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The AU as a Project in 'Human Endeavour and Continental Cooperation'

By Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.

3/14/2012 3:55:57 PM -

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
By E.K.Bensah Jr
It will be three years this October since Ghana joined the AU/NEPAD-sponsored Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), and 2013 will be exactly a decade since CAADP – but one probably would not know it. I even wonder whether people know there is a dedicated website detailing almost everything one needs to know about NEPAD on http://www.nepad-caadp.net/ .

If we even forget the fact that the recent address by Ghana's president made no mention of Ghana's CAADP compact and its progress thus far, what we must, in my view, remember is how a country that places premium on an annual Farmer's Day ought to take cognisance of a continental compact that would radicalise the country's food security prospects.

CAADP was endorsed in Maputo in 2003. According to CAADP's website, CAADP's overall-goal is to “eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture”. To achieve this, African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10 per cent of their national budgets and “to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6 per cent.” This is to be done through CAADP's strategic functions, regional and economic communities, national roundtables and four key Pillars.

So far, 29 AU member states have signed the compact, and more than 20 countries have developed CAADP-based Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans (AFSIPs). CAADP has since created space for participation of all relevant stakeholders—from within and outside the state, as well as to grassroots level. Truth be told, CAADP has significantly raised the profile of the agricultural sector in national domestic politics and the attention to agriculture has increased remarkably.

CAADP has further facilitated what the UNECA and AU consider to be “a noticeable improvement and progress towards donor coordination, harmonisation and alignment to country priorities.” These remarks come from a preparatory input report to an upcoming AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance (CAMEF) and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, which is to be held in the diplomatic capital of Africa—Addis Ababa—from 22-25 March 2012.

The report offers an overview of CAADP and its implementation, noting that “implementation of country plans for results and impact has now put CAADP on the spot to demonstrate that the good policy environment provided can be translated into clear results, impact with clear growth, food security and increased incomes.” While AU citizens can rejoice that there is a continental approach to addressing food security, member states are not quite out of the woods yet, for as CAMEF/ECA Ministers prepare to meet, they will be asking important questions on the survival and sustainability of the CAADP compact. Some of the questions they will be asking include how CAADP can become “more effective in leveraging private sector investments” and the extent to which “vertical integration between country programs and regional programs [such as ECOWAS' ECOWAS Agricultural Policy (ECOWAP)] be strengthened?”

Critical to the development of the CAADP compact are concerns, which include climate change and its variability; increasing global food and energy prices; large-scale land and water acquisition; and democratisation and decentralisation processes in Africa. Now, the reason why Ministers of Finance are being targeted for discussions on the compact is because they play key roles in “facilitating faster and better implementation of National Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans.”

Small wonder, one might speculate, that outgoing Chairperson of the AU, Jean Ping, would state in the “report of the chairperson on the activities of the commission covering...July to December 2011” that “CAADP is a source of pride for the Union, given that an increasing number of Member states have taken steps to implement the Programme pursuant to the commitments made at the Maputo Summit in 2003.”

If you're a journalist reading this, that diplomatic-speak is code for you to begin to hold your Minister of Agriculture accountable for oversight of the continental compact gaining increasing popularity on the continent for delivering food security; as well as your rather-powerful Finance Minister on whether they have factored the agreed-10% towards the CAADP compact.

Update of the continental free trade architecture

It will be recalled that in earlier pieces in December, I spent the better part of the month trying to shed light on the workings of the continental free trade architecture (CFTA). The CFTA, the brainchild of the AU, is a comprehensive Action Plan for boosting intra-African trade in the short, medium and long-term and, more significantly, on the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) by 2017, in accordance with the road map presented at the 18th AU Summit held in January 2012.

There's no gainsaying the ambitious nature of the architecture is a source of concern for both observers and the policymakers of the AU who proposed them in the first place. This concern has found expression in an Executive Council report at the AU's January summit, which focused on the “Permanent Representatives Committee sub-committee on Economic and Trade matters”.

Between July and December 2011, the PRC Sub-committee held two meetings—one on 11 November and the other on 9 December, 2011.

The objective of the November meeting was to brainstorm on preparations for the January summit on the theme “Boosting Intra-African Trade”. Following a presentation by the AU Commission of the main documents—namely: the Issues paper on “Boosting Intra-Africa Trade”; the “Action Plan for Boosting Intra-Africa Trade and the Draft Framework, roadmap and architecture for Fast-tracking the continental free trade area (CFTA)—the Sub-committee raised critical issues.

First, there was a need to ensure that the PRC be involved in all processes and consultations leading to the summit; second, it should be the AU Commission that plays the role of Overseer for the continental integration process. The report states that the SADC-COMESA-EAC tripartite FTA is not an initiative of the AU, so going forward, “the AU should conduct a review of the progress made in the implementation of the Abuja Treaty.” Third, there is the need “to commission studies to establish reasons why there is little trade among particular regions.” Fourth, instead of the proposed African Trade and Integration Council (considered “an unnecessary bureaucracy”), there is the need to “pool together synergies in Economic Affairs and Trade.” Finally, there is a query as to whether the Abuja Treaty of 1991, and which has been in operation since 1994, can be revised?

Proposals to strengthen the documents included “a need to address standards and quality assurance infrastructure in African countries in the Action Plan”; a need to show in the document expected percentage increase in the volume of intra-African trade and the time by which the increase could be achieved; the necessity to replace the African Trade and Integration Council (ATIC) with a High-Level African Trade Committee (HATC), with a detailed terms of reference (TOR) for the HATC.

Other proposals include: the need to develop or strengthen the capacity of African countries to “collect accurate statistics on intra-African trade”; the need to “cost” the action plan with realistic monetary values indicating the costs of implementing the Action Plan. Finally, and more importantly, there is a recommendation for Trade Experts in the capitals of the Member States to add value to the documents with their expertise.

The objective of the 9 December meeting was to take stock of the outcome of the Accra Trade Ministers meeting and chart the way forward.

Some of the recommendations include: upgrading national and regional infrastructure in order to facilitate intra-African trade; improving information on business opportunities on the continent; and the necessity for the Commission of the AU to take leadership on developing modalities for the implementation of the CFTA.

Simply put, the Commission of the AU has a lot of work to do. It's a recondite fact that it is under-staffed, but it has clearly done a lot of good work for the continent. I continue to make the point that the AU's struggle to communicate what it does continues to remain a bane of its work. Those quick to deride the AU as a “toothless” organisation may only be right insofar as they have read reports on the AU's own website on its progress in furtherance of African Unity. To continue to castigate without investigating the vertiginous and herculean task ahead of the AU in ensuring continental unity by 2034 is frankly no longer acceptable.

Whatever people may think of outgoing chairperson Jean Ping, he is right in stating that the African Union “has developed and adopted, more than any other regional integration organisation, an impressive number of instruments and strategic plans in all sectors of human endeavour and continental cooperation”, which he describes as “a tremendous achievement that could serve as a bedrock of...shared values.”

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on [email protected] / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr..