The words of Thomas Sankara that, "He who feeds you controls you" are instructive. It is embarrassing for what should be a pan-African body to depend on foreign aid as it is known that donations normally come with a price. In July 2016, over 30 Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of Finance and other representatives of Member States resolved to finance the operations of the African Union by implementing a 0.2% levy on eligible imports. Rwanda's President Kagame who is the incoming AU chairperson was tasked with leading the efforts with the help of former executive director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Mr Carlos Lopes, and Mr Masiyiwa, the Econet Wireless founder among a number of other great minds. The decision came into operation in January 2017 and a year down the line is a good time to sit and reflect on what has been achieved.
African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahama recently revealed that, "To date, member states have contributed $29.5 million to the Peace Fund, enabling us to fund some of our prevention and mediation activities."
The goal is to raise at least $1.2 billion making the $29.5 million pale in comparison. Countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana, Gambia, Djibouti, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Senegal, Cameroon, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi and Sierra Leone have already started implementing the self-financing resolution.
Kagame admits, "From the outset, we were conscious that the risk of failure was real. The political obstacles are complex because change is required not only in the African Union Commission, but in each member state."
Much remains to be done but the goal is clear: the African Union must wean itself off donor dependency if it is to be taken seriously.