The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation Contents

Chapter 3: Africa’s regional organisations

The African Union

120.The AU is the continent’s regional body. All 54 African states, and the Sahrawi Republic—a partially recognised state—are members.172

121.The AU was launched in 2002.173 This followed the 1999 Sirte Declaration, which called for the establishment of a union “to work towards increased co-operation and integration of African states”, and to “drive Africa’s growth and economic development”.174 Its vision is: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”175

122.Professor Murithi said that the experience of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was one of the “driving factors” behind the creation of the AU. This could be seen in its Constitutive Act, which had “a very strong emphasis on addressing conflict”. It “empowers the AU to intervene in situations of grave concern, when crimes have been committed—war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide”.176 There had also been momentum from “economic processes going back to 1980”,177 which “led to a strong case for regional integration and economic collaboration across borders”.178

123.The AU is the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established in 1963 as Africa’s first post-independence continental institution. Its principal areas of focus were the fight for decolonisation and ending apartheid.179

Structure of the AU

124.There are five regions of the AU: north, south, east, west, central,180 plus the diaspora. Figure 2 shows these regions and their members.

Figure 2: The regions of the African Union

Source: State of the African Diaspora, ‘The 6th Region of Africa’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

The Chairperson of the AU

125.The Chairperson of the AU is selected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, following consultations by member states.181 The current Chairperson is Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa.182

The African Union Commission

126.The African Union Commission (AUC) is the AU’s secretariat. It undertakes the day-to-day activities of the Union. It is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.183

127.The Chairperson of the AUC is the chief executive officer, legal representative of the AU and the Commission’s chief accounting officer. The current AUC Chairperson is Moussa Faki Mahamat, Republic of Chad. He assumed office in March 2017.184

Views of the AU

128.The FCO said that the AU had “proven better equipped and more willing to intervene than the OAU”.185 It was “increasingly building consensus among African countries on issues such as peace and security, elections, and regional integration”.186 Ms Mathews said the AU had “convening power” and “a mandate to speak for African countries”, which was “really important and powerful”.187

129.The Minister said that in the last five years the AU had been “much more effective” on peacekeeping and co-ordination; it was now “more important and effective … than it ever has been”.188

130.However, Dr Westcott said that, though “influential”, the AU “does not have the levers of power.”189 Dr Daniel Mulugeta, Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, said the AU was “widely seen as a paper tiger”.190 It was also not always effective: implementation was largely left to individual countries, resulting in patchy adoption of AU decisions.191

131.Witnesses said that a key challenge was AU member states’ reluctance to pool sovereignty.192 Professor Murithi said that leaders would “always profess the need to work together with fellow African countries” on the international stage, but “when it comes to domestic issues they retreat to their cocoons and prefer to be left to do what they will in their own countries”.193 As a result of colonialism, African states were “especially sensitive to sovereignty and independence issues in political integration”.194

132.Dr Daniel said that member states’ “lack of political commitment” to the AU was also a result of the “centralised and monopolistic nature of African states”.195 Professor Murithi said that a lack of openness was an issue for the AU: it had not been willing to engage with African citizens and civil society, who were keen to “engage, share ideas and put forward solutions”.196

133.Ms Mathews said that, ultimately, the AU was “as effective as its members want it to be”.197 There were examples where it had been effective—such as its peacekeeping deployment to Somalia—the AU Mission to Somalia (AMISOM)198—the protocol on the free movement of people,199 and securing agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)200—and those where it had been divided and failed to act—such as in Burundi201 and Cameroon.202 The AU’s work on trade, and on peace and security, is discussed further in chapters 4 and 6 respectively.

134.Professor Murithi concluded that the AU’s performance was “a mixed bag”. Significantly, it had “begun to change the nature of the game on the African continent”: unconstitutional changes of government were now frowned upon and there was a degree of proactive intervention.203 Baroness Amos considered this to be “extremely good”; it “promises well going forward”.204

AU resourcing and capabilities

135.Dr Ero said that financing was the AU’s “Achilles heel”.205 The AUC—the AU’s secretariat—has a core staff of 1,500. This was equivalent to around 5% of the staff of the European Commission, for a population that is more than twice that of the EU’s. The AU’s 2016 budget was £315 million, compared to the EU’s budget of £128 billion.206

136.The source of the AU’s funding is also a challenge. The AU website states that “On average, 67 percent of [the] assessed contribution is collected annually from member states. About 30 member states default either partially or completely on average, annually. This creates a significant funding gap between planned budget and actual funding, which hinders effective delivery of the African Union’s agenda.”207 In 2016, 60% of the AU’s budget was provided by donors.208 Baroness Amos concluded that “If you are not paying for your own organisation and somebody else is, it does have an impact … on your ability to set your own agenda”.209

137.Professor Murithi said that while the AU still relied on donor funding, its “culture” had “now moved towards much more autonomy, self-determination and self-written agendas.” In 2016, the AU had taken the “very bold step” of levying a 0.2% tax on imports to provide sustainable funding for its operations.210 As of September 2019, 16 AU member states were collecting the levy: Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Congo Republic (Congo-Brazzaville), Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.211

138.Witnesses said the AUC faced resourcing and capacity problems.212 Professor Murithi said that it suffered from a lack of professionalism, including the necessary capacity, knowledge and skills to support peacemaking, mediation interventions, peacebuilding interventions and peacekeeping operations.213

139.Professor Murithi said that there had been “a strong critique from the member states themselves of the limitations of the AU”.A “root and branch culling, a tree surgery, of the African Union Commission and its departments” was under way.214 Dr Ero was concerned that “though these reforms are innovative and important and aim at streamlining the African Union”, they could undermine the organisation. For example, “at least 40% of the positions in the African Union may be lost if the AU goes along with its current proposal to streamline and cut back some positions.”215

Agenda 2063

140.Agenda 2063 is the AU’s blueprint for 2013 to 2063.216 Box 4 summarises Agenda 2063.

Box 4: Agenda 2063

The AU has set out 14 flagship programmes for Agenda 2063.

(1)Development of an integrated high-speed train network to connect all African capitals and commercial centres.

(2)Formulation of an African commodities strategy to transform Africa from a raw materials supplier to a continent that uses its own resources for economic development.

(3)Establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

(4)The African passport and free movement of people across the continent.

(5)Silencing the guns by 2020. Ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide.

(6)Establishment of a single African air-transport market.

(7)Establishment of an annual African Economic Forum.

(8)Establishment of the African financial institutions—the African Investment Bank and Pan African Stock Exchange, the African Monetary Fund and the African Central Bank.

(9)The pan-African e-network, to lead to transformative e-applications and services in Africa.

(10)The Africa outer space strategy.

(11)An African virtual and e-university, to use ICT-based programmes to increase access to tertiary and continuing education in Africa.

(12)Cyber security.

(13)The Great African Museum, to create awareness about Africa’s cultural artefacts and the influence of Africa on the cultures of the world.

It identifies key ‘transformational outcomes’ of Agenda 2063: improvements in living standards; transformed, inclusive and sustainable economies; integrated Africa; empowered women, youth and children; and a well-governed, peaceful and cultural-centric Africa in a global context.

Source: AU, ‘Flagship Projects of Agenda 2063’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

141.Professor Murithi described it as “very ambitious”. This was “necessary from an African perspective, because the pace at which change is coming has been very slow, so it is important to have a vision of where we need to get to as a continent.”217

142.Ms Edmondson welcomed the alignment between Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.218 The AU Commission and the UN have signed a framework to enhance collaboration in implementing Agenda 2063 and the SDGs. The AUC and UN SDG staff have been discussing a common framework for the integration of the two measurements nationally.219 Ms Edmondson said Agenda 2063 was “a mixture of here-and-now, practical projects that it can get on with and ones that feel more aspirational, such as a high-speed rail network”.220

143.Witnesses identified some challenges to implementing Agenda 2063. First was its scale. Dr Moyo said she was sceptical about “proclamations”:221 “Looking back on 70 years of the post-colonial era, it seems to me that Africa has never had a shortage of visionary ideas and good intentions”.222

144.Dr Daniel said that Agenda 2063 “does not define the scope, content, purpose and indicators to monitor its implementation.”223 It was “a goal-driven rather than process-oriented strategy”; it had “the ultimate objective of creating a united and integrated Africa rather than with an emphasis on institutional capacity building and workable programmes.” By giving equal priority to all issues, the result might be that “none of them could be realised in the end”. He thought this approach risked “raising false hopes”. It would enable the AU, RECs (discussed below) and member states to “pick and choose issues according to their perceived political and institutional interests”.224

145.Second, Professor Murithi said that the “biggest challenge” would be “to transform the AU, as “the vehicle for achieving Agenda 2063”.To deliver Agenda 2063, the AU needed a “cultural shift”, to become “a much more efficient machine, a much more effective operator to deliver the desired outcomes”.225

146.Third, Dr Daniel said that pan-Africanism—the “ideological framework that underpins Agenda 2063”—was “an ambiguous and contested concept”. There was “no continental agreement on what exactly it is, let alone evidence of a capacity to galvanise political will and action.”226 Pan-Africanism had “little or no resonance beyond capital cities”: African citizens were “never held together by sentiments which could create the feeling of belonging to the same society”.227

147.Fourth, Dr Daniel identified an inconsistency in the aims of Agenda 2063: its vision was “inward-looking and defensive”, but had the aim of reframing Africa’s international presence.228 Agenda 2063 would encourage “a self-contained rather than globalising political economy which may lead to the imposition of protectionist policies”.229

The AU and international organisations

148.Professor Murithi said that African countries often lacked unity on international issues. The AU was often “exploited and manipulated” in global forums, particularly by China, which exerted leverage through its extensive investment across the continent (discussed in Chapter 2). As a result, “African countries do not necessarily make decisions on the basis of their own interests”.230

The AU at the UN

149.Africa has the largest group of countries in the UN General Assembly.231 Dr Westcott said that African countries “operate quite effectively as a lobby in the UN”, having “learned from the independence struggle that unity is strength”.232

150.An ISS study showed that in 2018 “over 50% of UNSC meetings, 60% of its outcome documents, and 70% of its resolutions with Chapter VII mandates concerned African peace and security issues.”233 Ms Mathews said that the African members of the Security Council sought to develop common positions.234 The FCO said that the AU’s 54 UN votes and three non-permanent seats on the Security Council “potentially give it pivotal influence in multilateral fora”. It was particularly influential on Darfur (Sudan) and Somalia.235

151.The three, non-permanent, African seats on the UNSC—the A3—rotate between the members of the AU. The current members are Niger, Tunisia and South Africa.236 Ms Mathews said that there was “now a stronger lobbying campaign” between African states for “some of the big countries to come on to it more often and more frequently, but the selection process also tries to manage fairness.”237 Professor Murithi said the A3 were “often fragmented. They do not operate from a single hymn sheet and … they are not necessarily the countries with the greatest influence.” Improving the selection of countries was a work in progress.238

152.Professor Murithi said that the structure of the UN Security Council disadvantaged African countries. One of African countries’ “biggest gripes” was that “Africa is not on an equal footing as far as the international system is concerned”.239 African countries wanted “agency”, but due to the structure of the UNSC, “they often find themselves subject to much larger forces.”240 In 2005 the AU issued a proposal that Africa should have two permanent seats on the Security Council. This had been “roundly dismissed”. This memory “still lingers in the mindset of African countries, particularly the dominant countries in the African continent.”241 He thought that fundamental reform of the UN was needed.242

153.The Government should continue to support constructive reforms to the rules-based international order to provide African countries with a voice commensurate with their size and importance. This should include supporting reform of the UN Security Council to better represent Africa.

African countries at global climate negotiations

154.Witnesses discussed the AU’s engagement with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. Dr Death said the region had experience of challenging environmental contexts—including droughts, floods, famines and diseases—which could be an important contribution to global climate co-operation. It was “welcome to see the need for climate action being noted prominently by the African Union, as well as by other continent-wide institutions”, such as the African Development Bank and the African Group of Negotiators in the UNFCCC. As a region, Africa had been well-represented in the UNFCCC process, aided by an African Common Position on climate change (since 2008–09), which had “enabled African negotiators to ‘punch above their weight’”.243

155.However, Dr Death had three concerns. First, the AU did not “go far enough in appreciation of the scale of the challenge ahead”. Second, climate change occupied “a lower rank in priority relative to issues of development, trade, economic growth and peace and security” for the AU. Third, he thought that the AU’s “weaknesses” in “organisational capacity, budget and political buy-in” (discussed above) were a problem in tackling climate change. Individual African states took different approaches to climate change—a problem which was not unique to the continent.244 He saw “potential for climate change to become a unifying campaign for the AU, bringing together member states and becoming the institutional embodiment of a strong continental voice for more robust and radical international action for climate justice”, but “there is little sign of this at present”.245

The AU–UK relationship

156.The FCO said that the AU was “an important partner for the UK” as “the pre-eminent multilateral organisation on the continent, and a champion of the rules based international system”.246

157.In February 2019, Harriet Baldwin MP, then Minister of State for Africa, and His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a partnership between the AU and the UK.247

158.The FCO said the agreement was based around five ‘pillars’:

(1)Strengthening resilience;

(2)Mobilising investments for African sustainable transformation;

(3)Migration and human mobility;

(4)Promoting multilateralism and the rules-based international system; and

(5)Investing in people.248

It said that “peace and security” remained “the bedrock of our relationship”, and the UK engaged with the AU on issues including trade, migration, climate change, demography, serious and organised crime,249 human development, education, health and jobs.250

159.The “core” of the agreement was “increased political engagement, including an annual high-level dialogue”.251 The FCO said that, through “political and diplomatic engagement … we hope to achieve the most meaningful progress towards greater cooperation and alignment of wider UK policy and development activity in Africa with AU objectives”.252 Moussa Faki Mahamat attended the UK–Africa Investment Summit in London in January 2020253 (discussed further in Chapter 5).

160.A planned UK–AU summit was postponed as a result of the 2019 general election. The Minister admitted that the Government had “been somewhat distracted”, and the COVID-19 pandemic had caused further delay, but planning was now under way to hold an AU–UK dialogue in June 2020. This would be “a more light-weight high-level dialogue”, held virtually.254

161.The FCO said the UK already had “a regular, open dialogue with the AU on UN Security Council business”, and sought to engage with the A3 “in a spirit of collaboration and partnership”. It was “exploring the possibilities for greater co-operation with the AU” in other forums, such as the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation, the International Criminal Court, the UNECA, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.255

162.The UK is investing up to £30 million in AU-related projects over three years from 2018. In 2018–19, the UK contributed £7 million to support AU peace support efforts, including early warning capabilities, and £1.5 million to AU electoral observation, trade and migration activities. Through the UN, the UK provides £28 million in assessed contributions to the United Nations Support Office in Somalia, which supports AMISOM. It contributed around €30m to AMISOM in 2019 through the EU’s Africa Peace Facility, plus an additional £7 million in 2019.256

163.The Royal African Society said the MoU was “an important step forward in building a joint and equal partnership in the priority areas identified”.257 Dr Wescott thought the MoU was “a helpful basis” but said specific areas of co-operation were now needed.258

164.The African Union (AU) is an increasingly effective and influential organisation. The UK is right to focus more resources on it, particularly focusing on peacekeeping, climate change and regional integration.

165.While it has had important successes, the AU faces significant challenges, including organisational capacity, funding and its members’ willingness to pool sovereignty. The UK should continue to seek to help strengthen the AU, while recognising that the AU is one of a range of regional stakeholders with which the UK should engage.

166.The AU–UK Memorandum of Understanding provides an important framework for a reboot of the relationship. Resources and effort should be committed to developing this partnership. Agenda 2063 provides a broad, but useful, framework for engagement. We would welcome further explanation as to how the Government’s work with the AU, and on Agenda 2063, fits into its ‘strategic approach’ to Africa.

167.Bilateral relationships with countries in Sub-Saharan Africa should remain a key part of the UK’s engagement with Sub-Saharan Africa and with the AU.

The AU’s engagement with external stakeholders

168.The AU has partnership arrangements with a number of countries. The FCO said it had “at least seven strategic partnerships with states other than the UK… and three with regions and regional organisations” as well as “partnerships with the Commonwealth and la Francophonie”.259

169.Professor Murithi said that the AU’s relationship with the EU—on which the AU is loosely modelled260—had “been perhaps the most productive.” Although the two organisations were like “chalk and cheese”—not least because the EU has around 10 times the level of staffing—the two have tried to come up with “joint strategies and joint frameworks of operation”. When compared to the 2019 UK–AU MoU, the EU was “much more elaborate … in its approach”.261

170.The Africa–EU Partnership was established as a “formal political channel” in 2000 at the first Africa–EU Summit in Cairo. It is guided by the Joint Africa–EU Strategy, adopted at the second EU–Africa Summit in Lisbon in 2007. 262 Co-operation currently focuses on: investing in people (education, science, technology and skills development); mobilising investment for African structural sustainable transformation; migration and mobility; and strengthening resilience, peace, security and governance.263 This support includes the African Peace Facility, which has provided more than €2.7 billion to conflict prevention and management since it was established in 2004.264

171.China is one of the largest funders of the AU through the China–Africa Co-operation Forum.265 Professor Murithi described the relationship as “fairly robust and quite strong”, and “based on mutual interest”. China spent $120 million on building the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, which opened in 2012, and it continues to maintain the building. The building is widely thought to have been bugged.266

172.Germany has a longstanding relationship with the AU;267 along with China it is one of the AU’s largest funders.268 Professor Murithi said it had a “very extensive programme on peace and security, democracy and governance, human rights and the Pan African University.” Germany was “quite committed to the project”; it had “put a lot of resources into it. They are quite well-known for their operations in relation to the AU system.” For example, Germany built the new Peace and Security Department building, which opened in 2016. He said Germany was “quite open about what they are trying to achieve”—namely “to access markets in the African continent”.269

173.France has prioritised political engagement with the AU. In 2019 President Macron visited Addis Ababa to meet Moussa Faki Mahamat. He invited Moussa Faki Mahamat to events during France’s G7 presidency in 2019.270

174.Japan holds a regular high-level dialogue, the Tokyo International Forum on African Development, around every five years.271

Regional economic communities

175.Regional economic communities(RECs) are sub-regional bodies which aim to facilitate integration between their members. Eight RECs are considered the building blocks of the African Economic Community by the AU.272 Box 5 details the membership of these groups.

Box 5: Regional economic communities

The Arab Maghreb Union (UMA)

Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)

Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, eSwatini, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Somalia, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Community of Sahel–Saharan States (CEN–SAD)

Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, the Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo and Tunisia.

The East African Community (EAC)

Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)

Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Chad and Rwanda.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)

Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Angola, Botswana, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Source: Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, ‘The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the African Union’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

176.All RECs have the common goal of creating an African Economic Community. The Abuja Treaty “assumed that RECs would all conduct economic integration programs to become customs unions by 2017”, but this “did not happen.”273 Dr Westcott said that while economic integration had been the original mandate of the RECs, “they have done more on security issues, apart from the East African Community, which has quite strong economic integration.”274

177.The Africa Trade Policy Centre of UNECA said that the method and extent of integration in each REC was different. “Four RECs operate free trade areas. Some have islets of deeper integration, including customs and monetary unions. Others have free trade arrangements entirely alongside and above the REC groupings.”275 Dr Daniel said that regionalism was “fundamentally an elitist and state-led process” in Africa, and that “initiatives designed to reform regional economies” often moved “slowly, not because countries don’t understand what is needed, but because they are not in state interest.”276

178.Only 12 African countries belong to a single REC, while 33 belong to two RECs, eight to three RECs and one to four RECs.277 This is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: The membership of regional economic communities

Source: European Centre for Development Policy Management, ‘Regional Organisations in Africa’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

179.Dr Daniel described REC membership as “a ‘spaghetti bowl’ effect of overlapping mandates, tasks, trade rules and duplication”. This “hindered” the RECs’ performance.278 Dr Ero said that states “forum shop; they pick and choose which body they want to use at a particular time to serve their own interests”.279 Baroness Amos said that “There are way too many overlapping mandates and way too many countries that belong to so many of these regional blocs”.280

180.Professor Murithi said that subsidiarity between the AU and the RECs was “a work in progress”.281 Dr Ero said that “The regions do not always recognise the African Union and they often do not want it to stick its nose in in their backyard.” There was a tension between the AU, which “sees itself as the primary political body on the continent” and the reality, that “not all its member states necessarily see it as the go-to institution when there is a crisis”.282

181.She said there were times when the AU had to defer to the RECs, for example ECOWAS had “a longer heritage than the African Union with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau”;283 Professor Murithi said this relationship could be “tense”.284 There were also times when RECs and the AU took different approaches, for example in January 2019 SADC “took a very different view from that of the African Union on the elections in the DRC”. The REC had “recognised the decision of the constitutional court”, while the AU “wanted to halt recognition of the elections there”.285

182.The AU and the RECs held their first co-ordination meeting in July 2019 in Niamey, as part of the AU’s institutional reforms to rationalise its relations with the RECs.286

183.The UK should continue to engage with the regional economic communities (RECs) across Sub-Saharan Africa. RECs are often regarded by their members as the ‘go-to’ institutions to address crises in their regions, and many have made progress towards regional economic integration. The UK should concentrate on those which have significant influence, and develop a more clearly-defined offer for its engagement with them.

The Commonwealth

184.Nineteen Sub-Saharan African countries are members of the Commonwealth, accounting for 35% of its membership (see Figure 4).287

185.In Sub-Saharan Africa, the Commonwealth’s work focuses on three broad areas:

(1)Promoting democracy, strengthening public institutions, access to justice and court transformation;

(2)Countering violent extremism and promoting youth participation in politics; and

(3)Supporting inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.

It also provides support for its members on climate change.288

Figure 4: African members of the Commonwealth

Source: The Commonwealth, ‘Member countries’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

Views of the Commonwealth

186.The Minister said that the Commonwealth was “a strong convening group”. The Government worked with it, and wished “to strengthen it”, but “we should be under no illusion … the Commonwealth is a tricky concept” to understand. More could be done “to sell the Commonwealth”.289

187.The Royal African Society said that the UK had “tended to rely on the Commonwealth link to sustain its engagement with Africa”. This brought “many benefits” but—as set out in Chapter 2—was “not a substitute for high level political contact with African governments on their own priorities”.290

188.Dr Lyn Johnstone, Lecturer in International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, said there had been a “surge in Commonwealth attention by British establishment figures” in the context of Brexit, who saw opportunities for trade deals. African members were “watching Britain carefully”; there was “a sense that some … in the UK see the Commonwealth as a continuation of the Empire with member states under Britain’s influence”.291

189.For Sub-Saharan African countries, initial membership of the Commonwealth after independence had been motivated by “economic and trade opportunities, the transfer of technology, and cultural cooperation”. It continued to be “a convenient club”, and there was “a certain fondness for the Queen that appears to be a draw-card for continued membership”.292 Sub-Saharan African members of the Commonwealth saw the organisation as “a trade partner, investor and development partner”.293

190.Dr Johnstone said that a “major area” where the Commonwealth had had an impact was agriculture, where the UK had “pushed for … liberalisation within the EU”. This had “benefitted African farmers and producers”. Another “rather attractive benefit” of membership was access to higher education, and funding, for students.294

191.Baroness Amos said that the Commonwealth had been “a vehicle for … people-to-people relationships”.295 Dr Westcott said that “Commonwealth networks … particularly among lawyers and chief justices” were “really valuable”. These provided “a kind of peer group support”, which was helpful in the context of the pressure being placed on judiciaries in countries such as Kenya and Malawi.296

192.Two Sub-Saharan African members of the Commonwealth—Rwanda and Mozambique—are not former British colonies. Dr Johnstone said that “by far the most important” factor behind Rwanda’s desire to join the Commonwealth was to access the Commonwealth’s Fund for Technical Cooperation. A second reason had been opportunities to develop English language skills, to “improve opportunities for Rwandans in education and work”. Third had been “the organisation’s emphasis on shared values”, and the opportunity both to gain from membership and to share its experiences, for example in post-conflict management. It became a member in 2009.297

193.Hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali (postponed from June 2020 as a result of COVID-19) would be “a fantastic opportunity for Rwanda to project itself and its Commonwealth membership to the world”.298

194.Dr Johnstone said that the case to allow Mozambique to join in 1995 had been “pushed heavily” by Nelson Mandela as a “’unique and special case’”, because of the country’s role in supporting anti-apartheid efforts. Mozambique had particularly benefitted from Commonwealth assistance in the wake of Cyclone Idai in March 2019.299

195.The Commonwealth Secretariat said that Africa was “the region from which the Commonwealth has received recent requests for membership”. This demonstrated “that the Commonwealth’s impact in Africa has not gone unnoticed”.300 Dr Johnstone said that this “narrative … that countries are evincing an interest in joining the Commonwealth and therefore the organisation must still be relevant” was commonly used by the Commonwealth Secretariat and “‘keen observers’ of the organisation”.301 A “very small handful of African countries” had expressed interest. Two of these, Burundi and South Sudan, had “more than questionable approaches to human rights”, so would not meet the threshold for membership, which required countries “to demonstrate commitment to the Commonwealth’s values, principles and priorities”.302

196.For Burundi and South Sudan, the impetus was “trade and economic benefits”: the Commonwealth has a programme to stimulate trade in the East African Community (EAC),—and these two countries are the only EAC members that are not part of the Commonwealth.303

197.Dr Johnstone said that, however, “we ought not kid ourselves that the Commonwealth has any real importance amongst … its African membership.”304 It provided “some useful trade and development attractions, but since the end of apartheid has lacked any real stand-out relevance in Africa”.305

198.Baroness Amos said that it was “not clear … how Britain—with the other countries across the Commonwealth—wants to expand the role of the Commonwealth”. She said that countries which had expressed interest in joining “clearly see some benefit”, and “we should perhaps explore what they see those benefits as being and think about how we can best utilise them”.306

199.The Government should discuss with African members of the Commonwealth ways in which its work in Africa could be strengthened. The Government should be open-minded about any African country wanting to join the Commonwealth so long as it fulfils the criteria for membership in terms of democracy and respect for human rights.

200.The Commonwealth’s role in supporting ‘people to people’ contacts is of value, and the Government should continue to support such engagement, including between UK and Sub-Saharan African judges. The Commonwealth’s value in terms of people-to-people contacts underscores the need for a review of the UK’s visa policies.

172 AU, ‘Member States’: [accessed 24 June 2020] Western Sahara is a disputed territory; the UK “regards its status as undetermined”. HM Government, ‘Foreign travel advice: Western Sahara’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

173 Assembly of the African Union, First Ordinary Session 9–10 July 2002, Durban, South Africa: [accessed 24 June 2020]

174 AU, ‘About the African Union’: [accessed 24 June 2020]. The leaders of the Organisation of African Unity met in Sirte, Libya to discuss establishing a new regional body. African Union, Sirte Declaration: [accessed 24 June 2020]

175 AU, ‘Vision and Mission’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

176 Q 56

177 These included the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (known as the Abuja Treaty), adopted in June 1991. African Union, ‘Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community’: [accessed 24 June 2020]. The aim of the Abuja Treaty is to establish an African Economic Community to promote economic, social and cultural development, as well as African economic integration, in order to increase self-sufficiency and indigenous development and to create a framework for development, mobilisation of human resources and material. Government of South Africa, ‘The Role of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the Building Blocks of the African Union’ Department of International Relations and Co-operation Republic of South Africa: [accessed 24 June 2020]

178 Q 56

179 AU, ‘Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

180 AU, ‘Member States’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

181 AU, ‘Assembly of heads of state and government’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

182 AU, ‘Acceptance Statement by South African President H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa on assuming the Chair of the African Union for 2020’ (9 February 2020): [accessed 24 June 2020]

183 AU, ‘The AU Commission’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

184 AU, ‘The AU Commission’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

185 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

186 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

187 Q 17

188 Q 121

189 Q 32 (Dr Nick Westcott)

190 Written evidence by Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

191 Q 17 (Harriet Mathews)

192 Q 32 (Dr Nick Westcott) and Q 17 (Harriet Mathews)

193 Q 56 (Professor Tim Murithi)

194 Written evidence by Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

195 Written evidence by Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

196 Q 57

197 Q 17

198 Q 32 (Dr Nick Westcott) and Q 17 (Harriet Mathews)

199 Q 56 (Professor Tim Murithi)

200 Q 32 (Dr Nick Westcott) and Q 56 (Professor Tim Murithi)

201 Q 32 Dr Nick Westcott

202 59 (Professor Tim Murithi)

203 Q 57

204 Q 40

205 Q 76

206 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

207 AU, ‘Why Introduce a Levy?’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

208 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

209 Q 40

210 Q 58. At a ‘Retreat on Financing of the Union’ during the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali in July 2016, AU Heads of State and Government decided to directs all member states to implement a 0.2% levy on eligible imports. The decision entered into force in January 2017. AU, ‘What is financing of the union?’: [accessed 24 June 2020]. The levy will be to fund up to 100% of the ordinary budget, up to 75% of the programme budget and up to 25% of the peacekeeping operations’ budget. AU, Frequently Asked Questions about Financing the Union: [accessed 24 June 2020]

211 AU, African Union Handbook 2020 (9 February 2020) p 210: [accessed 24 June 2020]

212 Q 17 (Ms Mathews); written evidence from Dr David Mulugeta (ZAF00014); written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

213 Q 57 and Q 58

214 Q 57

215 Q 75

216 AU, ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

217 Q 57

218 Q 17. The 17 SDGs were agreed by all countries in 2015. They “recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth–all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests”. United Nations, ‘Sustainable Development Goals’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

219 AU Commission, Request for proposals for consultancy services to conduct mid-term review of the Agenda 2063 First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (FTYIP) and Agenda 2063 Flagship Projects (7 October 2019): [accessed 24 June 2020]

220 Q 17

221 Such as the SDGs or the AfCFTA.

222 Q 69

223 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

224 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

225 Q 57

226 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

227 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

228 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

229 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

230 Q 62

231 Q 62

232 Q 32

233 Gustavo de Carvalho and Daniel Forti, Institute for Security Studies, Africa can become more influential in the UN Security Council (12 March 2020): [accessed 24 June 2020]

234 Q 18

235 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

236 Gustavo de Carvalho and Daniel Forti, Institute for Security Studies, Africa can become more influential in the UN Security Council

237 Q 18

238 Q 63

239 Q 61

240 Q 62

241 Q 61

242 Q 62

243 Written evidence from Dr Carl Death (ZAF0036)

244 He said that South Africa, Morocco, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya were often singled out as “continental leaders” on the climate change agenda. In Nigeria, ambition and capacity were increasing, but “the particular challenges of reforming a petrostate have so far appeared almost insuperable”.

245 Written evidence from Dr Carl Death (ZAF0036)

246 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

247 AU, ‘Joint Communiqué on the African Union–United Kingdom Partnership’ (22 February 2019): [accessed 24 June 2020]

248 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

249 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

250 Q 19 (Jane Edmondson)

251 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

252 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

253 Q 19 (Harriet Mathews)

254 Q 121

255 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

256 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

257 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002)

258 Q 32

259 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

260 BBC News, ‘Profile: African Union’ (24 August 2017): [accessed 24 June 2020]

261 Q 61

262 The Africa-EU Partnership, ‘The Partnership and Joint Africa-EU Strategy’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

263 Ibid.

264 The Africa-EU Partnership, ‘The Africa-EU Partnership’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

265 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

266 Q 61 (Professor Murithi). Shannon Tiezzi, ‘If China Bugged the AU Headquarters, What African Countries Should Be Worried?’, The Diplomat: [accessed 24 June 2020]

267 Q 61

268 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

269 Q 61. ‘African Union’s Peace and Security Building opens in Ethiopia’ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit: [accessed 20 June 2020]

270 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

271 Written evidence from the FCO (ZAF0003)

272 The African Economic Community was established in the 1991 Abuja Treaty, which provides the overarching framework for continental economic integration. Office for the Special Adviser on Africa, ‘The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the Union’: [accessed 24 June 2020]

273 Written evidence from the African Trade Policy Centre of UNECA (ZAF0037)

274 Q 32

275 Written evidence from the African Trade Policy Centre of UNECA (ZAF0037)

276 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

277 Written evidence from The Africa Trade Policy Centre of UNECA (ZAF0037)

278 Written evidence from Dr Daniel Mulugeta (ZAF0014)

279 Q 78

280 Q 40

281 Q 58. Also see Q 16 (Harriet Mathews).

282 Q 78

283 Q 78

284 Q 58

285 Q 78 Also see Q16 (Harriet Mathews)

286 Institute for Security Studies, ‘Defining AU–REC relations is still a work in progress’, (1 August 2019): [accessed 24 June 2020]

287 Written evidence from the Commonwealth Secretariat (ZAF0053)

288 Written evidence from the Commonwealth Secretariat (ZAF00053)

289 Q 140

290 Written evidence from the Royal African Society (ZAF0002). It had also “led to the neglect of francophone countries”.

291 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

292 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

293 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

294 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

295 Q 37

296 Q 33

297 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

298 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

299 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

300 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

301 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

302 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

303 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

304 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

305 Written evidence from Dr Lyn Johnstone (ZAF0041)

306 Q 37

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