member States.

Kagame, who is the Chairperson of the African Union, was speaking Sunday at the closing ceremony of the 11th Extraordinary Summit of the AU convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"The reform is not an end in itself. What counts is how we use it to secure a prosperous and peaceful future for our continent. I therefore urge the Commission and the Member States to put these decisions into effect as quickly as we can," Kagame said following the adoption of key reforms of the pan-African body by the summit.

He called on member states to maintain the high standards of consultation and engagement in reviewing the pending reforms which will be considered during the February 2019 Summit.

"It is also important to maintain the same high standard of consultation and technical rigor, as the remaining reform items are prepared for consideration at our next Summit, collaborating closely with other organs," he said.

Over the weekend, the African Union Heads of State and Government adopted a number of key reforms which could potentially boost the efficiency of the organisation.

The assembly decided that beginning 2021, the structure of the AU Commission will be trimmed down to eight members from the current 10.

The commission will include Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and six Commissioners.

The commissions were readjusted to address new key concerns while those with similar tasks were merged.

The new portfolios of the commission include: Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment; Economic Development, Trade and Industry and Mining; Education, Science, Technology and Innovation. The others are Infrastructure and Energy; Political Affairs, Peace and Security and Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development.

The Peace and Security docket was merged with one of Political Affairs while Economic Development was merged with Trade and Industry.

The readjustment also takes into account continental priorities such as Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.

The new structure and portfolios of the senior leadership of the Commission shall come into effect at the end of the tenure of the current Commission in 2021.

The assembly also decided that going forward, commissioners will be selected in accordance with principles such as equitable regional representation, gender parity, attracting and retaining Africa's top talent as well as a transparent and merit-based selection process.

It was agreed that the principle of rotational gender parity shall be applied to the posts of Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson; ensuring that if the Chairperson is female then the Deputy Chairperson shall be a male and vice versa.

The six commissioner-level posts shall be equally distributed by gender and across the three regions that are not represented at Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson level.

The Assembly also established a Panel of Eminent Africans, composed of five eminent personalities, one per region, to oversee the pre-selection of candidatures of the senior leadership of the Commission.

The panel will, among other things, conduct skills and competency assessment as well as shortlist candidates to generate a pool of qualified candidates for the various commission roles. Candidates shall be assessed through an initial review of applications and resumes among other aspects.

The reforms will also see the transformation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) into the African Union Development Agency (AUDA).

The newly created AUDA is now tasked to coordinate and execute priority regional and continental projects to promote regional integration, to strengthen capacity of African Union Member States and regional bodies as well as advance knowledge-based advisory support.

The body's mandate also includes undertaking the full range of resource mobilisation, and serve as the continent's technical interface with all of Africa's development stakeholders and development partners.

South Africa was selected as the permanent host country of the new body.

The summit also endorsed performance enhancement mechanisms such as sanctions for the non-payment of contributions, termination of appointment of the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC and performance evaluation of senior leadership.

Earlier in the day, President Kagame and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Co-chaired a High Level breakfast Meeting on Digital Identity for the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063.

The session, organised by the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union, deliberated the digital economy and its impact on the continent.

During his speech, President Kagame said that Africa must take full advantage of the digital revolution to empower citizens and enhance transparency in government and the private sector.

"This cannot happen without full ownership of personal data. Data has to be stored in safe and trusted systems that protect privacy and are difficult for criminals to breach," he said.

In the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the wider Africa integration agenda, he noted that it is critically important for African identity systems to be interoperable.

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