Building capacity to help Africa trade better

20th Extraordinary session of the African Union Executive Council held in Addis Ababa


20th Extraordinary session of the African Union Executive Council held in Addis Ababa

20th Extraordinary session of the African Union Executive Council held in Addis Ababa
Photo credit: Taarifa

The 20th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (AU) opened on 14th November 2018 at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with calls highlighting the need for reform of the AU in order for the continental organization to achieve peace, development, and the Africa we want.

Addressing the Ministers in his opening remarks, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, welcomed the Ministers to the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, and pointed out that the meeting is expected to lay the foundation for the success of the first Extraordinary Summit exclusively devoted to the issue of Institutional reforms of the Union.

“At the continental level, several initiatives are underway to speed up the economic integration efforts and the end of the multifaceted acts of violence that continue to ravage different regions of Africa. These developments demand that we enhance the efficiency of our Union,” said the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.

The institutional reforms touch on all aspects of the functioning of the Union and all its organs. The outcomes of this meeting will have a lasting impact, as will be endorsed during the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments to be held on 17th and 18th, setting the path of continental renewal, said the Chairperson.

H.E Dr. Richard Sezibera, Chairperson of the Executive Council in his opening remarks, stated that “Africa’s unity and Africa speaking in one voice has proven to be a positively disruptive force in the international scene.... [T]his should be the norm more than an exception.”

As the reforms take place there is need to recognize that self-financing of the Union in a sustainable manner will be a key determinant of our accomplishments, said Dr. Sezibera.

The opening ceremony of the Executive Council, took place in the presence of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of AU Member States, AU Commissioners, Heads of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), AUC senior officials and other invited guests. The Extraordinary Session will prepare for the 11th AU Extraordinary Summit which will be held on 17-18 November 2018.

For two days, the AU Ministers of Foreign Affairs and External Relations will consider and deliberate on the draft agenda, decisions and declarations that came out of the meeting of the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) from 5-6 November 2018, and the outcomes of the 6th Retreat of the Executive Council held on 12-13 September 2018 on AU Institutional Reform.

The meeting will consider proposals on the reform of the structure and portfolio of the senior leadership of the AU Commission, selection of the senior leadership of the Commission, administrative and financial reforms, and the mandate of the AU Development Agency (AUDA) in line with the pdf Assembly Decision on the Transformation of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) into the AUDA (972 KB) .

The Ministers will also consider division of labor between the AU, RECs, continental organizations and Member States, strengthening of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Financing of the Union, and AU Peace Fund.

Furthermore, the meeting will have a briefing on the Report of the Chairperson of the Executive Council to the Assembly on the Outcome of the 19th Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council on the ACP Post-2020, and will prepare draft decisions, draft agenda and draft work program of the 11th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly, scheduled to take place 17-18 November 2018. 45 African leaders are expected to attend the 11th Extraordinary Summit of Au Heads of State.

For more on the AU reform process, please visit our African Union Resources page.

Statement of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat

The present meeting of the Executive Council marks a new stage in the process of institutional reform of our Union. It is expected to lay the foundation for the success of the first Extraordinary Summit exclusively devoted to this issue.

The meeting is taking place in a context that deserves special attention.

At the level of the Continent, several initiatives are underway to speed up the economic integration efforts and the end of the multifaceted acts of violence that continue to ravage different regions of Africa, with their litany of suffering and death. At the international level, we are facing a worrying decline of multilateralism and the principles of solidarity that must underlie our common humanity, thus exposing the weakest to all kinds of pressures and blackmail.

These developments dictate that we enhance the efficiency of our Union. On the one hand, the ambitious projects that we have set require that we increase our performance, a capacity to effectively translate our proclamations into action. On the other hand, the ferocious international competition impose on us the need to close our ranks more than ever before and to give ourselves the collective means to make our voice heard and ensure the consideration of our interests on the world arena.

This is to stress the great importance of this meeting. Its Conclusions, as will be endorsed by the Extraordinary Summit on 17 and 18 November, will have a lasting impact on the functioning of our Union.

The ongoing institutional reform is, undoubtedly, one of the most ambitious initiatives for change ever taken by our Union. It touches upon all aspects of its functioning and concerns all its organs. Other attempts were made in the past. These, let's face it, did not live up to expectations, leaving a bitter taste of unfinished business.

It is, therefore, significant that the Heads of State and Government decided, in January 2017, in Addis Ababa, to be directly involved in this process. Obviously, the other organs of our Union have also an important role to play and I welcome their contributions.

But by taking the leadership of the reform process, our leaders clearly indicated their determination to follow up all aspects and ensure its successful conclusion. They put their credibility in the balance.

In fact, our role for all of us, you, as the Executive Council and we, as the Commission - is to contribute, as best as we can, to the success of the action initiated by the Assembly of the Union. I have no doubt that your session will be another step towards the objective to which all our efforts are geared.

The work done by the Permanent Representatives Committee, at their meeting held from 5 to 7 November 2018, will certainly facilitate your task. The PRC considered in depth many issues. This concerns the Commission, with a particular focus on streamlining the structure of its leadership and the portfolios, the method of selecting its members and measures to ensure real accountability both within the Commission and to the Member States.

It obviously behoves you to decide on the action to be taken about the suggested options. But whatever formula is chosen, it is imperative to preserve the fundamental principles that have underpinned the composition of the Commission: gender parity and equitable regional representation. Similarly, it is necessary to take into account the heavy tasks to be performed, which demand that they be properly distributed.

At the same time, I would like to welcome the recommendations made with regard to the process of transforming NEPAD into a Development Agency and the division of labour between the Continental and the Regional levels and the strengthening of the African Peer Review Mechanism.

Reform is a holistic enterprise. It cannot succeed if it is carried out in a partial manner. Its success presupposes that the objective of efficiency, priority setting and mobilisation of greater political will applies to the entire Union.

Admittedly, the implementation must be gradual, to take into account the difficulties inherent in such an exercise: methodical, to avoid falling into an unhelpful and ultimately counterproductive process and consensual, in order to win the support of all.

At the same time, it is important that the vision underpinning the reform be comprehensive, encompassing all its aspects, so that every step taken is part of an overall architecture.

In this context, it seems also as crucial that we seize the opportunity of the Extraordinary Summit to discuss issues on which the moment of decision-making has not yet come. In so doing, it provides general orientations to guide the Commission in the preparation of the studies that will be submitted to you in February 2019.

This must, particularly, be the case for the organs gradually established since 2002 to promote a Continental governance more in line with the aspirations of our peoples and likely to support the more effectively the process of integration that we have embarked upon. I am here referring to the Pan-African Parliament, the African Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Committee of Experts on the Rights of the African Child, the Advisory Board on Corruption as well as the Commission on International Law.

These organs make, each in its field, quality contributions to our collective work. Among other examples, I would like to point out, here, the work of the Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court, of the same appellation, in promoting the observance of human rights.

In spite these achievements, there are many challenges related to the delay in the ratification of the instruments concerned, which hinders their universalization on the Continent, the low level of implementation of the decisions adopted, which undermines the credibility of the organs concerned, the lack of human and financial resources, which impede their capacity for action.

Another issue on which we must and can make progress concerns sanctions against countries that do not pay on time their statutory financial contributions. The objective is to put a definitive end to the chronic delay in the payment of the statutory financial contributions. We must all the more move forward and this issue be dealt with separately from the Scale of Assessment, which will has to be agreed upon in February 2019.

As you are aware, at the Nouakchott Summit, it was decided that the Executive Council convene a session enlarged to other relevant Ministers to consolidate the Common Position on Post-Cotonou arrangements with the European Union. This meeting was held in Addis Ababa on 14 September.

Unfortunately the meeting was inconclusive. The main point of divergence has been the role that should be played by the African Union in the negotiation of a Compact between Africa and Europe.

The Chairman of the Executive Council and I will have the opportunity to report in detail on the proceedings of the meeting held last September. Suffice it, at this stage, for me to underscore that the expiry of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement affords us the opportunity to build a relationship that really takes into account our achievements in the areas of peace and security, governance and integration, and serve as a lever for the fulfilment of our aspirations as stipulated in Agenda 2063. I wish to state frankly that the old patterns certainly offer the comfort of familiarity, but they are no longer adapted to the exigencies of the time.

I believe that we can, on the basis of the deliberations of your Extraordinary session, find the necessary compromise between the various concerns expressed and speak with one voice on this matter in the interest of the continent.

Much is expected from this meeting. Intense preparatory work has already been done, including through the Retreat that you held in early September and the meeting of the PRC at the beginning of this month.

It is important to translate into reality the expectations raised with the tangible progress on the path of Continental renewal. The Commission, as regards this ambition, will, as always, be by your side.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Speech by Dr Richard Sezibera, Chairperson of the Executive Council

It is with a deep sense of humility and commitment, that I am addressing you today as a brother and colleague. In my new capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, I am honored to be steering these discussions on the African Union Reforms, which I am sure we all agree on, are in many ways a rendez-vous for our continent’s future, as well as our institution’s.

As we like to say in Rwanda, Africa’s unity and Africa’s speaking with one voice, has proven to be a positively disruptive force on the international scene. We have witnessed this lately, both at the WHO’s and Francophonie’s elections. We should resolve that these results become the norm more than the exception.

Allow me to end this introduction by saying that I see many familiar faces in this room. Friends that I have known for years and worked with in the past, friends that I truly look forward to reconnecting with, in order to advance our common AU agenda for the benefit of the African people.

We gather here today for an important task in the service of Africa. An efficient, fit for purpose AU, able to deliver on the Agenda we have agreed on, and flexible enough to innovate to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

The ongoing Institutional Reform is already registering progress in a number of areas, which AUC Chair Moussa Faki regularly reports on. I wish to commend him, the Reform Implementation Unit, and his entire team at the AU Commission, for the hard work put into seeing the reforms gradually come to fruition.

I also wish to thank Member States, for your support in ensuring that we are determinedly moving ahead. Without it, the reforms would not have reached the point at which they are today. We may have lengthy discussions at times, but they clearly remain healthy ones, aiming to achieve our objectives. We must then continue these constructive debates, while keeping in mind that time is of the essence. Let us not put off for tomorrow, what we can do today.

Our agenda today builds on exchanges held in this very room last September. The Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) diligently prepared the current meeting, and it is only fitting that I thank our Ambassadors for providing recommendations, which we will consider in the next few minutes.

I understand that the Reform of the AU Commission (AUC) was extensively discussed, and strong support made in favor of a leaner, more efficient Commission with rationalized portfolios. I am told that the retreat in September also converged towards these same principles.

Further, we know that a lot of thinking was put into the design of recruitment and selection mechanisms, to ensure that the AUC can leverage the best minds and skills the continent has to offer, while involving Member States in the process.

In the same vein, strong accountability and performance systems are essential. Performance-based measures must be strengthened for the senior leadership and institutionalized across the entire organization, with adequate measures in place to address non-delivery.

As we design performance management mechanisms for our Commission, we must also commit to being more accountable ourselves as member States, to fulfilling our obligations, and being held to account when we don’t.

Of course, as we reform the Commission, we know that self-financing our Union in a sustainable and predictable manner will be a key determinant of our accomplishments. I am told there has been a significant reduction in our reliance on partners’ funding this year, with this trend expected to continue in the next few years.

However, for this to be sustained, we must create the necessary growth to enable us to continue to do so, starting with the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area; and by honoring our financial obligations, including by adopting the 0.2% levy through our national legislative bodies.

An AU Reform process goes beyond the Commission alone, even if it has been the predominant focus of our talks this year. We know that the entire institutional architecture of our Union has to be addressed.

Whether it is about organs dealing with development matters such as the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) and its pressing need for a clear mandate; about those dealing with governance objectives, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and related financing modalities; or whether about a strategic division of labor among the AU, Member States, RECs and other key continental institutions, there is still much to be accomplished.

Our work over the next two days will be demanding, but we can aim to complete our Executive Council Session with clear recommendations to our leaders on the AUC Reforms, AUDA’s mandate, APRM’s budget, and proposals on the division of labor among key African institutional stakeholders. We certainly owe our collective people that much.

Let me conclude with a special mention of the post-Cotonou Framework, which we will briefly discuss tomorrow and further submit for consideration to the Assembly of Heads of State. Africa needs to speak with one voice, and negotiate as one. That is the only fitting way for a vibrant Africa, finally taking her rightful place in the concert of nations.

Now we must get to work, and I wish us all fruitful deliberations.


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