CHAPTER EIGHT: THE AFRICAN UNION AND ITS RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR AFRICA AND THE AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK
In this Chapter, the relations of the African Union with the UNECA and AfDB are examined both in their tripartite and bilateral aspects. The objective is to assess the extent to which the activities carried out in those frameworks have contributed to the integration process in the continent.
Trilateral Cooperation: The Mandate
Since the integration of African economies also involves other organisations, especially the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and other UN Organisations and specialized agencies, this chapter reviews the role of these Institutions in the regional and continental integration process.
After the signing of the Abuja Treaty in 1991, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU decided to establish a Joint OAU/UNECA/AfDB Secretariat to promote and follow-up on the implementation of the Treaty. The promotion and follow up consisted mainly of (i) maintaining the awareness of Member States of the importance of the Treaty and promoting the ratification of the latter (ii) ensuring that the stages of the Treaty are properly followed, especially the initial stage of strengthening existing RECs and establishing new ones in regions were they do not exist, and (iii) the harmonisation of policies among the RECs.
Although the Treaty came into force in May 1994 after the required number of ratifications by Member States, the Joint Secretariat failed to pay sufficient attention to the strengthening of existing RECs and create new ones where they do not exist (Chapter 9 on the RECs). This may have contributed to the proliferation of RECs with multiple memberships.
The initial activities of the Joint Secretariat were mainly concentrated in the preparation of protocols. These protocols cover the larger number of the areas, including free movement of persons; agriculture; industry; education, health and other social sectors; transport, communications and tourism; culture; environment; science and technology. This task, which also involved relevant UN specialized agencies, was found cumbersome and later discontinued.
As experience has shown, these protocols, though important, were not essential tools for carrying out sectoral policy coordination activities among the RECs. Such activities had they been carried out when the Treaty entered into force in 1994 would have made the present need for harmonisation less compelling.
The Joint Secretariat did not focus its activities on annual assessment of Africa's progress towards regional and continental integration. This would have greatly helped the decisions-making Organs of the AU in advancing the agenda of continental integration.
Such assessment should be followed by appropriate recommendations on ways and means of accelerating the integration process at all levels (Member States, RECs, AU, UNECA, AfDB, and other Institutions. These recommendations may require adjustment in national, regional and continental programmes, and the identification of joint actions at international levels. They would also relate to ways and means for UNECA and AfDB to assist in developing inter RECs strategies, policies and programmes and in resources mobilisation for operationalising them.
Bilateral Cooperation: The Mandate
Besides the Joint Secretariat, the OAU and then AU have also been cooperating bilaterally with UNECA and AfDB. Many of the seminal documents adopted by African leaders were the result of cooperation between OAU and UNECA. For several years, the two Organisations have also been organising joint sectoral conferences of African Ministers.
Besides the UNECA, most UN Organisations and Specialized Agencies have established formal relationships with the AU, often in the form of financial and technical support to the latter. However, their respective regional or special programmes are not always consistent with the objectives of regional and continental integration. More often than not, they are based on these organisations' own priorities for Africa. Moreover, the UN Organisations and Specialised Agencies continue to operate as if they do not share AU’s vision and mission of Africa’s political and economic integration. They divide African countries into two separate groupings, known as " Middle East and North Africa" on the one hand, and "Sub-Saharan Africa" on the other. This is no doubt inconsistent with the objectives of the African Union.
In order to ensure that the existing relationships between the AU and UN Organisations and Specialized Agencies are strengthened and exclusively focused in supporting continental integration, the AU should utilise the competencies of the UNECA and the AfDB to the fullest extent possible in so far as its relations and activities with UN Organisations and Specialised Agencies are concerned. The Panel notes that during the past two years, efforts have successfully been made by UNECA to re-establish its sectoral competences. This should continue in order for it to be able to play an effective role with the AU in the transformation and integration process in Africa. The Panel would also request that every effort be made to enhance the UNECA’s role in the UN system. The African Permanent Representatives to the UN should also continue to assist in getting more resources for UNECA during the UN annual budget-making process.
In other respects, bilateral cooperation seems not to have been so effective in terms of resource mobilisation for the financing of integration projects. For example, AfDB involvement, together with that of the World Bank, in resource mobilisation for implementing the United Nations Transport and Communications Decade for Africa (UNTACDA), did not yield the expected results.
The AfDB’s President and the African countries that are members of its Board, should endeavour to ensure that the Bank re-orders its priorities for financing regional and continental integration projects in such critical areas as transport and communications, and energy are accorded the highest priority in the Bank’s investment portfolio-as high as at least 50 percent of the total investment resources. The AfDB should also provide the necessary support in the establishment and functioning of the African Investment Bank provided for in Article 19 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The Panel recommends that;
The Joint AU-UNECA-AfDB Secretariat should be reinvigorated to make it more effective in accelerating the integration process. This should include the publication of a joint annual report to the Assembly on progress towards continental integration. Such a report should focus on cross-border trade and investment, the degree of free movement of persons across national and regional borders, the implementation of regional and continental projects, the level of effective supranational authority entrusted by Member States to RECs, resource mobilisation efforts at continental, regional and national levels and, lastly, including progress in operationalising the continental financial Institutions;
AfDB should play a more prominent role in resource mobilisation in implementing integration programmes and projects at national, regional and continental levels particularly in the acceleration of integration and transformation process. To that effect, efforts should be made to ensure that the present level of funding regional programmes be substantially increased from 15 percent to at least 50 percent; and,
UNECA should be supported by Member States at the United Nations for reconstituting and further strengthening its capacity so as to be able to fully play its role as main implementing agency of the UN economic development programmes in the continent.