When the Libyan crisis began in 2011, the African Union wanted to use a political strategy to facilitate a transition of power, and by any means necessary, avoid war. Yet that policy approach was overridden by Western powers by way of the United Nations Security Council, leading to a military intervention, the overthrow and demise of Muammar Gaddafi, and the eventual conflagration of Libya.
Cognizant of that watershed moment and others, African decision-makers last month gathered in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia for the high-level Tana Forum on security in Africa. The theme this year is about how the AU could better finance its own security agenda in order to reduce the continent’s dependence on donors and hence, keep foreign intervention at bay.
Africa is the region with the smallest military expenditure globally, allocating $39.2 billion in 2016 for its more than 1.2 billion population. This is despite the fact that the continent faces key security challenges including terrorism, violent extremism, wars, drug trafficking, besides clashes between herdsmen and farmers precipitated by the effects of climate change.
To increase self-reliance and support peace operations, the AU has suggested a 0.2% import levy on eligible goods, which officials hope, will raise up to $400 million by 2020.
By owning and shaping its financial agenda, the AU aims to improve its performance and governance structure, and also assert its political legitimacy. The security reform agenda follows the passing of two signature decisions this year aimed at opening up the continent’s skies through a single air market and the establishment of a continental trade agreement.
Achieving fiscal autonomy is a crucial first step in realizing “African solutions to African problems.” As AU chairman Moussa Faki says, “Without its independence, Africa is nothing. With its independence, it can be everything.” ( (Quartz)