African leaders make bold moves on self reliance



African leaders on Monday, May 27, signaled the next 50 years of the continent will start with bold moves on self reliance in the affairs of the continent’s and its lead organization’s – the African Union’s – businesses.

At the end of the week-long summit that was concluded with the assembly of African heads of state held on Sunday and Monday, the leaders passed what they called two landmark decisions.

Speaking at the closing of the summit on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister and current Chairman of the AU, Hailemariam Desalegn, said the two landmark documents the leaders made decision on are on Africa’s own alternative sources of funding and rapid-deployment military capability.

The first one aims at self reliance in financing the activities of the AU Commission, the executive arm of the Union, including peace and security, infrastructure development and health, among other projects.

Accordingly, the leaders instructed their finance ministers to meet soon and work out the details on alternative financing, while also ordering their defence chiefs to meet in four months to sketch the rapid deployment force structure and modalities.

The Solemn Declaration of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary, which Lamamra described as the highest level of declarations, also highlighted the continent’s vision 2063, which still needs further elaboration. It came at the end of a week-long meeting of Africans at home and in the diaspora that marked the beginning of the year-long continent wide, and beyond, celebrations of the Pan-African organization’s Golden Jubilee.

“A landmark decision that has been taken by this Summit is that we should take care of our business,” Hailemariam said, after the summit concluded.

African leaders have discussed and endorsed the 2014-2017 strategic plan and a record 2014 Commission’s budget of over USD 300 million.

But none of the decisions have drawn as much attention from the continent and beyond as the decision taken on the rapid deployment military force.

“The Summit decided to establish an African rapid reaction force to have a tool likely to reflect the will of Africa to find African solutions to African problems beyond peaceful mechanisms,” Lamamra said.

African leaders envision complete self reliance in this regard will enable the continent to address crises swiftly.

“For this force, we do not rely on external partners. The entire component will be provided by Africans. There will be leading countries in the establishment of this force. They will provide logistics, ensure troop mobility and the means of communication.”

Uganda, South Africa and Ethiopia have already pledged to contribute troops and equipment for this force. Funding for force will also come from contributing countries so Africa won’t wait for, and depend on, partners to intervene in conflicts.

According to Lamamra, currently about 93 percent of the budget for AU programs come from external partners. Its flagship peace missions in Sudan, Somalia and other conflict hotspots on the continent are almost completely financed by its partners such as the UN, the EU and the US government. The AMISOM in Somalia, for example, completely depends on external partners for its USD 500 million-a-year budget.

“The crisis in Mali and the Central African Republic, as well as the terrorist attack against Niger showed the urgent need for the continent to have such a force that can be deployed rapidly in states requesting it,” Lamamra added. “All countries of the continent will contribute to this force. They just need to be given time to complete their consultations.”

The rapid deployment force is going to be under the Peace and Security Architecture, an ultimate doctrinal document of Lamamara’s department, hence of the AU, that governs every peace building effort in Africa.

The decision to quickly establish the rapid deployment force that came at the 21st summit of the AU in Addis Ababa followed calls from several leaders for an African defence capacity to be created right away, given the persistence of a number of conflicts and rebellions on the continent.

There have been protracted talks around the AU of an African Standby Force for over 10 years now, so much so that delays led to the bombardment of the AU for its snail pace on building its own independent peacekeeping capacity.

In addition to the rapid deployment force, talks on alternative financing were the highlight of this year’s summit.

“An interesting part of the discussion was that, more and more, we should not rely on contributions of partners, but we would rather find from within Africa additional and alternative sources of funding all the activities of the organization,” Lamamra said.

After its major source of funding, contributions from member states, the AUC relies heavily on partners’ contributions. Both ways seem to have proved unreliable, as a sub-committee in charge of contributions reported just last week an almost 75 percent deficit in the 2013 budget, because most members failed to pay their contributions and partners didn’t live up to their commitments.

Accordingly, based on a report on alternative funding presented to the summit by a high level panel headed by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, the leaders decided that their finance ministers should meet to work out the details. The report proposes various options of raising funds internally, such as levying a certain percentage on air transport, telephone (including SMS) and other services.