Minister pledges money as AU seeks to become more independent

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane pledged R1 000 of her own “hard-earned” money on Tuesday to boost the African Union’s ability to fund its own programmes. 

The minister told journalists here she would pledge her contribution at a fund-raising dinner to be hosted by President Jacob Zuma and the chairperson of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday in Sandton.

The dinner is to be held on the margins of the 25th ordinary summit of the African Union (AU) which is being held in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

The minister said that Zuma and Dlamini-Zuma would call on “captains of industry” from Africa to pledge much larger amounts to help boost the self-sufficiency of the AU.

She was answering a journalist’s question about what the summit was likely to decide on finding alternative sources of funding for its own activities.

While the AU has been preaching African independence and talking tough against what the continent’s leaders see as an attempt by former colonialists to continue controlling Africa, the organisation still relies heavily on international donors for funding. 

Dlamini-Zuma commissioned an investigation into ways for Africa to increase its financial independence after arriving at her new post in Addis Ababa in 2012 and being unpleasantly surprised to discover how much of the AU’s work relied on foreign donors. The dependence on donors — most of them from Western countries — allowed them to dictate the AU’s activities, Dlamimi-Zuma said at the time. She made it one of her top priorities to wean Africa off international donors. 

Nkoana-Mashabane said on Monday that the AU inquiry into alternative funding which Dlamini-Zuma had launched should be able to put a basket of financing options on the table for leaders to choose from at this summit.

These would include a tax on air fares and some form of levies on the oil and resources industries in countries which had such resources.

The minister stressed that “not a single cent of public money” would be spent on Wednesday’s pledging dinner as it was being sponsored entirely by businesses.

She recalled that Africa’s industrialists and business leaders had demonstrated their generosity earlier this year when pledging large amounts of money to help the AU fight the ebola outbreak in West Africa.

At the last AU summit in January Dlamini-Zuma explained that because of objections by various African countries to different proposals for alternative sources of funding, the AU would leave it up to individual countries to decide how they wanted to raise the money.

The AU had proposed a formula for determining the contributions from each country, according to its wealth, to bring in enough money for the AU to fund all of its own operations, most of its development programmes and about a quarter of its peacekeeping work.

Nkoana-Mashabane added that the AU believed it would be able to fund all its own programmes if it was not losing so much money through illicit outflows of capital from the continent.

She was referring to a report by former President Thabo Mbeki who heads an international panel appointed by the AU and the UN that has calculated that at least $50-billion drains from Africa every year. This was not only from explicit criminal activity but also from legal but shady accounting practices by multi-national corporations such as registering their businesses in off-shore tax havens rather than in the African countries where they actually made their profits. – African News Agency and M&G reporter

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