AU Watch


The landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will be fully operational in 2020, has the potential to create a continental free-trade zone with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD$3.4 trillion, according to the African Union (AU). This trade agreement, if implemented fully, would become the largest in the world. The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan(2014-2023) under the AU’s Agenda 2063—”The Africa We Want.” Realistically, what do Africans really want?

The AfCFTA emphasizes the reduction of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and the facilitation of free movement of people and labor, right of residence, right of establishment, and investment. Yet the hype around the AfCFTA’s agenda could experience a boomerang effect if negotiations on some protocols and annexes become protracted. Despite its extensive propagation by the AU leadership, some experts have cautioned against the way ahead for the AfCFTA, yet expectations remain high. There are several challenges on the road ahead.

Member nations of the African Union vary in their preparedness to execute the requirements of the agreement and its related protocols and annexes. It is also a fact that in order for the AfCFTA to thrive, the continent needs to address the existing annual infrastructure deficit—about USD$108 billion according to the African Development Bank(2018)—to be able to drive free trade. Additionally, the continent would require billions of dollars to strengthen supply chains as well as fiscal and monetary policy in order to ensure that the benefits of the agreement are maximized. Primarily, there is the need to develop national strategies to guide the implementation of the AfCFTA. Accordingly, African countries must be willing to have open borders. Coincidentally, developments such as Nigeria’s August 2019 closing of its borders with Benin and Ghana may cripple the AfCFTA’s effectiveness, especially when all the involved countries are signatories to AfCFTA.

In the perspective of the great pan-Africanist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, “It is clear that we must find an African solution to Africa’s problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided, we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.” Likewise, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s recent Nobel Peace Prize honor can also inspire Africans to pursue the Africa they desire. To this end, Africans need to rally around the AfCFTA to make it a success. This is all the more important given the suboptimal impact on Africa’s development that has been derived from multilateral trade agreements to date. The AfCFTA might be the last gras

Progress to-date
• The Agreement establishing the AfCFTA was adopted in March 2018 with protocols on trade in goods;
• The Agreement entered into force on 30th May 2019;
• 54 AU Member States have signed the Agreement so far;
• 27 AU Member States have ratified and deposited their instruments of ratification;
• The AfCFTA Operational Phase was launched in July 2019 with the following instruments:
• The AfCFTA Trade in Goods Portal/Website where Member States will upload their initial tariff offers;
• The Pan-African Digital Payment and Settlement System;
• The Online Tool/Mechanism for Elimination of NTBs within the AfCFTA; and
• The Dashboard of the AU Trade Observatory.
• The Agreement will start trading under the AfCFTA Regime by July 1st, 2020;
• The AfCFTA Interim Secretariat has been set up at the AUC, while the Permanent Secretariat will be hosted in Ghana.

• Inadequate human and financial resources for completion of negotiations for phase I issues as well as to start phase II;
• Some Member States and partners are negotiating bilateral trade and investment agreements with Third Parties which is against the spirit of the Nouakchott Decision and may jeopardise the AfCFTA;
• The heavy reliance of AfCFTA’s smooth implementation on the progress of other projects such as PIDA, CAADP, SAATM and the protocol on free movement of people.

Next Steps
• Flexible mechanisms for mobilising resources will be established to ensure smooth implementation of AfCFTA.
• Arrangements will be made to continue sensitisation and deepen understanding of stakeholders on AfCFTA and its benefits.

African Union Commodity Strategy

Progress to-date
The updated draft African Union Commodity Strategy was presented to the 2nd Meeting of the STC on Trade Industry and Mining in January 2019 and will be presented to an extraordinary Specialised Technical Committee (STC) of Ministers of Trade, Industry and Minerals for adoption.

There is no dedicated unit nor staff to manage the day-to-day operations of the project.

Next Steps
• Establish a dedicated unit on African commodities;
• Undertake extensive consultations with Member States, RECs and other stakeholders to deepen ownership of the project; and
• Finalise the Draft African Union Commodity Strategy.

Continental High-Speed Railway Network project

Progress to-date
• The vision of the Continental High-Speed Railway Network project within the context of the AU Agenda 2063 has been elaborated;
• A detailed scoping study together with the strategy note has been completed;
• A process has been launched for contracting a firm to conduct the financial and technical, legal and institutional audit of the African Union of Railways, with a view to its revitalisation.

• Lack of funds for the detail engineering study;
• Lack of dedicated experts to manage the project under the project implementation unit.

Next Steps
• Undertake resource mobilisation for the next phases of the Continental High-Speed Train Network project;
• Strengthen the project implementation unit within the AU Development Agency;
• Revive the Union of African Railways to oversee and facilitate policy and strategic development of the railway sector in Africa.

Pan e-Network

Progress to-date
As of March 2017, the e-Network was installed in 48 AU Member States with the following achievements:

• 22,000 students obtained degrees in various undergraduate and graduate disciplines;
• 770 annual telemedicine consultations were carried out; and
• 6,700 continuous medical education sessions were held for nurses and doctors.

• In July 2017, the Government of India discontinued all services provided through the network and handed the infrastructure to the African Union Commission. Subsequently, the network infrastructure was relocated to Dakar and placed under the custody of the Government of Senegal. The Government of Senegal now meets the operational costs as a solution is being sought to resume the project activities.

Next Steps
• Undertake financial resource mobilisation for the continued operation of the e-Network, in response to a request from the STC on Communication and Information Communication Technology.

Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM)

Progress to-date
• Subsequently, the African Union Assembly officially launched SAATM in January 2018 during its 30th Ordinary Summit Session;
• 29 AU Member States covering almost 80% of intra-African air traffic have signed the Solemn Commitment to establishment the SAATM;
• 18 AU Member States have signed a Memorandum of Implementation (MoI) to ensure the removal of any air service agreement restrictions that are not in compliance with the Yamoussoukro Decision;
• 10 out of the 29 SAATM States have implemented all the SAATM concrete measures required by AFCAC. Furthermore, 10 Member States have signed new bilateral air services agreements that are compliant with the Yamoussoukro Decision. 

• Inadequate financial resources to enable the executing agency to become operational;
• Slow pace of Member States in subscribing to the Solemn Commitment.

Next Steps
• Strengthen advocacy efforts under the leadership of the SAATM champion to achieve a target of 40 Member States;
• Work out modalities for regional champions to add impetus to advocacy efforts at RECs level;
• Finalise the Dispute Settlement Mechanism for the SAATM – for adoption and dissemination;
• Speed up the elaboration of the aviation infrastructure masterplan (airports, navigation facilities, etc.) with priority projects to be included in the second phase of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa-Priority Action Plan (PIDA-PAP).

Cyber Security

Progress to-date
• Four Member States out of the required 15 have ratified the AU Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection;
• Data protection guidelines were developed and launched in 2018 and an African cybersecurity expert group was established;
• Many African countries are at AN early stage of developing their cyber strategies and are drafting and adopting cyber laws. Only 18 have national CERTs.

• Lack of budgetary resources for this project has caused delays in the implementation of the project.

Next Steps
• Undertake resource mobilisation for the functioning of the project to enable the capacity building of the continent on cybersecurity.

Pan African Virtual And E-University (PAVEU)

Progress to-date
• Four-course programmes have been identified for the launch of PAVEU, namely: Introduction to Virtualisation; Entrepreneurship Knowledge and Skills and Digital Literacy with Cloud Computing; Skills for Employability; and Media and Information Literacy.
• Strategic partnerships have been established with four key organisations that support quality assurance and delivery of PAVEU courses, including the African Council for Distance Education (ACDE), UNESCO, African Virtual University, and VMware.
• Setup of IT Infrastructure has commenced and guidelines and policies for PAVEU operationalisation have been developed.

• Inadequate staffing and equipment to support the delivery of online courses – including studio recording equipment and a reliable power supply plant.

Next Steps
• Recruitment of requisite staff to support PAVEU operationalisation and adequate allocation of financial resources.

African Outer Space Programme

Progress to-date
• The African Union convenes annual space dialogues with African space actors, and in the process, two documents have been produced:
• Priority areas of implementation by the African Outer Space Programme; and
• Study on Structural and Financial implications for African Space Agency.
• Two of the four baseline studies were carried out for developing operational programmes and missions. The studies are:
• Comprehensive Study on African Private Sector in Earth Observation, Geospatial and Allied Technologies; and
• Gap Analysis Study on Navigation and Positioning in Africa.
• The African Earth Observation (EO) System was strengthened to improve management of the environment. This was undertaken through the Global Monitoring for the Environment and Security (GMES) & Africa programme.

• Delays in consideration of the structural and financial implications of the African Space Agency.

Next Steps
• Facilitate accelerated consideration of structural and financial implications of the African Space Agency;
• Mobilise resources, including from the host country, for launching and subsequently implementing the African Space Agency;
• Support Member States, RECs and other institutions to operationalise the African Space Agency, including capacity building in areas such as earth observation; satellite communication, navigation and positioning, and space science and astronomy, as articulated in the African Space Policy and Strategy.

Great Museum Of Africa (GMA)

Progress to-date
• The allocation of the site of the Great Museum of Africa by the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria in a very strategic location between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Culture and with a good view of the city of Algiers which will allow to attract a large number of visitors to the GMA.
• The architectural design and environmental studies carried out and concluded by a team of architects and experts.
• Inaugurated the Technical and Advisory Committee for the establishment and launching of the Great Museum. The Committee is composed of representatives from AU Member States selected on a regional basis, and other independent culture and heritage experts.

• The main challenge of this project remains funding for the construction of the Museum and the equipment, estimated at USD 57 million.

Next Steps
• A business proposal by the Technical and Advisory Committee will be finalised and presented to potential partners.
• Finalise the host agreement between the Government of Algeria and the AUC, including the legal status of the institution.

Silencing Of The Guns And End Wars In Africa By The Year 2020

Progress to-date
• The AU High Representative (AUHR) continued his mobilisation efforts to elicit the contribution of stakeholders for the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap for Silencing the Guns.
• Following the adoption of the UNSC Resolution 2457 on Silencing the Guns under the chairmanship of Equatorial Guinea in February, the UN Secretary-General established a UN task force to mobilise UN-wide support for the implementation of the Silencing the Guns Roadmap and the AUC Action Plan. The task force has had several technical planning meetings with the Silencing the Guns Unit, as well as bilateral meetings with specific UN agencies to identify key areas of support. These include, amongst others, disarmament, women and youth in peace and security, counterterrorism, peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
• African Members to the UN Security Council are making efforts to promote the Silencing the Guns agenda on the international forum.

• Inadequate financial and human resources to implement the project;
• There is little visibility on Member States programmes for effective implementation of the theme of the year and the AU master roadmap.

Next Steps
• Undertake resource mobilisation for project implementation;
• Provide technical support to Member States to prepare National Action Plans for Silencing the Guns;
• Strengthen coordination platforms and enhance M&E mechanisms to assist in managing and reporting on the progress of implementation at various high-level platforms, including the AU Summit.

Free Movement Of All Persons And African Passport

Progress to-date
• The Protocol to the Treaty on the Establishment of the African Economic Community relating to Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment was adopted in January 2018 together with a comprehensive implementation roadmap;
• Popularisation of the Protocol on free movement of persons has been undertaken – involving Member States and RECs with a view to achieving the requisite 15 ratifications for the Protocol to come into force;
• 32 Member States have signed the Protocol; only one Member State, Rwanda, has ratified it; and
• Guidelines on the design, production and issuance of the African Passport were endorsed by the AU-STC on Migration, Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Nov. 2018 and subsequently adopted by the AU Assembly of February 2019.

• There has been a slow pace of signature and ratification of the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons;
• Restrictive visa regimes in some AU Member States which constrain cross-border movement of persons;
• A strong perception of security threats posed by free movement of persons;
• Weak technical capacities of Member States in producing and issuing the African Passport to African citizens; and
• Slow pace of compliance of Member States to start issuing visas on arrival to all African travellers.

Next Steps
• Enhance advocacy efforts and popularise the Protocol and African Passport; motivate for designating a sitting Head of State or Government as the champion for free movement of persons and the African Passport;
• Support Member States to put in place policies that allow issuance of visas upon arrival and progressively strive towards the abolition of visas in the future;
• The AU Peace and Security Council in collaboration with the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa and other related mechanisms at the level of RECs will continue to facilitate debates on security implications and benefits of free movement of persons;
• Working in collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), provide necessary technical backstopping to Member States in producing and issuing the African Passport to African citizens;
• AU Member States to put in place appropriate systems at all ports of entry to facilitate quick access to relevant information.

The Continental Financial Institutions

Progress to-date
• 22 signatures of the legal instruments of the AIB have been registered: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Libya, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, and Zambia. Among them, only six have ratified these instruments: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo, Libya, and Togo.
• 12 signatures have been registered for the AMF: Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, and Zambia. Only one instrument of ratification has been deposited by Chad.
• A host agreement with Cameroon on the headquarters of AMF was signed in 2018.
• Nigeria has availed office space to set-up the AMI. A draft statute and host agreement have been developed and are yet to be finalised.
• Work is on-going with the African Securities Exchanges Association to link African exchanges with the ultimate goal of establishing the PASE in stages. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) is in the process of being forged to strengthen the partnership.
• The Commission has started the process of appointing H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, as the Champion for the AUFIs.
• The terms of reference for the champion have been developed.
• A comprehensive study to establish the challenges of signing and ratifying the legal instruments is underway.

• The ratification process has been slow; and
• The appointment of the champion has taken long and thereby impacting on project implementation.

Next Steps
• Finalise the revision of timelines for the establishment of the ACB;
• Finalise and agree upon the macro-economic convergence criteria;
• Fast-track the appointment of the champion; and
• Commence the implementation of the strategy to fast-track the signature and ratification of the legal instruments of AMF and AIB.

African Economic Platform

The African Economic Platform is an Agenda 2063 programme that brings together African heads of state, business leaders, academics and youth to have frank discussions and deliberate on Africa’s development. The inaugural African Economic Platform was held in Mauritius, in 2017, with attendance of nine Heads of State, ten ministers and ambassadors, three RECs, 55 members of the private sector and academia and five young entrepreneurs and civil society. A roadmap on the implementation of the first AEP recommendations was developed and a concept note for the establishment of the African Business Council Platform and Trade Observatory was developed.

The Grand Inga Hydropower Project

Progress to-date
• Following the decision by the Government of DRC in 2018 to change Inga 3 concept from 4,800MW to 11,000MW for a total investment cost of US$ 18bn – including US$ 4bn for the transmission lines – an agreement was signed in October 2018 between the Government and a consortium of Chinese and Spanish companies to undertake technical studies and environmental and socio-economic impact assessments of Inga 3. The investment costs will be mobilised by the consortium.
• Out of the 11,000MW capacity, South Africa would like to receive 5,000MW, Nigeria 3,000MW, mining companies in DRC 1,300MW and the rest for the DRC National Utility (SNEL). Guinea also expressed a desire to buy 7,500MW.
• In 2019, the DRC Government in collaboration with the “Agence de Développement et de Promotion du Projet Inga (ADPI)” organised promotion events of the Grand Inga project.

• Financial resource mobilisation is taking much longer than expected causing delays in project implementation.
• The addition of new interested Member States on the project and the concept of 11,000MW will affect the previously concluded agreements and coordination arrangements, including agreements made with countries through which transmission lines will pass.

Next Steps
• Intensify resource mobilisation efforts;
• Engage with countries where the transmission lines to South Africa and to Nigeria (Inga-Calabar) will pass to sign agreements; and
• Provide requisite support to the Government of DRC in setting up a continental coordination arrangement for the project.

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