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African Union Heads of State and Government join forces to combat corruption in the continent

African Union Heads of State and Government join forces to combat corruption in the continent
Photo credit: UN | Antonio Fiorente

29 Jan 2018

14 minute read

Corruption is undoubtedly the most pressing governance and development challenge that most African countries are confronted with today.

Corruption has debilitating and corrosive effects on progress, stability and development of the continent. It impedes economic growth by discouraging foreign investments, creates distortion in resource allocation and competitive markets, increases the cost of doing business, and reduces the net-value of public spending.

It also reduces the quality of services and public infrastructure and the volume of tax revenues, and encourages the misappropriation and misallocation of scarce resources. In the political realm, it undermines the rule of law, respect for human rights, accountability and transparency and weakens government institutions. This in turn erodes public legitimacy in government and compromises good governance.

The social costs of corruption are also deleterious as it deepens income inequality, poverty and adversely affects good moral values in the society. In general, corruption is a challenge to sustainable economic development, peace and good governance.

It is against this backdrop that the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU), meeting at their 30th Ordinary Session on 28th January 2018 at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have resolved to join efforts to speed up the fight against corruption.

To that effect, they adopted the theme: “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation” as the clarion call for the year 2018. During the opening ceremony of the 30th AU Summit today at the AU Conference Center (Mandela Hall), the different African leaders who took the floor acknowledged the fact that African countries, in particular, have shown a growing commitment in tackling the problem of corruption in the past decade.

However they pointed out that more is yet to be done and can be done if strong measures are put in place to curb this societal flaw at all levels. The African leaders in their speeches noted that, many African countries have established national anti-corruption institutions in an effort to tackle the problem. In spite of all these efforts and measures, the spread of corruption has been unrelenting and has remained a major obstacle to the attainment of the continent’s development goals.

The 30th summit of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, which kicked off in Addis Ababa on 28 January 2018 welcomed and congratulated the newly elected Presidents of Angola, Zimbabwe; Benin; Somalia and Liberia.

The opening ceremony of the summit also saw the election of Rwandan President Paul Kagame as the Union’s Chairperson for the year 2018 as well as the launch of the DotAfrica domain name; the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market and the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Continental award for Scientific Excellence 2017, to the laureates, among others. The event took place in the presence of the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC, H.E. Thomas Kwesi Quartey, AU Organs and Staff as well as the AU Commissioners, the RECs, the Diplomatic corps, and invited guests.

In his opening remarks, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat said the AU will continue in its efforts to foster a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa and promote the dignity of African people.

“Tolerance and reconciliation are required if the African continent is to move forward,” he emphasized, saying that these values are major prerequisites for ’Silencing the Guns by 2020’. “We can no longer stand by at the indescribable cruelty of the violence that belligerents continue to inflict on a population that has suffered far too much for far too long. The time has come to impose sanctions on those impeding peace,” reiterated the AUC Chairperson.

He underscored the need to speed up the reform of the Union as a tool to enhance integration, which is indispensable for development as well as promote peace and justice in the continent. He also urged the Member States to reinforce the fight against Illicit Financial Flows as step to fighting corruption in the continent.

On connecting the African Union to its citizens, Chairperson Moussa Faki stressed that the African Union will establish youth quotas across its institutions, and identify appropriate ways and means to ensure the private sector’s participation. He announced an appointment of a special youth envoy in the near future.

H.E. Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations on his part commended the constructive cooperation between the AU and the UN. He announced that an MoU was signed recently between him and the AUC Chairperson to work closely in the issues of peace and security and the implementation of the Africa Agenda 2063. He also highlighted that the UN Agenda 2030 and the African Continental agenda are mutually complementary. The UN Secretary General reiterated the support of the UN to the AU on all the sustainable development goals.

Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) promised to join force with the AU in fighting terrorism in the continent. He also expressed the need to reinforce the cooperation ties between Palestine and Africa.

H.E. Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States thanked the AUC for extending an invitation to him to address the summit. He promised to work closely with the AUC in implementing the development agenda of the continent as well as promote the Afro-Arab cooperation.

Outgoing Chair of the Union, Mr. Alpha Condé, and President of the Republic of Guinea thanked the AU Commission for the support given to him during his mandate. He highlighted some of his achievements during the year 2017. He also informed the Summit that he was able to represent the AU in international fora which led to the appointment of an African at the helm of the WHO among other successful positioning of African candidates in high offices within the continent and abroad.

H.E. Mr. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda and incoming Chairperson of the African Union launched the African Union Theme of the Year 2018: “Winning The Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path To Africa’s Transformation” while H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Champion of the Theme of the Year 2018 launched the theme of the year.

The meeting of African Heads of State and Government will conclude on Monday 29th January 2018 with the adoption of decisions and declarations to guide the work of the African Union all through the year.


Guterres lauds strong AU-UN partnership, outlines areas for more cooperation

Hailing the partnership between Africa and the United Nations as “solid, and grounded on sound principles of human rights and good governance,” Secretary General, Antonio Guterres told leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union Summit, that with Africa in the lead, “we can and will do more” to bolster successful cooperation throughout the continent.

“I stand here on behalf of the United Nations system and reaffirm our strong commitment to the member states and the people of Africa,” Mr. Guterres told the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) on Sunday, adding: “I strongly believe Africa is one of the greatest forces for good in our world.”

The UN chief said that in just his first year in office, the Organization has entered a “new era” of partnership with the AU, recalling the holding of the first UN-AU Annual Conference at the summit level, as well as the signing of two landmark framework agreements, respectively on enhanced partnership in peace and security, and, just yesterday, on implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union's Agenda 2063.

Spotlighting these and other initiatives as key examples of the successful work the two organizations are carrying out across the continent, Mr. Guterres said this partnership could be further strengthened in five key areas: addressing corruption; cooperation in peace and security; inclusive and sustainable development; climate change; and international migration.

Combatting the “far-reaching and devastating” impact of corruption, tax evasion and illicit financial flows, a main theme of this year's AU Summit, “requires an unimpeachable commitment to transparency and accountability,” he said, commending the decision to highlight this scourge, and offering the strong support of the UN. He also welcomed the designation of 2018 as African Anti-Corruption Year.

Specifically on international migration, the UN chief expressed that the global phenomenon not only powers economic growth, reduces inequalities and connects diverse societies but also help ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline

“We must maximize the benefits of orderly migration, while stamping out abuses and prejudice,” he said, highlighting the benefits of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration for all countries.

“I urge you to bring your moral leadership and unique experience to this important collective priority for 2018,” added Mr. Guterres.

On the peace and security sector, the UN chief expressed his appreciation to African governments for contributing troops and police to UN peacekeeping operations to help save lives and keep the peace around the world.

He, however, noted that UN peacekeeping is not the solution to all crisis situations, and said that partnership with the African Union and sub-regional organizations can be the means to address the varied contexts which necessitate peacekeeping, including peace enforcement and counter-terrorist operations.

On inclusive and sustainable development, Secretary-General Guterres expressed that the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and African Union's Agenda 2063 are mutually reinforcing, and underscored the need to ensure sufficient means of implementation to ensure sustainable development.

But he acknowledged that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across the tow agendas, significant gaps persist, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. “We must place quality education within the reach of all,” he underscored.

In that context, he urged all UN Member States to uphold their commitments to official development assistance (ODA), outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development.

Mr. Guterres also said the international community has a role to play in combating tax evasion, money laundering and the elimination of illicit financial flows that deprive Africa of its essential resources.

The UN chief also stressed that women and young people must lead the development agenda, stressing that: “Women's full participation makes economies stronger and peace processes more successful.”

He said that around the world, there is skepticism about multilateralism. But he strongly believed that moving forward together, “the United Nations and the African Union can show that multilateralism is our best and only hope.”