19 November 2018

Africa: AU Wants to Top Up Its Own Kitty in Overall Reform Bid

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Photo: New Times
President Kagame and other Heads of State and Government at the 11th African Union Extraordinary Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
interview

African Union chairperson Paul Kagame is pushing its 55 members to pay their dues as part of his bid to steer reform of the donor-dependent body. DW asked Nigerian political sociologist Dr. Garba Kare about the move.

DW: The AU is taking a step to say it is making a concerted effort to get money from its members. What does this say to the rest of the world?

Dr. Garba Kare: It shows a renewed commitment by African countries to carry their own body and to attempt to solve their problems themselves. It is also an initiative that is capable of making the international community take the African Union seriously. Even those who have been contributing would be much more encouraged if they realize that the member countries of the AU themselves are committed to contributing to the upkeep of the AU. But now as it is, the AU appears to be financially cash-strapped and virtually a beggar organization and therefore this is a very good move, which should be sustained and encouraged. I hope the AU member countries are going to embrace it.

AU chair Paul Kagame pushed through a deal to try to get member states to contribute more to the grouping because it currently relies heavily on external donors. What do you make of this?

I think it's a very good move by the Rwandan president. The AU is a pan-African regional body, and it is supposed to serve and cater for Africans therefore ordinarily it should be funded by African countries. It is rather unfortunate, if not ridiculous that over the years the AU has had to depend on foreign donors for its own activities. I remember that in the beginning, in the 1960's when it was formed (as the Organization of African Unity OAU), it was solely funded by the few African countries in existence. I believe it is very good to return to the status quo - in other words, African countries should fund the African Union and not wait for donors outside the African countries because Africans have particular problems that need to be solved and it is a demonstration of their commitment to making the AU function efficiently and effectively.

Some African countries are wealthier than others. How do you think these reforms affect Nigeria, one of the continent's biggest economies?

Nigeria should contribute more than the others. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa - virtually two out of every eight Africans are Nigerian. Nigeria is also a very rich country. In the 1960's and 1970's, Nigeria was contributing hugely to the then OAU coffers, and this should be so. There are so many African countries for instance that are suffering from serious economic problems that they cannot afford to contribute much. Therefore such countries should only contribute as a symbol or as a topping of their commitment to the ends of AU, while countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt should bear the main responsibility of keeping the AU financially buoyant. Nigeria owes the continental body a responsibility to contribute hugely for the AU to function well.

If Africans contribute to the AU, would it mean Africans can decide how the money is spent?

Yes. I think that in the AU modus operandi it is clearly stated how the AU should operate, including contributions of member countries and how its various committees should function. Also, the issue of expenditure has been clearly stated. So, what is remaining is a faithful implementation of the principles and norms and values of the AU.

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