The two-day summit, held at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, was unanimous regarding the advancement of ongoing reforms to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the AU Commission.

Some of the proposals included the addition of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to the existing structure of the AU, the division of labour between the regional economic communities and the AU, and stronger sanctions against member states that fail to make their statutory financial contributions within the agreed period.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the AU Commission, told reporters, “Today we have adopted a set of sanctions including a total suspension of a member state that can no longer participate in the meetings of the assembly or any meeting of the African Union.”

He added, “We can’t wait until the end of the financial year for payment to be made. There are sanctions.”

Financial autonomy

The contribution required from AU member states towards the bloc’s budget has increased to 14 percent in 2017, which is an 11 percent increase from previous years, according to AU figures. Currently the AU depends on foreign donors, who, in 2019, will pay for 54 percent of a total budget of US$681.5 million, or 596 million euros.

The Africa we want. Photo: African Union 2063 Agenda document screenshot

The AU’s initial financing proposal, dating from the 2016 Rwanda Summit, seeks to create “equitable and predictable sources of financing and reduce dependency on partner funds, and cover 100 percent of the AU’s operational budget, 75 percent of its program budget and 25 percent of its peace funding,” as reported by Xinhua news agency.

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The proposal directs member states to implement a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports from non-AU member countries to help the union realise its goal of financial independence.

However, this was met with criticism from the US mission to the AU, which issued a statement saying while it supported the AU’s self-funding goals, it was opposed to “trade measures” to achieve them as they violated the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

“We are proud of our partnership with the AU and will continue to work with the AU to find impactful ways to bring peace and security to the continent,” the statement sent to AFP news service read.

Trade measures are still in contention but the AU has agreed to reduce the number of commissions from eight to six. This would see the peace and security commission being merged with political affairs and trade and industry being merged with economic affairs. The AU is also supporting moves to streamline the body while bringing in revenue from member states and sanctioning members that do not comply with timely payment.

The 2019 budget, excluding peace support operations, expects the contribution from member states to reach 66 percent, while 34 percent is projected to be secured from development partners.