While corruption will undoubtedly be discussed, there are other big issues that many are watching including funding for the AU, or how Rwanda’s Paul Kagame will bring about change as he assumes his role for the year as AU Chairman later this week.
“Unfortunately, the majority of our programmes and projects are financed by outside partners” the AU Commission chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat said when speaking to The Africa Report earlier this year.
In 2016 at the July summit in Kigali, Kagame was tasked by African leaders with reform of AU Commission and Union to make them more efficient.
Since then, African leaders have adopted a plan to finance the AU with a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports, “a formula that has been successfully employed in other regional organizations” wrote Kagame in an article to the Rwandan newspaper New Times.
“It is reckless for Africa to rely so heavily on sources of funding that are likely to dry up sooner rather than later, especially when we have the means to pay for programmes that are beneficial to us,” added the Rwandan president, repeating the sentiment of Faki.
The income from this levy is filtered to the AU Commission.
At present, only 21 out of 55 states have signed up to this mechanism. Ghana and Rwanda are the only ones to have signed it into law, while Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo have taken steps to implement it.
There remains a degree of opposition to it, especially from the North African and Sahel states of Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, the biggest contributors to the AU budget. Kagame will need to find ways to win over their support.
In the lead-up to this year’s first 30th Summit, Kagame has also been busy hosting meetings to put changes in motion. But it’s not without some resentment.
Rwanda is not considered a big player among the other African countries, and many might be less inclined to follow the directives coming from Kigali. In fact, this year will be the first time in the AU’s history (since 2002) that Rwanda has a leading role.
Finance aside, many will also look to see how the AU will try to resolve this year’s conflicts. The deadly civil war in South Sudan continues as does the fighting in the Central African Republic. Experts have said the AU still needs to implement the roadmap created last year, based primarily in mediation, to the CAR.
In a report released by the International Crisis Group, 18 elections are set to take place across the continent in 2018. Elections are often a trigger for political crisis and violence as was the case in Kenya last year and currently the situation in the DRC.
Since taking over as AU Commission Chairman from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma last year, Faki has been more focused on peace and security. He has already visited Somalia where the AU force is due to pull out by 2020, the DRC and the G5 Sahel states (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger).
He has also tried to strengthen relations with the European Union and the United Nations as was seen following news of the migrant slave auctions in Libya. The joint AU-EU-UN task force on migration was born out of that situation.
It remains to be seen if this year’s first AU Summit will set the tone for 2018 in which self-sufficiency and stability begins to take root across the continent.