Who Really Controls the African Union?

African Union building Addis Abeba
African Union building was financed by China

AFRICANGLOBE – Who funds the African Union? Africans can not champion their own solutions when they can’t pay for them. Financing Africa’s unification by outside sources endangers genuine development and self-respect.

On Monday 15 October 2012, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma began her tenure as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). Her election at the African Union (AU) July 2012 Summit preceded a long drawn and somewhat not so fluent appointment. Her election ushered in the first female Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. The election’s controversy unfortunately, overshadowed other important issues that were discussed and decided upon by this Summit. Of great concern to us is the funding of the AU which is the key driver of Africa’s integration and developmental agenda.

The July 2012 Summit also approved the 2013 Budget of the African Union totalling USD277 million with contributions as follows:

  • AU Member States: $122.8 million (44 per cent)
  • Development Partners (Donors): $155.3 million (56 per cent)
  • Total Budget: $277.1 million

Of the amount that the African governments are contributing, only $5.3 million goes towards programmes of the AU while 96% goes to operational costs. This amount is actually 1.9% of the total budget. The total operational cost is covered by the Member States. [1] For the programme’s budget, the table below illustrates that the cost of programming at the African Union is borne by external donors. [2]

Programme costs for key AU institutions such as the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the Human Rights Commission (ACHPR), the African Court (AfCHPR), NEPAD, the Commission on International Law (AUCIL), the Anti-Corruption Board and the Committee on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC) are all being paid for by donors. In fact, there is no allocation at all from Member States towards costs for the ACRWC which has a mandate to promote and protect the rights of children in Africa. The newly constructed AU Offices and Conference Center facility were solely financed by the Chinese government at USD$200 million and the office building being constructed for the Peace and Security Council being financed by the Germany government at 26.5 million euro are also worth mentioning here.

He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune 

While it is commendable that the operational costs are wholly covered by African Union member states, it is quite disturbing that the integration and development agenda for this continent is being paid for by foreign resources. Who then, is really in charge at the African Union? Who decides what initiatives and developmental projects are to be embarked on? If our continental institutions and even our governments themselves obtain a majority of their funding from external donors, then, who really drives the African agenda? Who defends Africa’s interests in the global arena where these donors have great influence? During the AUC elections for the Chairperson, representatives of member states complained that there was some manipulation by some foreign governments – with such a picture, this would not be surprising. If someone is paying most of your bills why act surprised when they think its up to them to decide what goes on in your home?

The graph below illustrates how the African Union cash inflows have transpired for 2011 and 2012. It had to operate with little over half of the required (budgeted) amounts. Due to the global economic downtown, donors only came up with 42% of what was expected from them. Is it wise to have the continent so beholden to donors?

The state of financing of the Union also calls into question the commitment to building a strong and viable institution when the AU functions each year with only 50-60% of its required finances. This inhibits its capacity to fulfil on its mandate and assist member states to meet the aspirations of African peoples. If it hurts to spend money on Africa we will continue undeveloped, poor, weak and beholden to those who toss their crumbs to us and strip us of our natural resources.

African Solutions to African Problems?

The AU has to wait on external funding before it can respond with peacekeeping missions to countries in crisis. 2011 saw several such situations such as Côte d’Ivoire and Libya. In both situations, the African Union was unable to respond adequately or provide peacekeeping forces, and received heavy criticism for it, particularly from within the Continent. Even though there is change of leadership at the AUC, the new Chairperson may not respond any differently to crises situations if there are no resources to deploy the African standby force. 2012 has the situations in Mali, Somalia, Eastern DRC and Guinea Bissau to deal with, the growing insecurity in the Sahel region as a whole, as well as the persistent scourge of the rebel LRA forces which are causing displacement across 3 countries in central Africa. We can not champions our African solutions when we can’t pay for them.

A Tree is Known By Its Fruits

There is, currently, deep frustration among the citizenry of the continent who watches their leaders bi-annually fly huge delegations to AU Summits and bear costs for their government. government officials attend numerous AU meetings and conferences, and yet there does not seem to be any obvious results from the African Union. The AU not being able to fulfil its mandate hampers continental integration. It really does seem like the Regional Economic Communities like ECOWAS, SADC and EAC are more visible, relevant efficient and independent. One wonders why they would be willing to be subsumed into a seemingly weaker continental institution. One wonders how African Citizens are expected to be known and be inspired by an AU whose results they don’t see.