“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”
By E.K.Bensah Jr
The manifold tags of “Africa rising” and the whimsical “Pax Aufricana” (coined by yours truly) are all tags to connote something bigger happening on the continent of Africa. They are not chimerical aspirations of what some of us would like to see. Despite the claims that intra-african trade, for example, is around 11%, the fact remains that Africa, through the Union, is doing something about it by not just proposing a Continental (African) Free Trade Area(CFTA), but coming out with an action plan, which has measurable goals, targets and agreed timelines.
If the African Union can be so “cerebral” (read:meticulous) about something critical to the Union's survival and prosperity, it beggars belief that the AU would seem to be operating on the blind side of a roadmap for its future. Let's face it: much of the criticism leveled and aspersions cast on the AU have been pretty tough: it's about the AU drinking tea at meetings and “doing nothing”. So we know the AU appears to be pretty impotent—some might say pusillanimous against the face of donors directing the strings of where the AU, in their eyes, ought to be – but we also know the AU has been very forthright and headstrong on its peace and security architecture. We know it was criticized on Cote d'Ivoire, and on Libya, but as then-AU Chairman Dr.Ping rightly said to BBC's Stephen Sackur in a “Hardtalk” interview last year, the West barely gave the AU a chance to operationalise its roadmap.
It's frankly risible to see the UN Security Council doing all it can to get China and Russia (who vetoed any kind of intervention in the crisis in Syria) to rescind and pursue diplomatic ventures alongside the Arab League, when the AU was never given a chance to pursue diplomacy as comprehensively as the Arab League has been given carte blanche to. But that's another story!
Although in last week's piece, I accentuated an understanding of the five pillars around the AU's roadmap, the real story in this article is to elaborate on the AU's Strategic Plan of 2009-2012. Given that this is the last year of its “realization”, I believe it's not just fitting to expatiate on the plan, but imperative -- just as regional integration is to the continent of Africa.
Unlike the AU's predecessor—the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)—that was more concerned with supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, the AU has become the premier organization 'spearheading Africa's development and integration.' That said, this is not the AU as an abstract construct, but the very specific African Union Commission.
The role of the African Union Commission (AUC)
The European Commission probably cannot yet be compared to the African Union Commission, especially now that the latter employs slightly over 20,000 Eurocrats (European international civil servants). The AUC employs a fraction of that, yet is charged with the delivery of the AU's strategic plan. This might prompt speculation as to why it would be entrusted with such responsibility when it is understaffed. Before we get there, we need to understand a bit about the AUC.
The mission of the AUC is to become: “an efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union member states, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens.” Despite the establishment of the RECs, let's be clear that the AU has been around longer than the RECs so there is necessarily not only respect but experience that is conferred on it by virtue of it being the de jure successor of the OAU. As such, it remains the only unique Pan-African body that has the political mandate to develop the continental policy space and speak for Africa. Despite its good intentions, African Integration Actors (another whimsical coinage of yours truly), such as the UNECA and African Development Bank do not possess that 'sui generis' mandate.
This leads one to examine a bit more closely the so-called “strategic comparative advantages” that 'constitute the core of its programming action'. These comparative advantages are consistent with the five emergent themes that exist for the AUC. These are: political integration; scientific, economic, social and physical integration and development; Governance; institutional capacity-building for continental integration and development; peace and security.
On POLITICAL INTEGRATION, the major strategic comparative advantage is the AUC having a mandate from the AU to undertake programmes on political integration, as well as the continental reach and mandate of fifty-four States to coordinate integration of Member states and RECs.
On SCIENTIC, ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND PHYSICAL INTEGRATION…, the AUC is in a unique position to develop and design continent-wide integration programmes and projects, such as those on infrastructure, educational systems, ICT and research, etc.
With respect to GOVERNANCE, the Commission 'provides the most practical arena to set up continental standards and approach on governance, and has the mandate to establish and implement governance-related initiatives such as APRM.' In addition, it has political oversight and leadership 'to determine and achieve an African indigenous, locally-driven and owned process of governance standards.'
As for INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY-BUILDING FOR CONTINENTAL INTEGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT, the AUC is a strategic actor in the promotion and building of institutions and capacities for the continental integration and development agenda. It seeks to harmonise member states' decisions and translates them into action plans to be implemented through/by member states and RECs.
Finally, on PEACE AND SECURITY, the AUC has the mandate to lead (and direct) peace and security programmes, as well as the capability to implement global and continent-wide decisions on conflict resolution, prevention and management. As I indicated in the last piece, its 15-member Peace and Security Council (a hybrid of the UN's Security Council and the AU's own structures) is perhaps the greatest manifestation of the continent's efforts to ensure Africa realises the prosperous and united Africa it seeks to do under the African Economic Community by 2034!
If you had any doubt about the AU's Africa Peace and Security Architecture(APSA), I seriously entreat you to check out the AU's Peace and Security Department website with updates from the AU's Situation Room: http://www.peaceau.org/en/.
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://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: +233-268.687.653.