February 8, 2019

The State of the Continental Bloc as Kagame hands over Seat to Egypt’s El-Sisi 

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President Paul Kagame is expected to hand over the rotational chair of the African Union (AU) to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah-el-Sisi at the two-day Summit scheduled for February 10-11, 2019 in Addis Ababa.

As he hands over, it is important to ask the kind of AU Kagame delivers to Egypt’s El-Sisi compared to what he found in 2016 when he took over as the reform chair and in January 2018 when he assumed the chairmanship.

At the time President Kagame took over as the reform chair at AU, the African Union had generally lost its earlier captivating promise it generated after its revival in 2000s when talk of “New Partnership For Africa’s Development” alongside ““African Peer Review Mechanism” and “Africa’s solution to Africa’s problems” – was championed by leaders like former South African President Thabo Mbeki, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.

So Kagame walked in as the reform chair when the AU neither had means of its own to fund its operations nor a united voice to advance its interests.

However, while the continent remains home to multiple unresolved violent conflicts in places like in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali, marauding rebel groups in DRC, etc, there is near-consensus that the reform agenda Kagame speared headed has produced some good results and that, under his chairmanship, AU leaders have signed a number of agreements that, on balance, if the reforms and the protocols signed thus far are implemented, the continent will gain its rightful place in the community of continents.

So, what are the reforms that Kagame has brought about that President El-Sisi of Egypt is expected to inherit and support as Kagame retains the reform chair?

In brief, the reforms include working to ensure that AU finances its projects and therefore funds its priorities.

To achieve this, a levy of 0.2% on eligible imports was agreed and is being implemented. If fully implemented, it will raise $1.2bn; far more than about $700m spent for the body’s operations last year.  

In addition, reforms also include making the AU Commission more efficient, lean and effective – besides reducing wastage and ensuring gender equality in recruitment and concentrating on a few areas where it can have maximum impact.

By mind last year, wastage had been reduced by at least 12%.

Beside the reform that aim to make the AU self-financing and effective in pursuing the continent’s interests, there are protocols that have been signed under the leadership of President Kagame that are of note; such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched in March 2018 and signed by 44 nations out of 54 on the continent.

And as AU’s Commission President Moussa Faki Twitted recently, 18 countries have so far ratified AfCFTA and only four remain for it to become an enforceable agreement as 22 member states are required for that to take place.

What Kagame has achieved is however beyond putting together a framework but has also achieved substantive results not only in raising funds, but also ensuring that the continent speaks with a single voice.

It’s was due to the strategy of communicating with fellow leaders, mobilizing his team to visit nations and point out the importance of the reform and speaking with one voice as a continent that, for example Rwanda’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs was elected to La Francophone in a unanimous vote in which even France supported her.

If one adds the signing of an African passport in Kigali in May 2018 and the Single African Air Travel Market (SAATM) launched in January 2018, you can say that, under his leadership, a lot has been achieved and if the reforms and these protocols are implemented, there is no doubt the “Africa we want” is within reach.

Yet, of course, Africa’s problem has never been in ideas or penning good protocols and agreements; it has been in implementation and staying the course until a desired end is achieved.

Clarified thus, we can however say that President Kagame is handing the chairmanship of the AU to El-Sisi when the organization and the continent is looking much better than he found it.

It will now be the responsibility of El-Isis to build on this and move the continent forward.

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