African Leaders Meet for ‘Last Push’ on AU Reforms

African leaders are set to gather this weekend for a special summit aimed at pushing through long-debated reforms to their pan-continental body.

The changes seek to streamline and empower the African Union — an ambitious call for an organisation often seen as toothless and donor-dependent, and analysts say time for forging a deal is short.

Egypt, which will assume the chairmanship of the AU early next year, has little interest in the reforms, they say.

The special summit is being held at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa this Saturday and Sunday at the insistence of Rwandan President Kagame, the pioneer of the reforms.

Elissa Jobson, head of African advocacy for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, described the talks as a “last push” to enact as many changes before Mr Kagame’s one-year term as chairman expires in January.

“The concern there is that Egypt is very unlikely to push the reforms forward, even if it doesn’t try to reverse them,” she said.

Long criticised for redundant bureaucracy and ineffectual decisions, the AU put President Kagame in charge of reforming the body in 2016.


His proposals include weaning the AU off foreign donor funding and cutting down on the number of summits and commissions.

But more than two years and five AU summits later, analysts say key states still are not on board with the reforms.

Prospects for an agreement this week will depend on who shows up, they say.

“We’ll have to see how many heads of state come, and that will determine the success of the summit, (which) will determine the success of the reforms in any way,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a consultant with the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS).

So far South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Comoros, Togo and Ghana have confirmed they will be sending their presidents.

Nigeria and Mozambique will be sending foreign ministers, while other AU members have yet to indicate who will attend.

AU credit

Created in 2002 following the disbanding of the Organisation of African Unity, the AU comprises all 55 African countries, with a budget in 2016 of $417 million.

The AU has been credited with taking a stand against coups, sustaining a peacekeeping mission in Somalia and laying the groundwork for a continental free trade area.

But critics say the body has kept quiet over rights abuses and relied on the UN or nations outside Africa to sanction the continent’s rogue governments.

Mr Kagame’s proposals include paring down the AU’s priorities to a handful of key areas like security, politics and economic integration.

At the same time, the AU would transition to relying on African states to fund most of its budget rather than the foreign donors it currently depends on.

Some reforms have already been agreed: earlier this year, heads of state assented to reducing the number of AU summits to one per year from two.

Mr Jobson said just under half of African countries have also agreed to implement a 0.2 per cent import levy to fund the union, while the rest will find another way to pay up.

Other proposals

No decisions have been made yet on President Kagame’s other proposals, such as putting the commission’s chairperson, currently former Chadian foreign minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, in charge of appointing his or her deputy and commissioners.

This is partially because many of the more powerful African countries have reservations about giving the AU the ability to make decisions for them, Ms Louw-Vaudran said.

“They don’t want to cede any sovereignty to the AU commission. They still see it as a kind of secretariat that carries out what the heads of state decide,” she said.

Mr Jobson said Cairo’s reservations about the reforms are personal.

Egypt spent about a year suspended from the AU after the 2013 coup that brought to power President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is to succeed Kagame as AU chairperson.

“There’s a general sense that this decision was more driven by the commission than it was by member states. This is an additional incentive for Egypt to see the power of the commission reduced,” Jobson said.

A diplomat who works with the AU said Egypt has publicly backed the reforms but likely would concentrate on different aspects than Kagame, such as security and post-conflict reconstruction.

“No one’s particularly hopeful that the summit is going to resolve anything, but you might see a few decisions,” the diplomat said.


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African Countries are in a Race to Build New Billion-Dollar Cities for the 21st Century

An additional 1.3 billion people will be added to Africa’s population by 2050 and, unless infrastructure development happens at an unprecedented pace, sharp housing shortages will likely be an offshoot of the rapid population growth.

The problem will be even more acute in urban areas as more people migrate to cities for access to economic opportunities and better living standards. Indeed, by 2050 all of Africa’s key sub-regions will have more than 50% of their population living in urban areas. A new report by Estate Intel, a real estate market data and research firm, shows private developers and governments across the continent are spending over $100 billion on new sprawling city projects from Utopian sea-side business districts, smart tech hubs to futuristic residential cities.

Of the eighteen major new city projects analyzed in the report, Nigeria accounts for five which, when completed, will cover a landmass of more than 25 million square meters. Nigeria, already Africa’s most populous country, is set to become the world’s third largest by population in 2050. But the pace of new city developments do not always match population size: Mauritius, the Indian Ocean island nation of only 1.2 million people, has four major new cities planned.

As land in urban city centers is already scarce, a majority of the new cities planned or in development are situated on the fringes of existing cities. It’s a necessary compromise as the new cities will require brand new, more efficient infrastructure—independent of existing amenities like sewage, roads and power—to justify the huge financial outlays. Many of the new cities are futuristic in design and also in delivery dates as typical timeline for completion ranges from 10 to 30 years comprising of planning, development and sale processes.

Marketing the new cities to prospective new inhabitants happens long before they’re completed. Developers often pull out all stops from promising early bird discounts to using slick marketing videos to showcase the cities. It’s a tactic that often drives early adoption and then a surge in value of the property. For instance, land prices in Lagos’ Eko Atlantic have nearly doubled since construction began in 2008.

But as new city construction ramp up, it’s unlikely they will make a big enough dent in the housing shortage as they ignore the socioeconomic realities of locals. Once they are completed, much of the luxurious apartment homes will likely remain out of reach for a majority of citizens in need of housing. Indeed, Senegal’s $2 billion Diamniadio Lake City is already facing strong criticism as being “planned without inhabitants in mind” amid fears that its costs could worsen Senegal’s debt problems. Meanwhile, in Vision City, Kigali, one of the country’s string of proposed “smart cities,” a home unit costs around $160,000 even though up to 80% of the city’s population live in slums.

There’s also the question of the effects new city projects will have on the wider population, especially when land reclamation from the sea is involved. A prime example is Nigeria’s Eko Atlantic project, a 6-mile city built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. While the new city will have a sea wall wrapped around it to protect it from the ocean’s storms, experts say it will leave other parts of Lagos even more susceptible to flood.


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World Bank Launches Francophone Africa-Focused Accelerator

The World Bank Group has launched Francophone Africa-focused accelerator programme Afrique Excelle, aimed at supporting scalable tech ventures in the late seed or pre-Series A stage.

Launched yesterday at the Africa Early Stage Investor Summit in Cape Town, Afrique Excelle is an initiative of the World Bank Group, implemented by a consortium of VC4A, Suguba and SahelInnov.

It is a post-accelerator programme designed to support scalable technology ventures in the late seed or pre-Series A stage, that are well-positioned for growth in their domestic market and for cross-border expansion and looking to raise between US$250,000 and US$5 million.

The six-month programme will kick off with a one-week residency in Bamako, Mali in March, and culminate with the final venture showcase at VivaTech 2019, part of the one-week residency in Paris in May.

Afrique Excelle is the Francophone edition of the XL Africa accelerator implemented by the World Bank in 2017, which saw 19 out of 20 portfolio companies secure Series A investment. Both programmes offer help in securing capital as well as access to a tailormade curriculum and the chance to receive mentoring from global and local experts.


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Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia Leaders Seek Integration of Horn of Africa Region

Leaders from the Horn of Africa have pledged to work together to spearhead integration between their countries.

Leaders from Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea held a two day meeting in the northern Ethiopia city of Bahir Dar, in a bid to solidify relations.

In a press statement, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, said they would work towards the historic transformation of the Horn of Africa region towards peace and integration.

“The three leaders reviewed developments and achievements since the signing of Asmara joint declaration on friendship and comprehensive cooperation in September and noted with satisfaction the tangible and positive outcomes already registered and agreed to consolidate their mutual solidarity and support in addressing challenges that they face individually and collectively,” said the joint statement.

Eritrea has been subjected to a UN arms embargo since 2009, after UN experts accused Eritrea of providing political, financial and logistical support to armed groups opposing the central government in Somalia. Eritrea has denied the accusations.

The meeting of the three leaders comes amidst wide-spread optimism in the Horn of Africa region that it would move from a chronically unstable region to one of political cooperation and economic integration.

“The three leaders also welcomed the impending lifting of all sanctions against Eritrea and underscored their conviction the lifting of the sanctions would reaffirm their commitment to an inclusive regional peace and cooperation,” reads part of the statement.


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ECOWAS Earmarks $46,000 for Proposed Single Currency

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission will commit $46,000 to launch a competition to determine a suitable name and logo for the proposed single currency for the region.

The quest is open to all citizens of ECOWAS member state regardless of their residence as well as legal persons established in an ECOWAS member state in line with its laws.

According to a circular from ECOWAS to this effect, three best proposals will each be selected for the name and logo.

All entries/ proposal are to be submitted by November 20.

Accordingly, all proposals for currency name shall not be based on the name of a person, ethnic group or contain expressions directly linked with a religion, country or national institution among others.

On the other hand, the logo shall among other things, symbolise unity and shared cultural and historical values of ECOWAS.

The first prize for all categories includes $10,000 and $8,000 for the second prize, as well as $5,000 for the third prize.


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