Why does Africa need its own humanitarian agency?
The African Union’s African Humanitarian Agency (AFHA) will guide and coordinate actions across the continent to prevent and respond to humanitarian disasters, allowing Africa to take direct responsibility for activities that until now have been left mainly in the hands of foreign agencies and donors.
The creation of the African Union’s African Humanitarian Agency (AFHA) builds on age-old pan-African values to protect women, youth and the elderly.
The AFHA has a mandate of high strategic importance within the AU’s Agenda 2063. It is funded by African resources: $140m in pledges were secured at the African Union Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in May.
Three-quarters of global humanitarian activity takes place in Africa. The continent is home to 26% of the world’s refugees and some 115m Africans are in need of assistance. The AFHA will work hand in hand with national, regional and international bodies, including the UN system and UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. It aims to become a major continental organisation to serve as a platform for accelerating action to forge a humanism with an African face. It will adopt global best practices in partnership with international humanitarian agencies.
The AFHA must act swiftly to protect and assist the most vulnerable people, women and children in humanitarian emergencies. Africa has never played a leading role in the continent’s humanitarian space, even though it has already dealt with refugees, migrants and people displaced by armed conflict, economic and political hardship or climate and health risks.
With its full operationalisation, the new agency is moving quickly to prioritise interventions across the continent. It is expected to lead the formulation and implementation of humanitarian action in Africa by proactively collaborating with humanitarian agencies. The AFHA’s mandate makes it the centrepiece of humanitarian action and marks a real turning point for the continent. It is an extremely important step for Africa to take direct responsibility for this humanitarian activity, which until now has been left mainly in the hands of foreign agencies and donors.
African solutions to African problems
The AFHA is now responsible for guiding and coordinating the continent in preventing and responding to humanitarian disasters. Africa has brilliantly demonstrated its ability to find African solutions to African problems. The best illustration of this African solidarity was the reaction of African countries in combating the Covid pandemic and the Ebola epidemic. The intervention of governments, banks and the private sector was immediate and a great success in the humanitarian fight.
This proactive attitude to leaving no one behind has enabled the mobilisation of significant human and financial resources to ensure access to life-saving vaccines and essential medical equipment. A considerable number of professionals and experts in the health and finance sectors have emerged on the continent with the skills and knowledge to manage large-scale humanitarian actions.
Individual skills and organisational capacity are essential to transform the humanitarian landscape and ensure Africa’s development. AFHA builds on its local knowledge, engages in dialogue with local leaders, and identifies local priorities and community mobilisation structures. This enables the formation of joint intervention teams in partnership with international organisations that have a head start in the humanitarian field.
The AFHA, as the sovereign leader on the continent, builds on these partnerships to ensure the efficient and timely delivery of emergency humanitarian services. The new agency must be neutral, non-partisan and independent in order to address the challenges of national borders and diversity on the continent and to operate effectively in Africa’s fragile hotspots. The AFHA must continue the giant steps taken since Malabo to complete the effective establishment of the agency and its rapid operationalisation.