Africa Day is celebrated annually, the day marks the creation of the now defunct Organization of African Union (OAU) (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). The OAU was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the 25th of May 1963.Thirty-two states initially founded the OAU with twenty-one more joining over the years. South Africa was not initially part of the OAU and only joined after 1994, it became the fifty-third member state on the 23rd of May 1994 (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). It is obvious why South Africa only joined the OAU after it gained democratic freedom as the organization was created to promote anti-colonization and freedom. The OAU was created to promote peace, unity and cooperation in Africa. It also sought to bring about economic and political integration of the participant states. The OAU was dissolved and replaced by the African Union (AU) in 2002 (SAHistoryOnline, 2016). This was done to facilitate a transformation of the formal structure of the organization in order to achieve the organizations goal of a Pan-African Africa (Lisk, 2012).
Seeing that Friday May 25, 2018 was African Day this post seeks to answer the question: has the African Union achieved its main goals? A look at the successes and challenges of the AU will answer this question.
The AU has the power to intervene in conflicts on the continent through its Peace and Security Council (PSC) which was created to help manage conflict. The PSC was created in 2004. The AU’s peacekeeping force engages in activities which are similar to the United Nations(UN) (Renwick, 2015). The AU seeks to promote peace security and democracy and has the mandate to intercede when genocide or crimes against humanity are being committed even if the country where the conflict is occurring does not agree to this intervention (Renwick,2015). The OAU had no such power and followed a non-interference policy. A number of conflicts have been abated or resolved by the AU (Lisk, 2012). Mission which intervened in Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast have been regarded as successful, thus saving civilian lives and promoting stability in these regions (Renwick, 2015).
AU has promoted trade within the member states and with China. The Chinese president, promised $60bn in investment and aid to African countries at his last summit with African leaders, in South Africa two years ago. Chinese companies have built much of the road and rail infrastructure across the continent and more than 10,000 Chinese companies are active in the region, according to the McKinsey report.
“There is no other country with such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa across the dimensions of trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and aid,” the consultancy’s report said.
According to Quartz Africa (Dahir, 2018) China is heavily involved in Africa, with its companies and entrepreneurs conducting trade and investing heavily in African countries. Chinese aid has also been blamed for propping up authoritarian regimes, constructing shoddy roads and infrastructure built by imported Chinese workers, and focusing mainly on countries home to oil, minerals, and other resources that China needs. But China is also cultivating the next generation of African leaders, with Beijing taking thousands of African leaders, bureaucrats, students, and business people to China for training and education.
Africa is progressing in areas of culture and education. However, Regionalization of Higher Education in Africa: The Operationalization of the African Union Higher Education Harmonization Strategy (Woldegeorgis, 2017) makes the most interesting research. Regionalization of higher education in Africa is the least researched topic in the field of Social Science. The study says that the key objective of higher education regionalization is to create common regional policy frameworks that facilitate mutual recognition of academic qualifications, promote student and staff mobility, ensure effective quality assurance mechanisms, create a system for the transferability of credits, and ensure the competitiveness of African regional higher education in the global knowledge system. In this regard of holistic development, it pioneers in terms of exploring both the historical and theoretical dynamics of regionalization processes within Africa raising fundamental questions that focus on context and formation, operationalization and implications, and challenges and prospects of these regionalization processes.
The AU also promotes the role of women and emphasizes women empowerment. The Maputo Plan of Action 2016 – 2030 on sexual and reproductive health remains consistent with Africa’s Agenda 2063 which calls for a Prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development; an Integrated Continent, Politically United, based on the ideals of Pan Africanism; An Africa with people-driven development, especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth; and Africa as a Strong, Resilient and Influential Global Player and Partner. However, gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in the region. Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making and are also more likely to live in poverty than men. About three quarters of working-age men participate in the labour force, compared to only half of working-age women, whilst women earn 24 per cent less than men.
The AU is based on the European Union (EU). However although the EU only allows democratic countries to become members the AU has no such provision (Auriacombe,C.J, Brynard,D.J &Schalk,B, 2005). This creates a challenge in that different member states with different ideals have to find a way to cooperate. It also present challenges when dealing with the international community. South Africa’s choice to allow former president of Sudan Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa was met with displeasure from the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, according to AU policy South Africa did not break any laws as the AU provides immunity to member states, heads of state (Moffet,2015).
Certain members are fearful of losing their power by sharing it with the AU. The creation of several regional organizations creates the space for divided loyalty of member states. Public transport and infrastructure remains a major developmental challenge on the continent. Inter member economic trade remains minimal.
Conflict remains an issue. Missions in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, South Sudan and Darfur have not improved stability in these states (Renwick,2015).
Funding According to the AU funding is a key challenge as post conflict reconstruction and development as well as peacebuilding requires funds. The current funding module is unmaintainable and largely funded by donors whose impact has sometimes shifted the AU’s peacebuilding agenda. This threatens the independence of the AU itself (African Union Press Release, 2017).
Makhanya (2018) elequently concludes that. In Africa Month, we say all sorts of sweet things about our continent. The African Union issues statements about continental unity and economic progress. There is dancing and the celebrating of culture. But on the ground, human rights are violated as in any other month, democracy is trampled upon, fiscuses are raided and elites eat big while the poor suffer.
In terms of culture, technology, literature, and many tangible and intangible facets of life do we Africans, look to the West. Everyday is Europe Day or America Day, so to speak. As a cultured African, how does one spend this day (and all other days in Africa)? Perhaps eating African food insted of KFC, learning isiXhosa or Swahili instead of replicating Hollywood, or asking “how can I know more about Africa?”
There are ways in which Africa Day can be everyday. As Western Day seems to be the case, everyday anyway.
African Union Press Release. (2017). Main successes of the AU in Peace and Security, challenges and mitigation measures in place, from:https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20170127/main-successes-au-peace-and-security-challenges-and mitigation-measures-place
Auriacombe,C.J, Brynard,D.J &Schalk,B. (2005).Successes and failures of the organization of African unity:Lessons for the future of the African Union, Journal of Public Administration: Special Issue 2. 40, 496-511
Dahir, AL. 2018. Quartz Africa. China “gifted” the African Union a headquarters building and then allegedly bugged it for state secrets. January 30, 2018. Retrieved from, https://qz.com/1192493/china-spied-on-african-union-headquarters-for-five-years/
Lisk, F. (2012). The African Union after 10 years: Successes and Challenges, from:https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/expertcomment/the_african_union/
Moffet, L. (2015). Al-Bashir’s escape:
why the African Union defies the ICC, from:https://theconverstaion.com/al-bashirs-escape-why-the-africa-union-defies-theicc-43226
Renwick,D.(2015). Peace Operations in Africa, from:https;//www.cfr.org/backgrounder/peace-operations-africa
Makhanya. M. 2018. The fantasy of Africa Month. 2018-05-27 Retrieved by, https://www.news24.com/Columnists/Mondli-Makhanya/the-fantasy-of-africa-month-20180525
Woldegeorgis, ET. 2017. Regionalization of Higher Education in Africa: The Operationalization of the African Union Higher Education Harmonization Strategy (Beitrage zur Afrikaforschung). Retrieved by, https://www.amazon.com/Regionalization-Higher-Education-Africa-Operationalization/dp/3643907761