We should be vigilant about external funding of African defence – Obasanjo

Current Affairs

We should be vigilant about external funding of African defence – Obasanjo

The annual Tana Forum concludes today in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Its theme, ‘Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision’, implies being able to self-finance Africa’s defence and security needs and maintain peace. Can the AU deliver? Desmond Davies puts the question to H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the Tana Forum Board.

Why do you think that the new attempt to make the AU self-financing will work now when it has always been a struggle to get member states to pay their regular contributions to the budget?

It’s true that there are still some hurdles to overcome. Although all member states of the AU agree that the institution needs to be reformed to make it more efficient and financially autonomous, a number of countries raised objections at the recent summit in Addis Ababa about the process that produced the decisions to reform.

These decisions were taken at retreats of Heads of State – in July 2016 in Kigali and in January 2017 in Addis Ababa – but some states later expressed hesitation about the details of the reform, particularly the 0.2% levy on eligible imports.

Some states want the reforms to be adopted following the right channels and in line with the regulations set out in the Constitutive Act of the AU. Others need more time to hold national consultations on how the financial contributions to the AU will be managed. A proposed sanctions regime could also see those not paying their dues excluded from decision making. It’s not easy to reach consensus among the 55 African states, most of which have diverse interests and priorities.

As the main architect behind the reforms, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame faces the tough challenge of trying to get the reform plan implemented before the end of 2018 when his one-year chairmanship of the AU comes to an end.

People tend to forget that organisations like the EU are equally difficult to manage and reform, despite the financial and administrative capacity of EU institutions. It’s important to maintain the momentum behind the reforms plan by viewing the reforms as an opportunity for positive change at the AU, a longstanding symbol of African solidarity.

We hear all the time that African countries do not have the capacity to mount peacekeeping missions but in almost every country on the continent, defence tops the national budget. So why can’t African countries fully own the continent’s peace and security apparatus? Why depend on external funding?

The ownership of Africa’s security provision is one of Africa’s biggest challenges due to the lack of financial autonomy. Today, the AU is reliant on development partners for over 60% of its budget, rendering it weak and unable to mount its own peacekeeping missions.

For the AU to change the status quo of being heavily dependent on external partners, it needs to put in place measures and systems that support and contribute to a shared understanding of ownership, financing, accountability, evaluation and monitoring of the security provisions in member states and on the continent.

Is the failure to self-fund down to the dependency syndrome that we see almost everywhere in Africa, whereby the ‘international community’ more or less bankrolls major projects on the continent? 

Low funding by member states is the outcome of a set of processes, including a lack of political will and commitment, an inadequate process of setting member state contributions, as well as problems in enforcing compliance.

Unfortunately, the reliance on donors has essentially constrained the choices and priorities of the AU and forced it to comply with the interests of donors. Hopefully, this will change with the reforms.

So many reports have shown that annual illicit financial outflows from Africa range from between $50bn to $150bn a year. How can these be stemmed?

Illicit financial outflows in Africa have become a matter of major concern because of their scale and negative impact on Africa’s development. Illicit financial outflows emerge from corruption, illegal activities such as tax evasion, and illegal trade among other factors.

In order to stem illicit financial outflows, the first step should be for African countries to embark on decisive prevention and recovery of lost assets; the second is to build strong institutions to combat corruption, with financial institutions and a reformed legal system essential to diverting the massive outflows we witness leaving the continent each year. Greater coordination and cooperation is also required between the private sector, governments, international organisations and civil society.

Surely, peace and security in Africa will always depend on equitable use of the continent’s wealth by governments for the benefit of the people?

In Africa, the failure by governments to manage resources has frequently proven to be a major cause of political instability and turmoil. Natural resource management is at the heart of the process building in Africa and the social compact between the state and citizens.

Redistribution of incomes generated by national resources is paramount to stability, but natural resources are often manipulated into serving as tools for conflict and corruption, leading to human rights abuses and environmental degradation. This is directly related to the lack of good governance and the lack of accountability of governments. Adopting a course of resource nationalism equates to better management of contractual agreements with multinationals, less exports, more efforts to transform raw materials, and a clear vision to reinvest incomes into social and economic projects in respect of the above social contract.

MILITARY SPENDING IN AFRICA Military spending in Africa was $37.9bn in 2016, a 1.3% decrease compared to 2015.

AFRICAN UNION PEACE FUND The Peace Fund covers operational activities: Mediation and Preventive Diplomacy, Institutional Capacity and Peace Support Operations.

The July 2016 Assembly decided that the Peace Fund would be endowed with $325m in 2017, rising to a total of $400m by 2020 from the 0.2% levy. The endowment represents a maximum amount that will be replenished annually as needed.

This endowment will enable the AU to fully finance mediation and preventive diplomacy activities as well as meet its commitment to finance 25% of its peace operations budget.

UN PEACEKEEPING MISSIONS The approved budget for UN Peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year 1 July 2017-30 June 2018 is $6.8bn.

EU MISSIONS  The African Union (AU) leads efforts across the continent to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. The EU is a key partner for the AU on peace and security issues. Work in these areas has strong political backing and financial support from the EU’s African Peace Facility (APF).

Much of the funding for African-led peacekeeping operations comes from the APF, which had a budget of €900m for the period 2014-2016.

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Written by Desmond Davies

A former Editor of West Africa magazine in London Desmond Davies, originally from Sierra Leone, has been a journalist and commentator on African affairs for almost 40 years in the press, radio and television such as BBC World TV, Al Jazeera, Press TV and CNN. He has covered Africa extensively and has a wide range of influential contacts in the continent. Desmond holds an MA in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester in the UK. His specialities are strategic and political communications. Media and Communications Consult, Due Diligence Expert on Africa.

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