By Maureen Chigbo *
AMBASSADOR Amina Mohammed, foreign affairs minister of Kenya, is passionate about Africa. The passion is what is driving her to vie for the position of the chairperson of the African Union Commission, AUC this January. She is, however, leaving no stone unturned to ensure she succeeds. She has been travelling from one African country to another in search of support, and she is succeeding. Realnews has reliably gathered that some countries including Nigeria are already supporting her candidature.
Mohamed is vying for the post because of her conviction that Africa is destined to realise its full potential as envisioned by her forefathers’ foresight reflected in the African Proverb; “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far – go together”. “This burning desire to forge an even deeper integration of this great continent is clear in our peoples’ resolve to succeed together, and to create a better future for our children and future generations,” Mohamed said.
Perhaps, this explains the basis for her vision for the AUC anchored on Africa’s blueprint for development: Agenda 2063–The Africa We Want – a destiny of greatness. She views Agenda 2063 as a grand vision whose achievement will be the sum of many acts of courage, vitality and persistence by every African citizen.
Mohamed is of the view that the path for the continent’s sustainable development and prosperity is no longer an aspiration but an unfolding reality. “The ground has shifted on many fronts and Africa today epitomises hope and opportunity. An increasing number of the fastest growing economies are domiciled in Africa. The continent is steadily inching into the global limelight as a strategic partner in global economic growth and development.
“These are exceptional times for Africa. We have, in recent years, witnessed the tenacity, drive, grit and determination of Africa’s youth. Our youth are taking full advantage of advances in information technology and the digital age to curve out innovative and transposable solutions to lift communities out of vulnerability and extreme want. Africa’s growing population is the youngest in the world, it is better educated than previous generations and it will define the future of our continent.”
She believes the progress of Africa has to be secured through an all-inclusive approach that encompasses consultation, cooperation, coordination for the successful implementation of Agenda 2063. “It is also important that we concretise and adopt mechanisms to ensure that available resources are utilised to generate optimum results. Every African citizen deserves a life of dignity free from harm in order to promote social justice and the realisation of their potential. I am optimistic that together we can continue to create a continent that not only embodies our pride and dignity, but is also a hub for peace and stability.”
Mohamed’s conviction is informed by the significant reduction in armed conflicts and internal strife, the improved peace and stability, and the commendable progress in democratic governance. Furthermore, history has repeatedly proved that partial and secluded prosperity does not insulate citizens from the burdens of crises, war and conflict. “For this reason, our common accord will guarantee sustainable peace and stability in all Member States,” she said.
“My vision is that of a Commission that will utilise and build on the current momentum to secure Africa’s rightful place in the community of nations. In order to fulfill this objective, I envision a continent united in both values and outlook, and whose transformation is decisive and inclusive.
“I stand for a Commission that will work for the full realisation of the objective of a ‘people-centred’ African Union that is internationally respected; financially independent; economically prosperous; closely integrated and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of the vast majority in the continent of Africa. I pledge to do my part and serve each member with passion, loyalty, compassion, selfless determination, alacrity and tenacity,” she said.
Her bid to be the chairperson of the African Union Commission is not without precedent. Mohamed, a lawyer, diplomat and politician, is not new to international politics. Over the years, she has traversed the globe working with different international organisations. She became the first female chairperson of the World Trade Organisation’s General Council in 2005. Also, she previously worked as the assistant secretary and deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
From 2001 t0 2005, she was a member of the executive boards and committees of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO, International Labour Organisation, ILO, World Health organisation, WHO, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR and United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS.
Between 2006 and 2007, Mohamed acted as director for both Europe and Commonwealth Countries as well as Diaspora matters. She also chaired the Department of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs’ Committee on Strengthening and Restructuring.
During the 2010–2011 calendar year, Mohamed served as the President of the United Nations Conference on Transnational Crime in Vienna. Additionally, she was the permanent secretary in the ministry of justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs from 2008 to 2011.
Born in Kakamega, Kenya to an ethnic Somali family on October 5, 1961, Mohammed is the eighth of nine siblings. She married Khalid Ahmed in 2002 and they both have two children and also care for four orphans
Mohamed is multilingual, speaking her native Somali as well as English, Russian and Swahili, with a working knowledge of French. A graduate of University of Kiev, Ukraine, she also has a Master of Laws, LLM, in International Law, and Postgraduate Diploma, PGDip, in International Relations from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
Her priorities, if elected AUC chairperson, include running an independent and efficient organisation, ensuring predictable and adequate financing resource base for AUC; providing dynamic consultative framework to pursue continental integration by building on achievements of regional economic communities; mobilising resources to improve infrastructure deficit in the continent; work with partners to ensure Africa’s justice at international negotiation forums; promote peace and security in Africa, and unleash the potential of women and youth among others.
Mohammed exclusively told Realnews that she is a unifier and will unite African countries, erase whatever past division and ensure that African Union is internationally respected, financially independent, economically prosperous, closely integrated, and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of all the people of Africa including the diaspora – leaving no one behind.
Only time will tell if she will be elected to fulfill these noble aspirations of hers for a continent in dire need of firm and focused leadership.
Mohamed, in an exclusive interview speaks to Realnews on topical issues affecting African and how she intends to make Africa a strong and influential regional player if elected into office. Excerpts:
Realnews: Why do you want to become the chairperson of the African Union Commission?
Mohamed: In the course my career, which spans over three decades, I have worked with many colleagues from the continent on issues of importance to Africa including; mega projects on infrastructure development, international and regional trade notably negotiating amendments to the Trade-Related, Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, agreement which allowed Africans to access affordable medicines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, climate change, biodiversity and desertification, governance, rule of law, democracy and human rights, youth and, peace, security and cohesion. I have been intimately involved with all issues African, both soft and hard and have chaired many African meetings at the highest level. I therefore intricately know the state of our Union.
At this defining moment in Africa’s history, everyone is aware of the massive opportunities that the African Union presents and understands the challenges that need to be resolved by all of us, collectively.
I am known as a unifier, a consensus builder, a team player and a pan Africanist who believes in the African Union project. I deliver on mandates entrusted to me and know that I am ready, able, passionate and willing to commit myself to the African Agenda.
My vision for the African Union Commission (AUC/the Commission) is that of a Commission that will utilise and build on the current momentum to secure Africa’s rightful place in the global community.
In order to fulfil this objective, I envision a continent united in both values and outlook and whose transformation is decisive, inclusive and conclusive. I stand for a commission that will work for the full realisation of the objectives of a people-centred African Union that is internationally respected, financially independent, economically prosperous, closely integrated and singularly responsive to the needs and wishes of all the people of Africa including the Diaspora ̶ leaving no one behind.
We have an obligation to shape the common destiny of our people. Our heritage, our history, our African views and our shared values can and must craft the solutions to many of our most pressing challenges.
We must work in solid partnership and our goal must be straightforward – to empower our people and to afford them real opportunities to grow, to prosper and to live in dignity.
We already have a roadmap for Africa’s development. Agenda 2063 provides us with a continental framework. It will take a visionary, strategic and determined leader at the helm of the AUC who can bring consensus among all the member States and who can spearhead interactions and synergy among organs and platforms necessary for the speedy unification of the continent. I believe that I am that leader.
Realnews: African Union have been perceived as a toothless bulldog. How can you make the organisation more effective if elected as the AUC Chairperson?
Mohamed: The African Union has had its share of challenges. That has, however, not dampened the spirit of our continental unity and shared prosperity. Challenges enable institutions to self-evaluate to discover areas of possible improvement. Our African people are today more committed to continental unity and prosperity than ever before. This is an opportunity, to tap into our collective goodwill to strengthen the organisation and deepen our union. There is also the converse narrative that is seldom celebrated: that of a continent, under a union that has responded to crises within the continent, and on time. The African peace and security architecture and the mechanisms of response is a clear example of solid and effective response and action.
As a continent, we evaluated the strides made over the past half century, recognised the gaps and together, put in place a vision to guide our engagement for the next 50 years. Agenda 2063, which is our roadmap to achieving “The Africa We Want”, is a testament that we are aware of our journey and our desired destination. So my role, if elected chairperson of the AUC, will be to faithfully implement Agenda 2063. I will catalyse this common resolve by the African people to realise their destiny. This requires the entire continent, including the diaspora to work in concert ̶ something that is and will continue to happen.
Realnews: Funding has always been a great challenge to the African Union. What will you do differently to shore up revenue flows to the AU?
Mohamed: Africa must take responsibility for the growth of its economy and institutions. We have the means to do so. In order to realise the vision that we have set ̶ Agenda 2063, we must ensure effective, inclusive and optimal use of available resources.
Implementing Agenda 2063 will require resources, planning, evaluation and reporting. The formular accepted by African Heads of State and Government to contribute 0.2% import levy towards the financing of the African Union and its programmes is a solid indication that we are committed to Africa’s financial autonomy.
In order to fully implement this commitment, my role, if elected, will be to work with governments on implementation. Financing the agenda will be easier if member states align their development policies to Agenda 2063. We must reinforce our political will to deliver on this promise.
Over the years, we have created institutions and organs that support Africa’s development. The African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa already have in place programmes that are in line with Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030. In order to harness the output generated by our development agencies, we must ensure that we create synergies to allow resource maximisation, reduce duplication and eliminate resource wastage.
We also need to put together an African Business Council that will deeply integrate the private sector into the African development agenda. The Ebola epidemic offered invaluable experience in working with the African private sector to raise funds for development and we will continue to build on this partnership.
Illicit financial flows deprive Africa of valuable resources necessary for development. These flows are a global phenomenon whose solution requires a global coordinated response. If elected, I will coordinate the African response to work with national governments in order to put in place legislation and mechanisms in line with agreed and mutually reinforcing global response initiatives.
Realnews: Crisis is brewing in Gambia over its current president’s refusal to step down after losing the last election. How can this problem be resolved?
Mohamed: Great effort has been made by Regional Economic Communities, RECs, to manage regional conflicts in the continent. We have seen the way Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, managed the conflict in West Africa and the way the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, and the South African Development Community, SADC, have dealt with the conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region respectively.
Regional Economic Communities and the conflict response mechanisms already in place are critical in instances where peace, security and stability is threatened. The African Union Commission’s role should therefore be to ensure that the necessary responsive mechanisms are facilitated and coordinated to find sustainable solutions to existing and emerging conflicts in Africa. Our aim should be to ensure that Africans feel and are secure.
Realnews: Corruption has been said to be the bane of development in Africa. What do you think?
Mohamed: Corruption is a challenge. However, we are seeing reforms in the form of legal and policy enactments in national constitutions. Effective responses ought to be conceived within the African model but principally embracing good governance, rule of law, and institutional independence.
Institutions are critical in addressing corruption. So we must strengthen them and our capacity to manage public, private and societal affairs. Corruption exists in many forms. Economic and financial corruption and corruption of values are the main forms compromising our development in Africa. A targeted response would therefore engage leadership and management of our institutions and our national and continental values. Education, mentorship, law and policy and home-grown intrinsic values and principles will be critical in addressing this persistent problem.
Realnews: Weak natural resources governance has also marred the exploitation of natural resources in Africa. What can be done to improve the situation to fast track development in Africa?
Mohamed: Africa must and should be empowered using African resources. Minerals, oil, gas, agricultural land, forests, blue economy, wind and solar generation and biodiversity among many others are factors that drive development.
Africa’s natural resources should be leveraged for inclusive and sustained growth. Our regional organisations including the African Development Bank have set up mechanisms to support policy makers and governments in managing Africa’s natural resource management − the African Natural Resources Centre, ANRC, is a good policy support tool. What remains now is to ensure that these institutions and programmes communicate and collaborate with governments, Regional Economic Communities and the African Union Commission to find solutions to exploitative and harmful resource extraction.
Africa’s wealth, resident in natural resource exploration and trade needs to be ploughed back to the continent. We, therefore, need to work together, across all sub-regions and countries to track: our natural resource wealth and our countries’ and people’s gains from it. Investing in concrete natural resource economic policy, institutions, Regional Economic Communities’ capacities and a legal framework will guide our intervention in this area. As we continue to integrate, so must our approaches to natural resource management. We must share best practice and reinforce our common interests as far as development is concerned. For this to effectively happen, collaboration, cooperation and coordination is critical.
Realnews: Youth unemployment has been described as a time bomb in Africa. Can you comment on this?
Mohamed: There is no doubt that Africa’s demographic versatility is our core strength. 65 percent of Africa’s entire population is below the age of 35 making Africa the world’s youngest continent. This is Africa’s greatest opportunity. But we have to ensure that it is properly harnessed to provide positive output to the continent. This demographic dividend can only bear on our development aspirations if we nurture, tap and mainstream the youth into our development matrix.
Policy and decision-makers have the enviable responsibility to harness Africa’s talents and human capacity into one force that works in harmony to solve the continent’s greatest challenges.
Brain drain, though unavoidable in most cases because of economic considerations, is depriving Africa of many professionals and other abilities that could be used to realise the African dream. That is why innovative approaches to leadership development and education are critical to ensure that our youth and professionals explore their potential and gain the intellectual flexibility to conceive solutions to our challenges. Deliberate youth engagement, consultation and involvement is essential in all spheres of governance.
We must also integrate to ensure that the youth have access to wider professional and economic markets to work and do business. Free movement of goods, services people and capital will greatly unlock this demographic dividend.
Realnews: Terrorism is spreading in the continent. How can this problem be tackled?
Mohamed: Terrorism and violent extremism have emerged as the major threats to international peace and security. The expansion of internet access and the growing sophistication of extremist and criminal groups render these threats increasingly transnational, thus requiring a collaborative response. Indeed, the fact that no nation can consider itself immune from its dangers implies that no society can remain disengaged from efforts to combat it.
The strength of terrorist groups lies in their hybrid nature, which allows them to develop flexible and adaptive approaches that exploit conventional military attacks and asymmetric warfare. Their evolving nature presents a problem for state apparatus, which are often rigid and reactive. Their transnational dimension is also a challenge for law enforcement agencies which by nature are used to working in national contexts.
Faced with this challenging scenario, it is imperative to put in place fully comprehensive multi-pronged response strategies. However, our strategies in Africa tend to lay emphasis on security solutions with less resources being dedicated to prevention which entails the fight against radicalisation and political and economic integration of marginalised regions among other socio-economic measures. We need to collectively finance response mechanisms and within our individual national capacities.
A comprehensive strategy involves the concerted efforts of all government agencies including local authorities with the involvement of all sectors of society including religious associations, the private sector and civil society. It is also essential that the State meaningfully engages local community leaders who are familiar with the local social fabric.
Security-led responses must be adapted to suit the context of African states. It is important to put in place mechanisms that facilitate cooperation between defence forces, the police and the intelligence apparatus coordinated by special counter-terror units
Realnews: What difference will you make if elected as the chairperson of African Union Commission?
Mohamed: If elected, I will work with African governments, AUC commissioners, African Union organs, African institutions, African civil society, the African people and Africa’s strategic partners to:
- Lead the faithful implementation of Africa’s Agenda 2063 by supporting micro-implementation by member States and regional implementation through Regional Economic Communities with the primary focus of actualising the First Ten Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063.
- Pursue sustainable ways to finance the AUC and its programmes and develop concrete mechanisms to ensure optimum use of mobilised resources by encouraging and supporting national alignment of development policies to Agenda 2063.
- Foster strategic partnerships for Africa’s development.
- Strengthen synergy between and among African Development Institutions such as: The Permanent Representative Committee (PRC); African Union Peace and Security Council, AUPSC; African Commissions; New Partnership for African Development, NEPAD, Pan African Parliament, Economic and Social Council, ECOSOCC, African Courts, Regional Economic Communities, RECs, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, and the African Development Bank, AfDB, in order to mitigate against resource slippage and unnecessary competition. This will encourage seamless working relations and cooperation between these institutions and maximise the utilisation of available resources to the relevant interventions.
- Improve Africa’s human development infrastructure by working with Governments to enact laws and promote policies that enable youth, women and marginalised communities to participate fully in development and decision-making.
- Boost intra-African trade by working with Governments to set up the relevant policy mechanisms to speed up ratification of the various protocols necessary to actualise free movement of people and information in each of the RECs and across the continent. In addition, supporting the revolution of infrastructure in Africa by creating seamless connections through land, air and sea to maximize Africa’s potential in accordance with past Summit decisions.
- Secure social stability through peace and security by consolidating the efforts and supporting the work of Organisations engaged in finding lasting peace and security, as well as leveraging cross sectorial cohesion through partner institutions.
- Enhance democracy, values of good governance and the rule of law by leveraging the Commission as a platform capable of driving the political integration agenda by: strengthening regional and continental electoral systems and institutions reinforcing Africa’s electoral architecture; and supporting regional and national justice and human rights mechanisms such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
- Augment the role of the African Diaspora in the implementation of Agenda 2063, and beyond.
- Reposition Africa as a strong and influential global player.