Zuma laments AU shortcomings


President Jacob Zuma yesterday said the African Union (AU) faces a number of challenges with respect to peace, security, regional integration, development and economic growth despite “important strides” made since its establishment in 2002.

“Some of these relate to the AU’s institutional architecture and capacity constraints,” Zuma told the National Assembly during oral question time yesterday. “Decisions of the AU Assembly are often not implemented timeously.”

Zuma added that it often takes a long time for treaties to be ratified by member states. “There are also challenges around the mandate of the AU Commission, specifically the implications of transforming the AU Commission into the AU Authority.”

Furthermore, the “financing of AU activities and non-payment of contributions by some member states limits its capacity to undertake its work.
“Peace missions in Africa often face challenges relating to funding and capacity,” Zuma lamented.
“During its tenure in the UN Security Council (January 2007 – December 2008), South Africa advocated the need to strengthen and enhance the relationship between the UN and regional organisations such as the AU.
“Despite a UN Security Council resolution, the AU continues to struggle for funding from its own resources to intervene in the continent’s conflicts,” Zuma said.

Zuma noted that the pace of regional integration on the continent remained uneven. “Within the eight regional economic communities protocols and programmes are often not harmonised.

Some countries are members of more than one regional economic community.
“There is also a disjuncture between the integration processes underway in the regional economic communities and the accelerated momentum given to the union government process.
“In other words, the political integration process is not sufficiently aligned to the economic process,” he said.
“Development is hampered by the low levels of intra-Africa trade and the lack of cross border infrastructure. Poverty and unemployment, exacerbated by the global economic downturn, continue to undermine development.
“This is compounded by food and energy insecurity; the impact of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; and low levels of education,” Zuma told MPs.

The Pan-African Parliament similarly faces challenges around its institutional and financial architecture, he said.
“These challenges are not unique to a structure of this magnitude that is still in its infancy. There is a need to improve the working relationship between the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament. Since the election of the new Bureau of the Parliament, the relations are on the mend.
“Another challenge is the absence of the Terms of Reference to guide the review of the Protocol establishing the Parliament. These are important for guiding the transformation of the institution from an advisory body to a legislative structure elected by universal adult suffrage.
“Since the AU is yet to make a final determination on this matter, it is difficult for the Parliament to chart its way forward,” Zuma said.

The Parliament also lacks enforcement powers, Zuma said. “…its inability to ensure that its recommendations and resolutions are binding reduces its capacity to contribute to peace, development, democracy and economic growth.”