Darlington Musarurwa in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Zimbabwe fully supports reforming the African Union into a lean, well-managed, efficient and performance-based body capable of delivering peace, stability and inclusive economic development on the continent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Addressing a historic 11th Extraordinary Session of the AU Assembly here yesterday, whose sole focus is to make decisions and declarations on mechanics of the reform process, President Mnangagwa said streamlining portfolios of the AU Commission — the bloc’s secretariat — through focused units would help “remove overlaps and duplication in portfolios”.
The Assembly — made up of Heads of State and Government from 55 African countries — is the AU’s supreme organ.
“Today, we have an opportunity to address the structural deficiencies of the Commission. We add our voice in calling for a lean management structure and portfolios aligned to the key priorities of the Union and clustering the portfolios along thematic lines to improve policy coherence and coordination and remove overlaps and duplication in portfolios,” said President Mnangagwa.
Efforts to reduce the number of portfolios from eight to six, he said, would improve efficiencies and support Africa’s developmental aspirations.
The envisioned new structure will have a Chairperson, a deputy and six commissioners presiding over the portfolios of Sustainable Environment, Agriculture, Rural Development and Blue Economy; Economic Development, Trade and Industry; Education, Science, Technology and Innovation; Infrastructure and Energy; Political Affairs, Peace and Security; and Health, Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs.
The creation of portfolios focusing specifically on environment, rural development and agriculture, he added, would drive “sustainable development that leaves no-one behind”.
“The development trajectory we have undertaken should be in harmony with the environment; it must pay attention to agriculture — a key sector in many of our economies. The focus on rural development as a broad mandate is most appropriate and resonates with inclusive and sustainable development that leaves no-one behind,” said Zimbabwe’s Head of State and Government.
The current structure is viewed as complex, with eight commission directorates, 31 departments and offices, 11 AU organs, 31 specialised technical agencies and 20 high-level committees.
Experts say the structure has slowed down work, leading to inertia through poor accountability, inadequate supervision and co-ordination, and weak staff recruitment and performance management.
The restructuring process involves realigning the structure and portfolios of senior leadership of the AU Commission; selection of senior leadership of the Commission; termination of appointments of the senior leadership of the Commission; and enhancing the performance management at all the level of the senior leadership of the AU Commission, including administrative and financial reforms.
The recruitment of senior AU leaders — particularly commissioners and non-elected staff — will now be skills and competency-based, with particular emphasis on attracting and retaining Africa’s top talent and moulding an accountable and effective leadership.
Performance management systems will be put in place, with commissioners, elected and non-elected staff held accountable on an annual basis.
President Mnangagwa said this would all eliminate bureaucratic sloth.
“Delays in the production of documents must be a thing of the past,” he said, while cautioning that the reform process should be within the AU’s existing budget.
African leaders also want to wean the continental body from dependence on donor financing for operations, programmes and peace building.
Although the contribution of member states to the AU budget has improved from three percent in 2012 to 14 percent last year, there is scope to increase this in line with the 2015 AU Assembly decision to finance 100 percent of the operating budget, 75 percent of the programme budget and 25 percent of the peace and support operations budget.
A 0,2 percent import levy on eligible non-African imports (those from outside the continent) has been proposed as a financing mechanism.
Members want the Assembly to pronounce itself on whether states are able to finance the AU through the proposed levy or through assessed contributions.
Yesterday, AU Chair President Paul Kagame of Rwanda launched the Peace Fund, through which African countries raised more than $60 million to support the secretariat’s peace and security operations.
The available resources, he said, were sufficient to cover the secretariat’s preventative and diplomatic peace and security activities.
There are plans to increase the fund to $100 million by 2021.
African leaders also intend to come up with a definitive mandate, structure and funding mechanism for the AU Development Agency — formerly the New Economic Partnership for African Development.
Efforts are also being channelled towards establishing an effective division of labour between the AU, regional economic communities, member states and continental organisations.
Effecting the broad changes involves amending the rules and procedures of the AU Assembly and the Constitutive Act, a process expected to be completed before the 32 Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in February 2019.
President Kagame, who is Leader of the Institutional Reforms, said transforming the AU into an organisation fit for purpose was an urgent task.
“The purpose of this Extraordinary Summit is to advance the institutional reform of our Union. Events on our continent and across the world continue to confirm the urgency and necessity of this project.
“The goal is simple: To make our continent stronger and give our people the future they deserve,” said President Kagame, adding that the reforms were “past the halfway point” though there was still “important work to do”.
The Extraordinary Session of the AU Assembly ends today.