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Funding snag hits African Union

African leaders in a group photo during the African Union Summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania on July 1, 2018. PHOTO | NMG 

By Moses Gum Degur

Funding remains nuisance for African Union after members disagreed on the plan to toll tax on imports to fund the Commission’s activities.

This came after the African leaders failed to reach consensus on the draft proposal presented by AU chair and the Rwanda head of state President Kagame to apply 0.2 per cent levy tax on eligible imports in order to fund the Union.

The African Union held its 31st ordinary Summit of heads of state and governments in Nouakchott, Mauritania from June 25 to July 2. This year.

The Summit which came under the theme “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation” discussed issues of peace and security in the continent especially the situation in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Burundi, Libya, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa.

A source who attended the deliberations both at the ministerial and Summit levels said there were some disagreement among members on President Paul Kagame’s proposal on eligible imports in the continent.

“There was some disagreement among members on President Kagame’s proposal on eligible imports in the continent. Most countries fail to agree on the application of 0.2 per cent levy on eligible imports in order to fund the Union,”

None of the countries in East Africa, save for Rwanda, effected this levy in the 2018-19 budget, signaling the lackluster reception the policy has received.

Last Month Kenya called for control of expenditures at the African Union (AU), even as it struggles to pay up its membership fees to the continental body.

Ahead of the AU meeting the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma told a gathering of external relations ministers that the AU needs to tighten its financial responsibility to regain credibility.

“The African Union must enhance integrity especially at this time when our citizens are calling on their governments to account for every cent of public finances,” she said.

The Nouakchott summit also approved the 2019 budget of $681.48 million, which is 12 per cent less than the 2018 one, with most of the programmes allocation largely expected to come from donors.

For the next fiscal year, the AUC operating budget is $416.32 million, $243.43 million being operational costs for the AU mission in Somalia (Amisom), leaving a balance of $265.15 million.

“I commend the efforts made in the planning of the 2019 budget of the African Union which resulted in a reduction of 12 per cent in the budget compared to 2018. The African Union has applied the ‘golden rules’ and adopted the most credible and transparent budget in our history,” President Kagame said at the Summit.

The Summit also assessed the progress made in the signing and ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.

It has been signed by 49 of the 55 members. Six states, including Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana have ratified it. The treaty now requires 16 more ratifications in order to come into force.

It would create a bloc with a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion, becoming the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

Within the region, Burundi has eventually joined, leaving only Tanzania and Uganda who are yet to ratify it.

The Summit also tackled the migration issue creating an African Observatory for Migration and Development to be based in Rabat, Morocco.

The Summit led by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission is also said to have strongly disapproved of the European Union’s recent proposal to create regional disembarkation platforms to be located outside of Europe for migrants rescued in international waters.

Earlier, the EU said it was looking at a possibility of setting up such centres in North Africa, where most migrant journeys to Europe begin.

“Such platforms should provide for rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection, and reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys,” a leaked document from the Council of European Union leaders said.

Last week, the United Nations agencies for migration and refugees said they planned to present the EU with a plan for “regional disembarkation platforms” around the Mediterranean where the bloc could hold migrants and decide whether to admit them, something the African leaders have disapproved of.

The Summit instead tasked the AU Commission to accelerate the establishment of a regional operational centre in Khartoum for sharing of information on human trafficking and smuggling of migrants.

A continental study centre for migration and research data will be set up in Mali. It will provide a platform for sharing data and information among Member States on migration on the continent to allow enhanced governance and m

An extraordinary summit, whose main focus will be AU reforms, is scheduled for mid-November, before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assumes the chairmanship early next year.

The summit is expected to address issues to do with separation of powers within the Commission and regional economic blocs as well as the scope of intervention of the AU, especially in the South Sudan conflict.

 

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