New part­ners court the African Union

Re­la­tions be­tween the AU and the rest of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will al­ways be tricky while the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­mains so de­pen­dent on out­side aid for its func­tion­ing, pro­grammes and peace op­er­a­tions.

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion & Analysis - Liesl Louw-Vau­dran Cor­re­spon­dent

THE African Union (AU) will dis­cuss cru­cial re­forms at its 29th sum­mit in Ad­dis Ababa as global power shifts con­tinue to af­fect the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s part­ner­ships with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

Be­cause the AU is still largely funded by out­side in­sti­tu­tions such as the Euro­pean Union (EU), these global part­ner­ships are cru­cial. But money is tight. The EU has, for ex­am­ple, cut back on its fi­nan­cial sup­port of the African Union Mis­sion in So­ma­lia (AMISOM) and could with­draw its fund­ing al­to­gether from 2018.

The im­pact of Brexit on EU-AU re­la­tions is still largely un­known, even if there is some op­ti­mism in EU cir­cles that col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the EU and the United King­dom on peace and se­cu­rity — in­clud­ing in Africa — will con­tinue.

There is also great un­cer­tainty in Africa over what United States pol­icy un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump means for the con­ti­nent. Re­cent state­ments by the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the United Na­tions about mak­ing peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions “more ef­fec­tive” — code for cut­ting down on the num­ber of peace­keep­ers — has been cause for con­cern. The US is the largest fun­der of peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions.

Diplo­mats in­sist that the US is still sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives like tran­si­tional jus­tice in South Su­dan, for ex­am­ple – and that “Amer­ica first doesn’t come at the ex­pense of oth­ers”; but go­ing for­ward, re­la­tions with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion are largely un­cer­tain.

In this un­sure global en­vi­ron­ment, with shift­ing al­le­giances where, for ex­am­ple, West­ern na­tions are no longer sys­tem­at­i­cally sup­port­ing one an­other in mul­ti­lat­eral fo­rums like the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, other ac­tors are step­ping up to the plate.

Ger­many, which played only a mar­ginal role dur­ing the colo­nial era, is spear­head­ing a new com­pact with Africa, which it says will stim­u­late growth on the con­ti­nent. It hopes this will also dis­cour­age Africans to em­bark on per­ilous mi­gra­tions to Europe.

With France, Ger­many has over the past few years been one of the main fun­ders of the Euro­pean Devel­op­ment Fund — the main fi­nancier of the AU. It has also long sup­ported devel­op­ment through the Deutsche Ge­sellschaft für In­ter­na­tionale Zusam­me­nar­beit (GIZ).

Ger­many’s new plans for Africa are part of its pres­i­dency of the G20 this year. Ger­man chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel has met with some African lead­ers, in­clud­ing Rwanda’s Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Uhuru Keny­atta and Guinea’s Pres­i­dent Al­pha Condé, cur­rent AU chair­per­son, at meet­ings in the run-up to next month’s G20 sum­mit.

The Ger­man plans, how­ever, have been crit­i­cised for be­ing too nar­rowly fo­cused on stem­ming mi­gra­tion and not com­ing up with new ideas. In a pol­icy paper the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a Ger­man think-tank, says the Com­pact with Africa fo­cuses too much on macro-eco­nomic poli­cies that are not adapted to African coun­tries, es­pe­cially the least de­vel­oped ones.

Some crit­ics even say the com­pact is a sim­i­lar move to carv­ing up the con­ti­nent at the Ber­lin Con­fer­ence in 1885, since it fo­cuses on in­fra­struc­ture to en­sure ex­trac­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources to ben­e­fit out­siders and be­cause of the lack of con­sul­ta­tion.

Also, how sus­tain­able are these ini­tia­tives that are so clearly linked to spe­cific coun­tries or world lead­ers? More than a decade ago for­mer Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Tony Blair launched his am­bi­tious Com­mis­sion for Africa, which was des­tined to “make poverty his­tory”. This ini­tia­tive was too strongly linked to Blair — not a pop­u­lar fig­ure in many cir­cles.

The AU must also look at how these many meet­ings and sum­mits with out­side part­ners are struc­tured. Af­ter Turkey, Brazil, Ja­pan and oth­ers have come with in­vi­ta­tions for sum­mit meet­ings with AU lead­ers, Is­rael has now also jumped on the band­wagon and is hold­ing an Is­rael-Africa sum­mit in Togo later this year.

Is­rael has ap­plied for ob­server sta­tus at the AU and Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu was in Liberia last month to at­tend the sum­mit of the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States. Is­rael is no stranger to African coun­tries. Is­raeli mil­i­tary ex­per­tise is sought af­ter by heads of state, es­pe­cially when it comes to their per­sonal pro­tec­tion.

Is­rael also con­sid­ers it­self a “neigh­bour” to Africa and has strong links with many African coun­tries, no­tably on help­ing with agri­cul­tural projects and knowl­edge trans­fer, an Is­raeli diplo­mat tells ISS To­day. African coun­tries are “reach­ing out to us for devel­op­ment mod­els,” he says. — ISS Africa. Full ar­ti­cle on www.her­ald.co.zw

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