The African Union (AU) will in May this year celebrate 50 years of its existence under the theme ‘Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance’, an event AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said should provide the organisation with an opportunity for a new paradigm – an opportunity to strengthen the continent’s belief in its capacity to become prosperous and peaceful.
However, peace and prosperity are two key words that have been eluding Africa for many decades, as armed conflicts, extreme poverty, economic mismanagement and bad governance continue to tear the continent apart and delay its development.
But, addressing the AU’s executive council on late last week in Addis-Ababa, Dlamini-Zuma said the continent’s unending problems will not dampen Africans’ will and spirit to push for solutions.
She said: “The challenges we face as a continent are indeed many and difficult, but not so many, nor so difficult as to be intractable and defeat our collective will and wisdom to resolve. Throughout history Africa has faced very serious challenges from slavery to colonialism and apartheid. Armed with unity and solidarity, we have overcome.”
But analysts decry African leaders’ failure to understand the words unity and solidarity, especially in the face of conflict resolution. The case of Africa watching as a spectator while Mali burned and France took the initiative to solely wage war on the Islamists might have violated the ideals of Pan-Africanism.
This silence prompted outgoing AU president, Benin head of state Boni Yayi to slam his counterparts during the AU Summit that took place on 27-28 January in Ethiopia. Yayi said: “How is it that, faced with a potential threat to its own foundations, Africa although it has the means to defend themselves, continues to wait.”
But some observers believe the silence was not a matter of disharmony or divergence of opinions on how to solve the conflict, but rather an issue of lack of resources.
Dlamini-Zuma, a former South African cabinet minister, also raised the issue of lack of resources in her address to the ministers of foreign affairs of member states. She said: “Another issue of concern is the resources of the union, both in terms of the quantum and the sources of funding. Not only for the commission, but other organs and our development programmes.
“The current structure of the budget whereby member states fund the operational budget, while external partners fund the bulk of the programme budget is unsustainable and unpredictable. However, external funding cannot be the mainstay of our funding.
Our leaders have said in the past that we must be self-reliant, without cutting.
Efforts to explore alternative sources of funding have been going on for over a decade. We have established a high level panel, chaired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and we should hear from this study, so that we can debate their proposals.”
She said the inadequacy of resources is not helped by the trend of creating more and more AU institutions.
*Photo by China Daily. The AU new headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.