Tinubu, Ruto Call For Financially Autonomous AU, Reject Fresh Scramble For Africa

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African leaders, on Sunday, gathered in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital for the African Union’s (AU) fifth mid-year coordination meeting, aimed among other things, to address critical issues of African integration and division of labour.


The meeting was led by Kenya’s President, William Ruto, who called for a reform of the AU focusing on the body’s financial autonomy.


“The pan-African movement has always been about sovereignty and agency. First and foremost, chronic dependence, even on well-meaning partners, is inconsistent with the aspiration of independence, sovereignty and agency. And I therefore believe that we must take seriously the recommendations that have been made towards making our organisation one that stands on its feet, and an organisation that is funded by us.


“The most compelling signal that African integration is unstoppable, and that it will open doors for unprecedented socioeconomic transformation, is the progress we have made in implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). We must be proud of this magnificent project by and for ourselves,” he said.


According to AU figures, less than 40 per cent of Member States pay their yearly contributions to the institution. At the weekend, the Federal Government paid $19.5 million, Nigeria’s yearly contribution to AU.


According to a document that broke down the body’s budget, $157.2 million is to finance the operational budget of the Union; $216.9 million will go into the programme budget and $273.1 million will finance peace support operations.


Ruto pointed to the burden of debt many countries on the continent carry, championing a fairer financial system. A United Nations (UN) report found that African nations are disadvantaged borrowers compared to the wealthiest European nations.


“The UN Secretary General himself has said that our continent pays anywhere up to eight times more than our brothers and sisters elsewhere do. It is only fair that we have a financing mechanism that treats everybody equally,” he added.


The focus of the 5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting was the AU theme of the year “Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation”.  In her remarks, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said: “If African solutions to African challenges and opportunities are to be more than a slogan, we must have a more insistent voice in the G20 and unified action by African leaders to disrupt the unacceptable status quo.”


Already, Germany and India have lately reiterated calls for AU to have a permanent seat at G20 ahead of its next summit in September.


Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu has reaffirmed Africa’s unity and strength, while strongly rejecting the notion of a new scramble for Africa. The President warned that past plundering and exploitation of the continent should remain in the past and never be repeated.


In his maiden speech at the Fifth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting (5thMYCM) of the African Union (AU), the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Regional Mechanisms (RMs), and the African Union Member-States, the President announced plans to strengthen the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Standby Force to deter coups and combat terrorism in the sub-region.


The Nigerian leader, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, highlighted the progress made by ECOWAS in various sectors of its integration process, including trade, free movement of persons, investment promotion, infrastructure development, and security.

Tinubu, Ruto Call For Financially Autonomous AU, Reject Fresh Scramble For Africa
President Bola Tinubu (2nd Left) with other African leaders in Nairobi, Kenya

In his statement entitled: ‘Address on Status of Regional Integration in ECOWAS,’ he emphasised the need for Africa to overcome its challenges and work towards a prosperous future, focusing on inclusive growth, good governance, and leveraging the opportunities provided by AfCFTA.


Calling for good governance to ensure a prosperous future for Africa, free from the exploitations of the past, President Tinubu said: “As Africans, we forge ahead no matter the barriers thrust before us.


“The world we inhabit is often unkind and uncertain. Past history and current global difficulties argue against our future success.


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‘’Lessons of the past few years teach us that the world economy can be disrupted in ways that halt progress and invite downturn. Our nations can suddenly find themselves in dire situations if we choose to be passive observers of our fate.


‘’Such passivity does not commend itself to me. I will not listen to it. Neither should any African. The challenges we face mean that governance will be difficult.


‘’They also mean that visionary good governance is necessary. Some observers assert a new scramble for Africa is afoot and it is much like the old scramble that plundered our continent.


‘’But, here and now, let it be said to whomever the new scramblers might be that our continent may be old but our spirit is new.  And it is strong. The bad that took place in the past must stay there. It shall never be repeated.’’


On peace, security, and stability, the Nigerian leader acknowledged the challenges faced by the sub-region, including terrorism and anti-constitutional changes in government.


‘’We sit here in a meaningful discussion of vital economic matters. Yet, it will be impossible to bring full meaning to what we attempt unless we give due consideration to the instability and conflict that now scar many of our nations.


‘’The fullness of the integration we seek will elude us as long as several of our nations stand in the midst of violence and war.


‘’The trade and commerce we talk of today refers to valued goods and services that improve life. The trade and commerce these nations suffer is of destruction and disorder that takes lives and steals opportunity.


‘’We cannot integrate Africa and attain the prosperity we seek while our nearby brothers and sisters suffer in pain and anguish, they should not suffer. ‘We must advance as one continent towards peace and prosperity.


‘’Otherwise, we risk the creation of two or more Africa, one a select group of nations moving steadily while the rest remain trapped in the age-old mire of poverty, conflict and lack of hope,” he said.


On trade, President Tinubu said ECOWAS had achieved the Free Trade Area and was working on establishing the Customs Union and Common Market.  However, he expressed concern about the low level of intra-community trade among member-states, noting that the European Union remains the major trading partner for the region, followed by Asia, North America, and the rest of Africa.


Highlighting efforts made by ECOWAS to consolidate the gains of its trade liberalisation scheme and support the implementation of the AfCFTA, the Nigerian leader said the ECOWAS Commission had been assisting member states in the negotiations, ratification, and implementation of the AfCFTA.


He noted that 13 out of the 15 ECOWAS member states have ratified the agreement. On free movement of persons, President Tinubu informed the meeting that ECOWAS had commenced action towards the implementation of the Harmonized Visa-Regime (ECOVISA) to facilitate the free movement of non-ECOWAS citizens.

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