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by Benno Müchler

KAS Newsletter: African Union - December 16, 2022

49 heads of state and government travel to Washington DC. The continent is still ailing from the pandemic's economic shocks. 2023 will be a major election year for Africa. Who will become the new AU chairperson?

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

After some silence, we are happy to share with you the last edition of our AU newsletter this year. We hope that it can be helpful and appreciate your feedback.


U.S.-Africa Summit:

49 African leaders reportedly traveled to the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which took place over three days in Washington DC this week and ended yesterday. "The United States is all in on Africa's future," said President Joe Biden. The U.S. government announced a $55 billion package for food, trade and investment in Africa, as well as an additional $2.5 billion to support food security, which has become worse during the pandemic and as a consequence of the Ukraine war. America and the African Union (AU) also declared a strategic partnership. President Biden supported the position that the AU should have a permanent seat in the G20 forum in the future, something France's President Macron and China had promoted a few weeks ago at the summit in Bali. Whether the meeting in DC is more than a flash in the pan remains to be seen. U.S. foreign policy interest in Africa has declined, and not just since the Trump administration. The last U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit took place in 2014 during the term of President Obama.

EU-AU Meeting:

End of November, the commissions of the EU (20 out of 27 commissioners + president) and AU (five out of six commissioners + deputy chairperson + chairperson) met in Brussels to discuss progress of their partnership since their joint summit in February. President von der Leyen and President Faki Mahamat each emphasized that the "destinies" of the two continents are interlinked. The EU Commission condemned the Ukraine war in the final communiqué. At the summit in February, just days before the Russian aggression, the EU had promised 150 billion EUR in investments under its Global Gateway Initiative. Now, at a meeting in Brussels a few days ago, the EU said that key investments for some of the Gateway Initiative projects 'are being made', including to build a 7,100-km submarine fiber-optic cable to connect Europe and Africa and improve connectivity between the two continents. The EU is contributing 40 million EUR to the project.


Who will become the next AU Chairperson?

In less than two months, the 36th AU Summit will take place in Addis Ababa. It is still unclear who will assume the one-year rotating presidency, except that it will be the turn of the East African region. According to press reports, Kenya and the Comoros are currently in dispute over the presidency.


This weekend, Tunisia will hold its controversial parliamentary elections. Two weeks ago, Equatorial Guinea's President Obiang was confirmed in office after the country had advanced presidential and parliamentary elections. 2023 will be a major election year for the continent, with nine countries electing new heads of state and government, including Nigeria and the DR Congo. The AU Commission recently sent a pre-electoral political mission to Abuja to hold talks and assess whether the country is ready for the general elections end of February. Have a look at our KAS Guide to African Cabinets & Elections if you want to learn more about the balance of power in the 55 AU member states.

A few days ago, the AU held a meeting in Ethiopia’s northern town of Shire near the border with Eritrea between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF rebel group to discuss the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

AU Commission President Faki Mahamat condemned the violence between M23 rebels and other groups in eastern Congo that took the lives of dozens of civilians. These were just two of a long list of conflicts and problems discussed by the AU and UN at their sixth annual conference in early December. Kenya is leaving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council next year. Mozambique will take its seat. Gabon and Ghana will remain members for another year.

Economy and Trade:

Although Africa is no longer a continent of war and crisis as it was at the end of the 1990s and as it is still - and unjustly – sometimes labeled today, the current conflicts and the increase in unconstitutional changes of government must worry all stakeholders. The AU Industrialization Summit in Niger a few weeks ago rightly hinted to the existing problems. The conflicts also show how important it is to protect German and European investments better than before, insofar as politicians in Berlin and Brussels are serious about their increased commitment on the continent. Still, it would be a mistake to say there was only bad news from the continent recently. Ever since eight African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Egypt, Mauritius, Cameroon and Tunisia) took the initiative in October to actually begin trading under the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the world's largest free trade zone seems to gain momentum. For example, Ghana Commercial Bank and First Bank of Nigeria now processed the first payment under the Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS). The AfCFTA Secretariat, in cooperation with the World Bank, launched an audit to assess restrictions in all countries' services sectors.   


Benno Müchler

Country Representative Ethiopia/AU

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