Today in Addis Ababa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will officially be inaugurated as the first woman leader of the African Union Commission. As she takes up office I would encourage her to focus on five quick wins:
1. Widen support among Member States: While conclusive, the vote to elect the South African Ms Dlamini-Zuma was narrowly won. The election has left a number of important players bruised in the process. Key among them would be the Ambassadors from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya among others.
Proactively reach out to those individuals that were supporting the candidature of Jean Ping (the incumbent and rival candidate) and interview them on their expectations of her leadership going forward. Visibly appoint within your office a diverse set of nationalities. Given the tendency to only appoint from the nationality of the Office-bearer, this would send a strong signal to the rest of the continent that you are willing to draw your counsel and advice from non-South Africans.
2. Invigorate the Commission and other AU Organs: The African Union Commission (AUC) needs a clear and focused strategic vision and set of outcomes. It needs to learn and be informed by public feedback on its performance since 2008. Link the review of the African Union to the drafting of a new strategic plan.
Launch a comprehensive and public consultation on the performance of the Commission and other AU Organs over 2008-2012 with a view to identifying the lessons and future strategic directions. Narrow the AUC Commission down to a manageable set of competencies, strategic areas and results delivery and declare this publicly. A key step would be to seek input on the Terms of Reference for the review and Strategy development process from African Governments, non-state actors and funders .
3. AUC Management: The absence of clear management lines between Commissioners and Directors has been a dysfunctional aspect of the Commission’s effectiveness. There is also no clarity on what the Commission can disclose to the public and what it can’t and where public engagement is particularly welcome.
Institute a regular system of performance objectives based on results, regular reviews of expenditures and action on various internal audit findings. Start consultation on the process of establishing a modern information and participation disclosure policy. Identify a physical space for Addis-based and visiting non-state actors to have policy discussions and engage AU staff and Member States. There is both space in the new AUC compound and precedence with the media centre. This would be an easy win and a step towards consolidating a people-driven Union.
4. Weak implementation of AU decisions by Member States: Weak ratification, domestication and national implementation of AU decisions is the source of many observers’ criticisms that the AU is a talk-shop.
Accelerate the 2010 Executive Council decision to institute an official monitoring mechanism. Publicly call for States to ratify and implement all outstanding Treaties, but given their importance, the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) especially. Prioritise three critical and current challenges to Africa, namely: rising inequalities; foreign land-grabs for food, minerals and fuel exports; and the growing gap between policy-makers and citizens, as evidenced in North Africa and elsewhere.
5. AU outreach to non-state actors and the public: The AU is still remote, inaccessible and irrelevant to the masses of African people. A 2008 Afrobarometer public opinion survey of ten countries recorded less than 30 per cent of the public thinking the AU was helpful to their country. The Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) is currently in danger.
Prioritise the Audit requested by the July 2012 Summit before a new election of ECOSOCC is carried out. Establish in the first three months a consultation with African and international civil society organisations (CSOs) on strengthening the relationship between non-state actors and AU Organs. A list of key influential CSO leaders can be shared for this event.
This was originally posted at http://irunguh.wordpress.com/