The Relationship of African Union with NEPAD and Sub-Regional Organizations

Hiruy Wubie and Zelalem Tsegaw Feb 29 2012

The Relationship of African Union and NEPAD

The establishment of the African Union is not an end in itself. It is rather a means to a desired end; the end being promotion of development and good governance in the African continent. Therefore, the African Union has to be substantiated with other programs that can help in achieving the desired end. The next part of the material, briefly discusses the origin and mandates of NEPAD and its relation to the African Union.

Origin and Mandate of NEPAD

The origin of NEPAD could be traced back to the OAU Extraordinary summit held in Sirte, Libya in September 1999 where the then President Mbeki of South Africa and President Boutheflica of Algeria were mandated to engage Africa’s creditors on the total cancellation of Africa’s external debt. These being its inception, different African leaders kept on looking for a scheme whereby Africa’s marginalization from the world economy could be changed for the betterment of Africa.

On 11 July 2001, the Summit of Heads of States and Governments held in Lusaka, Zambia, formally approved the New African Initiative which was a merger of the Millennium Partnership for Africa’s Recovery Program and the Omega Plan. Then, the policy framework of the initiative was finalized by the Heads of States of the Implementation Committee in Abuja, Nigeria, on 23 October 2001. The Implementation Committee was composed of fifteen states, including Ethiopia and chaired by the then President Obsasanjo of Nigeria, vice-challed by President Wade of Senegal and Boutheflica of Algeria. It was the implementation committee that charged the name of the program from the New African Initiative to New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Coming back to its mandate, NEPAD is an integrated development plan that addresses key social, economic, and political priorities in a balanced and coherent way. One writer described it as a “holistic, comprehensive integrated strategy framework for the socio economic development of Africa.”

Eradication of poverty in Africa and placing African countries on a path of sustainable growth of development in their individual and collective capacities named as the primary objective of the NEPAD. Is main objective enabling Africa to be a competent actor in world economies by reducing Africa’s marginalization as a result of the new world order i.e., globalization.

Another notable characteristic of NEPAD is that it is firmly believed that aid based relations with the developed world can not be a sustainable solution to Africa’s problems. Rather, Africans have to be the real owners of the process involved therein whereas there is a genuine concern to retain its partnership with the rest of the world.

While highlighting on the essence of NEPAD, a formal document of the African Union  Terms of Reference for the study on the integration of NEPAD into the structures and processes of the African Union, state.

The NEPAD Program was established by African leaders as a socio economic program to extricate the continent out of poverty, under-development and regionalization within the world economy. Conscribes of past experiences of failed attempts at providing a new deal for the continent, African leaders developed a leadership structure that would keep them in the driving seat of the economic development of the continent, reshaping the relationship with the development partners and driving programs of economic development and poverty eradication.

As it can be inferred from the above quotation, NEPAD is basically aimed at securing socio economic development to Africa.

The following are the prominent expected outcomes of the NEPAD program:

  • Economic growth and development and increased employment;
  • Reduction in poverty and inequality;
  • Diversification of productive activities;
  • Enhanced international competitiveness and increased exports, and
  • Increased African Integration.

NEPAD as Part of the African Union System

Having seen the general features of NEPAD, one may question whether the NEPAD program stands by itself or it is a part of the African Union system. NEPAD is are part of the African Union programs. That is why the African Union established a Coordination Unit on NEPAD. The Coordination Unit was mandated to assist in the gradual integration of NEPAD into the structures and processes of the African Union, as soon as possible.

Reaffirming NEPAD as part of the African Union system, the Executive Council of the African Union state that

through NEPAD, the African Union intends to give prominence and attention to various socio-economic problems that have marginalized Africa in the global polity through the promotion of regional and continental integration as well as international partnership.

Hence, NEPAD is unquestionably an African Union program and is directly accountable to the Union. That is why the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee submit an annual report to the African Union Summit.

As an African Union program, NEPAD has its own mandates, which in one way or another, substantiate the objectives and principles of the African Union. To harmonize NEPAD with the African Union program and to avoid duplication of tasks, the NEPAD coordinating Unit of the African Union has the following principal objectives:

  1. i. To facilitate the full integration of NEPAD into the African Union Commission, and the achievement of the overall objectives of NEPAD within the framework of the Commission’s program;.
  2. ii. To support the NEPAD secretariat in the provision of technical service for the work of Heads of State Implementation Committee and NEPAD steering committee with the aim of becoming the Core Coordinating Secretariat of the NEPAD program in the near future; and
  3. iii. To serve as a laison between the commission, and the other agencies such as ADB( African Development Bank),ECA    (Economic commission  for Africa) RECs (Regional Economic Communities) and partnership in ensuring the attainment of the overall objectives of NEPAD, in particular,  the operationalization of the priority areas such as resource mobilization and infrastructural and other projects.

The relation between African Union and NEPAD has to be taken seriously as it demands commitment from African States. A Policy Seminar Report was organized by the Center for Conflict Resolution held in Cape Town, under the title:  “Building an African Union for the 21st Century Relations with Regional Economic Comminutes, NEPAD and Civil society”. This report mentioned three potential challenges that have to be tackled first before a successful integration between African Union and NEPAD.

The first critical challenge that both institutions must address towards a successful integration is that the commitment to democratic governance enshrined in the NEPAD document must be reinforced. Second, African leaders must promote and institutionalize deeper coordination and collaboration among themselves, Africa’s sub regional organizations and civil society actors. The third area of interest which is recommended as demanding due concern is Africa’s duty to address the financial and infrastructural weaknesses of its social, political and security institutions.

The Relation between African Union and Sub-Regional Organizations in Africa

It is believed that close collaboration between Africa’s regional communities on the one hand, and the African Union on the other, hived will accelerate the socio economic development of the continent. Policy makers generally take of the RECs as the building blocks of the African Union as enshrined in the Abuja Treaty of 1991-co-ordinations and harmonization of policies between them are of the major concern.

Article 28 of the 1991 Abuja Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community made the issue of strengthening Regional Economic Communities a major Concern:

Article 28 Strengthening Regional Economic Communities

  1. 1. During the first stage, Member states undertake to strengthen the existing regional economic communities and to establish new communities where they do not exist in order to ensure the gradual establishment of the community; and .
  2. 2. Member states shall take all necessary measure aimed at promoting increasingly closer cooperation among the communities, particularly through co-ordination and harmonization of their activities in all fields or sectors in order to ensure the realization of the realization of the objectives of the community.

As it is mentioned in the first chapter of this material, the adoption of the 1991 Abuja treaty was one of the major antecedents to the African Union. The African Union was meant to be a forum that can accelerate sub regional economic integrations which would in due course be amalgamated to create the African Economic Community. In pursuance of this expectation, the African Union has so far recognized seven Regional Economic Communities. Besides recognizing them, the African Union dares to collaborate with them so as to create integrated Africa in the forthcoming future. These Regional Economic Communities are highlighted in the following paragraphs.

Inter -governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was created in 1996. It has seven member countries in East Africa. These are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. The IGAD was basically founded to address the recurring and sever droughts and other natural disasters that caused widespread famine, ecological degradation and economic hardship in the Eastern African Region. Its members felt that a collective and integrated measure can successfully help in reducing such problems as compared to non integrated national efforts.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) was established by Treaty in 1991. It comprises19 member states: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya (since June 2005) Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The COMESA main objectives include taking advantage of a larger market size, to share the region’s common heritage and allow greater social and economic co-operation with the ultimate objective of creating on economic community.

The East African Community (EAC) is another sub-regional intergovernmental organization of the Republics of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. Its main objective is to enhance the region’s competitiveness through ever deeper integration inclusive of a customs union, a common market, a monetary union and ultimately a political federation of East African states.

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) was established in 1983. It has ten member states. These are Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. Among the vital steps taken by ECCAS, its adoption of a protocol relating to the establishment of a network of parliamentarians of Central Africa and the early warring system for Central Africa are the notable ones.

The Economic Commission of Western African States (ECOWAS) was established in 1975. It is a sub-regional grouping of fifteen countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote-Divore, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea, Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The EOWAS has four objectives: the removal of customs for intra-ECOWAS trade and taxes having equivalent effect, the establishment of common external tariff, the harmonization of economic and financial policies, and the creation of single monetary zone.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was established in 1992. It has fourteen member states: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. SADC has monetary, economic, political, security and cultural objectives which aim at cooperation and integration among its member states.

The Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) was established in 1989. It has five member states: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. It dares to guarantee cooperation with other regional institutions and between its member states.

As is evident from the highlights provided in the preceding paragraphs, many of the sub-regional organizations have an objective of creating a harmonized and integrated region in many fields. This is of much help to pursue African Union’s objective of accelerating the political and socio-economic integration of the continent. As can be seen from the Rules of Procedure of the African Union Assembly (cf. Chapter Two), the RECs are made part of the African Union’s activities. In fact, it is decided that a delegate is appointed to interface with the RECs.  This strengthens the legal relationship between the African Union and the mentioned sub-regional organizations. The RECs are now becoming organs that can implement decisions adopted by the African Union Assembly. For example, African Union may impose sanctions on a member state wherein unconstitutional change of government has occurred. Such economic sanctions can effectively be implemented through the REC to which the state in issue is a member.

Before winding up this discussion, let’s  have a look at the policy seminar report that was held in Cape Town, in August 2005, to evaluate the relation between the African Union and the RECs. Different problems were highlighted in that document. The first problem mentioned was the proliferation of the sub regional organizations and multiple memberships of many African states in different RECs that complicated efforts to ensure harmonization and coordination. The second problem mentioned was member states’ reluctance to pool their sovereignty in favor of regional integration. Due to these and other infrastructural reasons, the RECs were blamed to be unable to implement key decisions emanating from the African Union in a timely manner.

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