The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs in Financing the African Union

Contribution to a special issue “AU@20: Looking Back and Thinking Forward on the Impact of the African Union on Deepening Continental Integration in Africa”, Southern African Public Law, edited by Nciko wa Nciko & Babatunde Fagbayibo

Money makes the world go round. The African Union (AU) is no exception to this rule, and in its first two decades, the organisation’s politics has never been far removed from questions about money. Over the last few years, the power of money has become more significant, with the revitalisation of the AU Peace Fund, member states’ substantive decrease of the AU’s budget for 2019, and the highly-publicised allegations of Chinese espionage in the AU’s Chinese-built headquarters building completed in 2012. But during its first two decades, the AU has also found it difficult to obtain funding for its transformative, Pan-African agenda from resources in and outside the continent.

Read the full article here:

The War in Ukraine and Institutional Complexity in European Security: Situating the EU’s New Strategic Compass

The EU’s new security strategy, the Strategic Compass, aims to expedite security and defence cooperation in Europe. To do so, it embraces a variable geometry of cooperation and a pragmatic approach to institutional overlap. But can the EU deliver on these ambitious goals? Connected to broader debates on multilateral decision-making, modalities of international cooperation, and institutional complexity, this blog post assesses the potential merits and pitfalls of the Strategic Compass.

Read my blog with Moritz Neubert on the Geneva Graduate Institute’s Global Governance Centre “The Global”:

Analysis of African Union decisions from February 2022: Wicked challenges in AU funding and reform, but an increasing commitment to paying up on time

The African Union (AU) continued to grapple with implementing its important and difficult reforms also during the past year. While there is very welcome progress in particular in terms of decreasing arrears with assessed contributions, many reform projects face significant obstacles. Below, I summarize the Assembly and Executive Council decisions from January/February 2022 on AU reforms and funding.

Find the full decisions here: Assembly, Executive Council.

Member state assessed contributions

EX.CL/Dec.1162(XL), article 2-10; Assembly/AU/Dec. 838(XXXV)

In an encouraging sign of reversal of trends in the mid-2010s, Member States have paid 88% of their assessed contributions in 2021.

Somalia, Libya, Burundi and Seychelles had received exemptions for inability to pay, and are on payment plans. Somalia, Sechelles and Burundi have cleared their arrears by February 2022. The Assembly has also decided to write off 50% of Libya’s arrears, “given the well-known long-standing complex situation”.

The following states are under sanctions for not paying assessed contributions on time:

  • Cautionary sanctions: Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea and Congo. These states lost their speaking right at AU meetings
  • Intermediate sanctions: South Sudan, which has lost voting rights, office eligibility, recruitment of South Sudanese nationals, among other things. Note that South Sudan has an ongoing process with Sudan on assessed contributions (EX.CL/Dec.1119(XXXVIII).

The current Scale of Assessment, allotting percentages of the AU budget to Member States according to their financial capacity and political willingness, will be extended by one year. The new scale will apply to financial years 2024-26, and will need to reflect in particular challenging discussions on whether it also applies to the Peace Fund, where some regions have complained about being solicited too much compared to others. Opposition comes particularly from the North bloc, and the Executive Council further delayed a decision on the matter until July 2022.

Peace Fund

EX.CL/Dec.1162(XL), article 3

The Peace Fund stood at $252 million in February 2022. The original plan was to endow the Fund with $400 million by 2020. The operationalization of the Fund continues to be challenging, but already last year, the Fund apparently generated some interest.

AU financing reform

Assembly/AU/Dec. 819(XXXV)

The implementation of the 0.2% levy continues to stall. A deadline for reporting on the progress of the reform has been extended to February 2023.

Dealing with dormant funds

(EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), article 16)

The Executive Council decided to close seven dormant funds. Differences between ledger balances and actual bank balances are vast and member states surely must have raised questions about almost $22 million missing from these accounts. Such dormant funds are also a testament to challenges in professional AUC accounting throughout the 2010s.

Ein Bild, das Tisch enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

Implementation of Golden Rules for Financial Management

EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), articles 17-18, Assembly/AU/Dec. 821(XXXV)

Agreed in 2018, the Golden Rules for Financial Management and Accountability have become important norms and goals for AU Member States’ supervision of AUC financial management. In what seems to evidence considerable delays with the full implementation of the principle that all AUC revenue must be predictable and accounted for, the Executive Council criticizes the AUC does not fully use its AMERT system (Africa Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Tool).

The only Golden Rule officially not implemented is the harmonization between the SAP systems used by the Finance department, and AMERT used by Strategic Planning. Here, Member States are losing patience and for the first time hint at giving up on AMERT: “The AUC should work on the AMERT system to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the system, and if AMERT is no longer fit for the purpose, finance should start using the project module in SAP for planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting projects performance, or look for any other suitable system.” EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), article 18.iv.

Pressure is also mounting on International Partners (IPs) who do not deliver on their funding pledges. While the AU cannot sanction IPs like Member States if they do not pay on time, the February 2022 decisions are a clear criticism of lackluster delivery on IP funding commitments:

“Partners with low funding as compared to the pledges made should be engaged early during the budget year and strong commitments should be sought from Partners before programmes are put in budget proposals” EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), article 18.iv.

Finally, the Assembly also adopted new Revised AU Financial Rules, which will hopefully streamline financial management and compliance with international public financial management standards.

AU Partnership Strategy

EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), article 37-38

After years of delays on similar efforts assessing and guiding AU partnerships, the AU is now set to approve the new AU Partnerships Strategy and Policy Framework in June/July 2022. For a good backgrounder, see this ECDPM paper by Philomena Apiko:

Across all partnerships, Member States continue to try to maximize participation of all Member States in line with an important decision on participation Assembly/AU/Dec.762(XXXIII), of February 2020, in particular:

Assembly Decision No. Assembly/AU/Dec.762(XXXIII), of February 2020, which decided that: “African Union/African Continent shall be represented at the Statutory Meetings of partnership between the African Union/African Continent and a partner country by the Members of the Bureau of the Assembly of the Union, the Chairpersons of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the Chairperson of the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) of AUDA-NEPAD and the Chairperson of the AU Commission”.

AUDA-NEPAD’s budget challenges and delays with the African Development Fund

EX.CL/Dec.1143(XL), article 68-73

Taking a stance on the intended differentiation of the AUC as a policy organ and the AUDA-NEPAD as an implementing actor, the Executive Council recalled its mandate to AUDA-NEPAD to undertake “the full range of resource mobilization”. The implication of this stance is that several departments of the AUC would have to wind down their substantive development-related activities, as AUDA-NEPAD should be “coordinating, facilitating and promoting cooperation with Africa’s strategic stakeholders and partners to ensure effective resource mobilization.»

This stance arises in the context of “budgetary challenges facing AUDA-NEPAD”. In addition to unpaid funds, there is also a need for a “basket fund for unused funds from partners”. Given that AUDA-NEPAD usually has contracts with highly specific modalities and policy purposes, that endeavor will be hard to implement.

The African Development Fund, first agreed in principle by the Executive Council in 2019, is still not operational, and is now due to be operationalized by the end of 2023. Note that this is a different instrument than an identically named African Development Bank (AfDB) instrument.

Domestic resource mobilization and Illicit Financial Flows

EX.CL/Dec.1144(XL), articles 57-73

After a period of relative silence on the implementation of the 2015 Mbeki report, the AU now seems to be keen to gear up efforts to increase Africa’s fiscal base. The AU is creating a “Continental Platform on African Tax Issues to improve Domestic Resources Mobilization and fight against IFFs on the continent”. It furthermore is advancing in the creation of the “African Diaspora Finance Corporation” (ADFC)

Dates of 2023 Summit

Assembly/AU/Dec. 825(XXXV)

  1. Forty second (42nd) Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, 15 to 16 February 2023;
  2. iii)  Thirty-Sixth (36th) Ordinary Session of the Assembly, 18 and 19 February 2023.

Policy brief: Overcoming APSA’s challenges through new approaches to collective security

Policy brief written for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s rollout of the APSA 2040 scenario report on the future of the African Peace and Security Architecture.

For two decades already, the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) has guided African and external stakeholders engagement for peace and security in Africa. Over time, a double crisis of lacking political will and low adaptedness to new forms of conflict challenged APSA implementation. Overcoming these challenges will require a concerted effort by all APSA stakeholders. This policy brief provides a succinct, policy-relevant summary of FES’s New Approaches to Collective Security project roll-out, based on an extensive scenario-building and consultation process with stakeholders in numerous AU member states and multilateral hubs, including Addis Ababa, Brussels, and New York. This policy brief summarizes key findings and formulates actionable policy recommendations on principles, activities and priorities that African and European stakeholders could pursue.

Read the full report and recommendations here:

ECDPM Discussion Paper: Merging peace and politics: How will the African Union address the governance agenda?

Discussion paper for the European Centre for Development Cooperation Management (ECDPM), co-authored with Martin Ronceray and Lidet Tadesse Shiferaw.

The merger of the African Union Commission’s Department of Peace and Security and its Department of Political Affairs is one of the most prominent changes that African Union (AU) reform has delivered. Subscribing to a global trend of adopting more integrative approaches to conflicts and their political causes, the merger yields potential for streamlined AU action.

This paper identifies three possible scenarios of how the African Governance Architecture (AGA) might fare in the merged Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS). AGA might see marginalisation, magnification or simply more of the same. Arguing that a stronger AGA through magnification is desirable, the paper analyses how different drivers of the security-governance merger – such as institutional complexity, ambivalent conceptions of ‘governance’, a clash between non-indifference and sovereignty, AU leadership and international partners – jointly account for a situation where the governance agenda risks being sidelined compared to the AU’s peace and security activities.

Making the merger a success from a ‘governance’ perspective will depend on fine-tuning institutional arrangements to: leave space for AU leadership to take hold, prevent new governance-security silos emerging, and rapidly deliver a few AGA quick wins through election observation, mediation and early warning. Separately, stakeholders can help enhance political traction by establishing a new governance narrative that factors in member states’ concerns, with AGA ‘doing less, but better’. Finally, the magnification of governance requires fine-tuned external funding partnerships to support PAPS without constraints, and substantive partnerships with international and civil society organisations that enhance the department’s operational capacity.

Link to the full paper:

Recording of launchwebinar in cooperation with the Institute for Security Studies:

“Should I do a PhD?” Questions for prospective doctoral students in IR/political science

“Should I do a PhD?” Questions for prospective doctoral students in IR/political science

After several conversations with future, current and past PhD students in my field, here is the list of honest questions prospective doctoral students can think about.

Don’t let the critical nature of these questions distract you. With the right motivation, context and people, a PhD is one of the most rewarding experiences one can embark on!

1. Why do I want to do a PhD?

Your motivation is what will carry you through some potentially testing and ultimately reward years of study. Be clear on your deep, intrinsic motivations and complement them with extrinsic goals beyond completing the degree. Calling yourself a doctor is not going to be enough.

Ask yourself: What is my intrinsic motivation – during my studies, for myself? And what is my extrinsic motivation – in terms of career opportunities or real world impact? This has implications on methods and research topic, as a PhD for a policy career can be quite different from one for an academic career.

2. The nature of doing a PhD:

Have I understood how the PhD differs from a Master’s degree?

Is independent research with sometimes limited supervision something I am ready for?

Have I understood the difficulties of the academic labour market?

3. Implications for private life:

Am I ready to move abroad (also after the PhD)?

What do my partner and my family think?

4. Opportunity costs:

What will I lose by doing a PhD? What career paths will I give up on?

Am I ready to see my peers advance quicker outside academia, both professionally and financially?

5. Alternatives: Taking non-academic career steps seriously

A minority of PhD holders finish up in academia. Even if academia is your goal, have a clear set of alternatives. Develop them early, and don’t settle on a single path. Ask yourself: How can I maintain/gain a foothold in the non-academic/policy world? How can I translate my doctoral training in the language of the policy world? What aspects of my doctoral work will be appreciated more, which less?

6. Topic & format:

What topic will I be passionate about for 3-5 years and is career relevant?

Do I prefer (and I am allowed) to write a papers-based dissertation or a monograph?

7. Methods:

What methods do I want to use?

Am I ready to fit into a discipline that is increasingly dominated by quantitative and data driven methods?

8. Funding:

Is there a reliable prospect of financing the entirety of my doctoral studies?

What’s my plan B if a promised scholarship/position falls through?

9. Department/University:

What is the faculty like?

Is there a doctoral school and/or coursework requirements?

Is there a cohort of other doctoral students with whom I can interact?

Is there a track record of good academic placement of doctoral students?

10. Supervision:

Which professor will supervise me? What is their availability and have they supervised many other students? Can you potentially speak to a current/former supervisee?

Apart from the committee, who are my academic mentors?

Comments and suggestions for edits are welcome in the comments below or by e-mail!

ISA International Organization Section – Lawrence S. Finkelstein Prize

The International Studies Association’s  International Organization Section has kindly awarded me the Lawrence S. Finkelstein Prize for Best Paper at the (cancelled) ISA Annual Conference 2020. The prize recognizes the best graduate student paper on international organizations. I submitted a paper drawing from my on-going doctoral dissertation on the financing and reforms of the African Union.

Launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area

Africa’s new continental free trade area, the AfCFTA, is a remarkable achievement. However, decisive diplomatic, technical and social action is needed for it to succeed. Find my co-written article with Frank Mattheis on the challenges and achievements of the African Union’s new Continental Free Trade Area here:

A radio interview with SA FM’s Bongi Gwala can be found here: