Spotlight: Policy dialogues about AU reform and Agenda 2063 progress

Ahead of the AU’s annual coordination meeting, ISS and Kenya’s government hosted informal, frank discussions on Africa’s priorities.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) worked with the Kenyan government to create a forum to discuss African Union (AU) reforms and progress towards the AU’s ambitious Agenda 2063, the continent’s strategy for development.

Three seminars were convened ahead of the AU’s 5th Mid-Year Coordination meeting in Nairobi. The annual AU meeting of member states and regional economic communities (RECs) aims to accelerate African integration. The focus in Nairobi was on implementing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The seminars, hosted by the ISS and Kenya’s embassy in Addis Ababa, debated issues that are topical in African policy circles and were on the agenda of the AU meeting. These included the AU’s ongoing reforms, which have a direct bearing on the ability of the organisation and its RECs to coordinate their work and achieve their objectives. Another key issue is progress on the AfCFTA – a vital means for Africa to achieve its Agenda 2063 goals.

The discussions, away from the formalities of the AU meeting, were informed by research and insights from senior ISS analysts, and attended by member states, diplomats, civil society and development partners.

‘The seminars were timely and pertinent to the operations of the African Union,’ said Jean Kamau, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to AU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She noted the high-level ISS commitment to the AU’s peace and security agenda.

Also under discussion at the seminars and the AU meeting was the division of labour between the AU, RECs and member states, and how AU institutions could better deliver on Africa’s priorities.

‘The ISS partnership approach has created the trust which enabled us to collaborate with the government of Kenya to host informal discussions on Africa’s most pressing issues, and to incubate new ideas for Africa’s future,’ says Dr Andrews Atta-Asamoah, ISS Head of Africa Peace and Security Governance in Addis Ababa.

‘By getting people together, many of whom would be in the AU meeting and future regional and continental policy spaces, we enabled conversations free from the challenge of navigating national positions in a formal AU summit environment.’

‘The seminars were timely and pertinent to the operations of the African Union’

The seminars also provided an opportunity for researchers and civil society organisations to contribute evidence-informed analysis before the AU meeting.  

At the first seminar on Agenda 2063, Dr Abraham Korir SingOei, Kenya’s Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs, said he hoped the G20 would admit the AU as a member – which it did two months later at the G20’s India summit. SingOei pointed out that by 2063, Africa will have a third of the world’s population, so it deserves a voice on the global stage and a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. He called for Africa to be heard in international discussions about climate change.

Dr Jakkie Cilliers, ISS Head of African Futures and Innovation, shared scenarios around implementing Agenda 2063. He told delegates that by 2043, African GDP per capita would be driven by AfCFTA, with the potential for 150 million fewer Africans to be living in poverty. 

A second seminar asked if AU reform was characterised by rhetoric or real change. It looked at institutional and operational changes at the AU, and efforts to improve the organisation’s financial independence. Delegates heard of both progress and delays in reforming the AU Commission. The commission has limited authority over member states, with persistent bureaucratic bottlenecks, administrative challenges and questions of accountability.

ISS Executive Director Dr Fonteh Akum said AU reforms could succeed despite political, financial and technical issues. The reforms could improve democratic culture, help silence the guns and deliver economic integration, he said.

Désiré Assogbavi, the Francophone Africa Director for One, said AU reform would benefit from more collaboration with civil society, which has a reservoir of expertise. He called for conditions to be created for civil society participation in Agenda 2063.

Delegates discussed whether the merger of the AU Peace and Security and Political Affairs departments was a mistake, with peace and security prioritised at the expense of political affairs. Panelists also urged the AU to focus on continental issues and delegate other concerns to the RECs.

The final seminar noted that AU reform and progress against Agenda 2063 goals were impacted by political instability, armed conflicts and unconstitutional changes of government. It put the AU Peace and Security Council in the spotlight, particularly for its non-implementation of several decisions.

For more information, contact:

Andrews Atta-Asamoah, ISS: [email protected]

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