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Africa Update#6-7

 Week of 9 August, 2010 – Vol.2.6-7

African Union:

As the Pan-African Parliament seeks more powers, it has asked African governments to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

In a communiqué issued in Kampala, Uganda, at the end of a consultative meeting to review the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community, the Pan-African Parliament urged the speedy ratification of the treaty in the manner in which the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) was done. Members of the African Parliament are also keen to see it evolve into an institution with legislative powers and whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage.

The Midrand-based Pan-African institution has t set January 2011 as the deadline for the ratification of the African Charter. Presently, only six countries have ratified the Charter (Lesotho, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Mauritania), with Ghana ratifying it only in July 2010. For it to be fully operational, nine other countries need to ratify it to make 15 countries.

AU chairman Bingu wa Mutharika has encouraged other countries to ratify the charter. The AU chairman’s country, Malawi, has yet to ratify the charter.

The Vice President of the PAP Cde. Gumbo said the charter’s main aim was to promote and strengthen democratic principles and procedures. Once passed, it will, according to UNDP programme advisor, Dr.Khabele Matlosa “prohibit the scourge of unconstitutional changes of government, which threatens stability, peace and security”.

AU on climate change

In an attempt to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change, the AU Commission is working on a strategy. The Head of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Dr.Khalil Timamy, says poor countries on the continent would be enabled through a fund to put in place mitigation measures.

Speaking at an African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) meeting, Dr. Timamy explained that though the strategy is late in coming, it is crucial to ensure there is a set programme for African countries to put in place structures that address environmental challenges since climate issues is not a one-off matter.

Timamy stressed the incorporation of climate information in planning by African governments to ensure that development projects are not devastated in the event of being affected by the vagaries of the climate.

·         As the deadly bombings in Kampala, Uganda has brought into sharp focus the need to dynamise the African Standby Force (ASF), the AU Commission says that Africa’s proposed standby conflict-intervention force will become operational before the end of 2010.

The five regional units of the force are training personnel, some of whom will be ready for deployment in September, explained the AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra. Each will provide no less than 5,000 soldiers, police officers and civilians.

The AU summit that just ended in Kampala will have the authority to deploy the force to fight terrorism, drug trafficking, piracy and to work in conflict zones.

The AU Commission will continue to liaise with the UN and other agencies for financial and military hardware support for the proposed force.

·         A multi-billion-dollar new infrastructure development initiative has been jointly launched by the AU Commission, NEPAD, and the African Development Bank (ADB). African heads of state will remain key stakeholders of the programme.

The initiative, dubbed the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) has been structured in a way that its sponsors will see maximum participation and consultation from a wide range of stakeholders.

It is to be carried out by the regional economic communities, working closely with their member states and AU specialized institutions. PIDA is intended to establish an infrastructure development programme over a time period up to 2030. Access PIDA website here: http://www.pidafrica.org/index.html

·         Reports indicate that African countries are on track in meeting requirements for a monetary union set for 2021. This has raised hopes for the merging of African currencies.

A meeting convened in Nairobi, Kenya, early July that brought together more than seven central bank governors under the Association of African Central Banks (AACB), explained that the objective in having a common currency and a common central bank in the next 11 years, was on track as “most of the active members have been meeting a number of macro-economic convergence targets.”

The decision and move to merge continental-level currencies comes on the back of the coming-into-effect of the East African Community Common Market protocol this July.

ECOWAS

The 15-member sub-regional grouping is set to establish a special fund for transportation and energy in the sub-region. The Nigerian News Agency reports that Marie Delesse Schwisenberg, an envoy of President Laurent Gbagbo, has been mandated by ECOWAS to oversee the establishment of the fund. Goodluck Jonathan, the Nigerian president has commended the initiative.

Still with ECOWAS, the Togo-based ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development has begun selling 30 billion CFA francs ($59.2million) worth of bonds to fund loans in the sub-region. The securities, which will mature in 2017, will be on offer until August 31, 2010.

EAC

Addressing the 3rd World Conference of Speakers of Parliament in Geneva in July, at a three-day event organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly Rt. Hon. Haithar Abdi called for an inclusion of parliaments in global policy decision-making processes.

Themed “Parliament in a World of Crisis: Securing Global Democratic Accountability for the Common Good", the summit focused on democracy, the role of the legislative institutions and their relationship with the UN.

A private-sector-led team, mainly drawn from that sector, will soon be established at the Ministry of East African Community. Its prime objective will be to provide recommendations on integration issues.

The new committee is supposed to work hand-in-hand with a group of private sector operators at the EAC level which, when set up, is expected to convene a meeting once every year to debate on policies and advise the Secretariat on the way forward on the integration process.

EAC Assistant Minister Peter Munya assured participants that East Africa was set to achieve the objectives as outlined in the EAC Treaty, which would eventually see the region become a political federation. Critical to this is the viability of establishing a Monetary Union by 2012.

The EAC is also considering the establishment of an East African Development Fund that would assist the struggling countries to fully be a part of the EAC Community.

{C}·         {C}Still on the EAC, further complicating the issue of overlapping membership of RECs, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), already a member of the AU-recognised REC that is the  Economic Community of Central African States, has shown signs of wanting to join the EAC by first establishing itself as an observer to the five-member bloc.

The country’s ambassador to Tanzania, Juma-Alfani Mpango, put paid to any doubts of the contrary by saying that the status given was a precursor to DRC membership. He explained that his government was working a process by which DRC would gradually integrate with the EAC.

DRC is a vast country with membership also of COMESA and SADC, two blocs that are working with the EAC to establish a Free Trade Area.

It is noteworthy that former ECCAS member Rwanda pulled out of that bloc in 2007 to join EAC, but DRC has chosen to remain both a member of ECCAS and an eventual member of the five-member bloc.

SADC

The 15-member bloc plans to establish a single currency by 2018, and a single central bank by 2016. Although this remains problematic on account of disparities in the economies of SADC countries, head of the Secretariat of SADC’s Committee of Central Bank Governors, Mshiyeni Belle says the countries are already doing a lot to stabilize their economies and make them more aligned.

SADC authorities have been quoted as saying that they will not be deterred by developments in the Eurozone to deter or discourage them from moving towards a single currency by 2018.

When all’s done and dusted, there is the thorny issue of which currency should be used for the region once the conditions for the region to become unified under one currency have been met.

Still on SADC, the Angolan embassy in Botswana reported that the Early Warning Centre of SADC tasked with monitoring conflicts in the region has been inaugurated in the capital.

The regional reporting and monitoring centre will enable member States to collect data and assess eventual situations of instability in the sub-region.

To become fully operational, member states would have to create National Centres which will report to the Regional Centre in Gabarone, for assessment and analysis of potential threats to regional stability.

CENSAD

Leaders of the 28-member CENSAD have agreed to restructure the organs of their organization, with the objective of revitalizing it.

The new chairman of CENSAD—Chadian president Idriss Deby Itno, has been mandated to establish a limited ministerial committee in charge of preparing a new framework on the structure, objectives and programmes of the bodies of the Community.

Following a submission of the report and recommendations to Deby, the president will be compelled to convene an extraordinary summit within three months.

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