#37th AU Summit: Of Nigeria’s Tectonic Changes & Managing ECOWAS’ Mid-Life Crisis

Ahead of the37th AU Summit, it is important this does not become -another perceived talk-shop where African heads of State confer with stakeholders and donors of the AU to drink Ethiopian coffee – and sometimes Kenyan tea – while pretending to agree on things that had already been agreed on years earlier.

For an institution that has recently celebrated 20 years of its existence and looking forward to another fruitful 20 years, while also reflecting over its 10 years of its Continental and flagship project of Agenda 2063, there is evidently a lot of deep introspection to be had on the efficacy of this institution, and how it can continue to deliver meaningfully to its citizens.

As I write this, my West African neighbourhood is in some degree of turmoil and, some might say, relative disintegration occasioned by three countries of the Sahel – Burkina Faso; Mali and Niger – deciding to leave ECOWAS with immediate effect. For a sub-region that has spent 49 years promoting democracy on the West Coast of Africa, while leading some noteworthy interventions – in Liberia (1990-1997 under erstwhile ECOMOG) and The Gambia in 2016 when it ousted Jammeh into exile in the Middle East – it seems like ECOWAS might be disrupting the efforts to sanitise what the AU has been calling Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCG).

Turn on any radio in West Africa today, and you are likely to hear updates on the Sahel 3 and/or Senegal’s Macky Sall who has successfully legalised an illegality by ensuring Senegalese Parliament ratifies an illegal new date for elections originally slated for 25 February.

Although ECOWAS protocols state categorically that no country should tweak election dates six months prior to an election, the Senegalese president has had the audacity to do this – without little care it is a contravention of ECOWAS protocols.

Meanwhile, the African Peer Review Mechanism’s (APRM) African Governance Report on UCG launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in July 2023 is gathering even further dust as few policymakers are making reference to the raison d’etre of the report in contributing to the conversation on stemming UCGs.

Although some of us referred to the point that ECOWAS was referenced no less than 61 times as being instrumental in stemming UCGs, including the point that its sanctions regime was more effective and swifter than the AU and UN’s combined, those points have waxed and waned along with memories of 2023. So we have started a new year where we are still talking about UCGs without having fully demystified the APRM report and what it was seeking to do!

Then the Mining Indaba happened!

So Nigeria didn’t win the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, but it did get an important win at the AU!

Celebrations of love and chocolate in the month of love were trumped by the week-long Mining Indaba, in its 30th year, that culminated in very important news – Nigeria ratifying the statutes of the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC).

The whole AMDC team were in Cape Town, South Africa, for a landmark event on 7th February on the African Green Minerals Strategy, which is a fairly-unknown part of the AMDC’s work.

What a lot of people don’t know is that the AMDC was never supposed to be stuck in Addis Ababa indefinitely: there is a hosting agreement with the West African country of Guinea-Conakry as its headquarters. This has remained abortive by dint of the very important point that as per AU protocols, fifteen member States need to have ratified the AMDC statutes before it transforms into an empowered African Minerals Development Secretariat (AMDS)

For the AMDS to come to life, member states need to commit to helping actualize the Africa Mining Vision that has been running since 2009. With AfCFTA Secretariat working feverishly to get the 46th member State to ratify the protocols, it is simply egregious that an AU agency that has responsibility to manage the continent’s natural resources and facilitate critical and green Minerals for regional value chains in the context of AfCFTA ecosystem is being denied the power to synergize powerfully into a cataclysmic explosion of African industrialization.

If the AU was able to use Michel Sidibe as a Special Envoy in April 2021 to rally low-hanging fruits to sign and ratify the African Medicines Agency protocol, which resulted (in just over five months) with a ratification result from 4 to some 17 ratifications, then what is not possible for the AU? Some of us are also asking for a Special Envoy for the AU’s Freedom of Movement Protocol signed in 2018 – same year as the AfCfta.

Evidently, the AU has its work cut out for it as it heads down its 37th AU Summit. May this February Summit be an important catalyst for greater changes at the AU that need to happen like yesterday!

©E K Bensah Jr (2024)

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