AU lacks quality leaders like Mbeki and Obasanjo to drive it
The African Union lacks new Mbekis, Obasanjos and Bouteflikas to drive it, analyst Sibusiso Nkomo from the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation has said.
“The AU is far from its vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa that is a dynamic force in the global arena,” he said at an event on the AU’s agenda for the next 15 years, organised by the institute.
The event followed last month’s AU summit in Addis Ababa, where Chad foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat was elected AU Commission chairperson.
“What happened to its founding fathers’ cause of pushing for an African Renaissance? Where is the new team of (former presidents Thabo) Mbeki (of South Africa), (Nigeria’s Olusegun) Obasanjo and (Algeria’s Abdelaziz) Bouteflika?
“The AU lacks a strong core team of drivers who know what they are doing, who believe in democracy and open borders for trade and travel, and get the engine moving,” Nkomo said.
“The solution lies in smaller blocs who have more in common, and who can achieve their goals more easily. I believe the AU is actually a dud and should close shop, or we can keep it open and pretend that we’re not at cross purposes in that esteemed continental talk shop.”
Democracy and strong institutions
Nkomo said regions had done good work, such as the free trade and movement achieved in the Economic Community of West African States, a common driver’s licence in the Southern African Development Community and a common visa in the East African Community, but these things would not be as successful on a continental level. “There are too many diversions and realpolitik that come in the way,” he said.
Nkomo said in the AU there are many “clubs”, as states united around common interests such as the election of chairpersons.
He said some of the biggest economies on the continent, like Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa could club together and become an economic bloc on the continent, but these countries didn’t always work together and might feel they needed to include a francophone country.
Nkomo made a tongue in the cheek suggestion that the AU should exist as a tourism and cultural organisation “then maybe the authoritarians who are in the majority of the AU will have something to do, since they don’t want to promote democracy and strong institutions that work for ordinary Africans. Maybe we can leave that work to the nine democratic and free (African) countries (as classified by Freedom House)”, he said.
“Why are all these countries that are in a club moving so slowly (on trade and development)? A heard of elephants during a drought move much faster than the AU,” he said.
ANC MP and head of parliament’s portfolio committee on international relations, Siphosezwe Masango, said although the AU had achieved many successes, it still faced challenges such as corruption, poor infrastructure, low internal trade, illicit financial outflows and conflicts.