According to a report released at the time of the African Union (AU) Summit in Kampala, Uganda, from 19 to 27 July 2010, African leaders have not kept their promises and are failing their citizens. The “State of the Union” coalition is the first of its kind established to monitor how African governments are delivering on their development commitments, from increasing investment in health care and agriculture to improving human rights and tackling corruption.
Drawing on studies from 10 key AU nations, the report paints a picture of unfulfilled agreements, missed targets and failure to invest in the development of the continent. Most of the landmark announcements made at previous AU Summits are far from being implemented. A scorecard issued with the report rated South Africa as the best performer of the 10, closely followed by Algeria, Egypt and Senegal, but it noted that all the governments have a lot more to do. Nigeria and Cameroon came last.
Kenyan and Pan-Africa Director of Oxfam, Irungu Houghton, said: “African politics is characterised by broken promises. There is a vast gap between the words of our leaders and the reality of our citizens, and we hope holding governments accountable can be the tipping point to bring real change. Huge sums of money are being spent on the AU Summit in Kampala, but it may as well be thrown into the Nile if the only outcome is more empty rhetoric that is never turned into action.”
While the scorecard shows generally poor performance by governments, it did highlight some impressive achievements as well. In particular, it welcomed the growing acceptance of concepts such as free primary education and health care and free access to treatment for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. Director of Mozambique’s Civil Society Learning and Capacity-building Centre, Paula Monjane, said: “Africa’s potential is enormous. This year, eight of the word’s 20 fastest growing economies will be African. What matters is how this increasing wealth is invested. Will AU leaders spend it on making the rich elite even richer, or on delivering real development for all of their citizens?”
The report is launched exactly one year since African leaders promised to ratify all outstanding AU treaties, conventions and charters within 12 months. With 35 such agreements and 53 nations, this would require at least an additional 1,000 ratifications. Instead there were just 32 new ratifications last year. Implementing these initiatives would bring immediate benefit to hundreds of millions of Africans. Healthcare is one example of broken promises. Nine years after AU states committed to invest 15 per cent of their national budgets on healthcare, only six countries have done so: Rwanda, Niger, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Burkina Faso. Many, such as Uganda and Tanzania, are now even reducing spending.
Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 70 per cent of its people under the age of 30, yet AU leaders are failing to realise this potential, the report found. Most governments scored poorly on providing food security for their citizens. While many have increased investment in agriculture, most are still far below the agreed target of 10 per cent of national budgets.
African women now have a greater say in the running of the continent, but they are still far from equal. At least 80 per cent of farmers in Africa are women, yet they own one per cent of the land.
Over 40 per cent of women have never had a basic education, despite evidence that it can reduce risk of maternal mortality and HIV transmission. Rwanda was noted for praise in improving women’s participation in the political process, with 56 per cent of the National Assembly now female.
Women also continue to suffer from practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, which AU leaders have previously promised to address.
The coalition said the international community also bears some responsibility for the failure to meet targets. Decades of privatisation and structural adjustment programmes have made healthcare unaffordable to millions of people. Controlled prices and export-focused policies have undermined small-scale farmers. Africa is the only continent where food aid outstrips external financing for agricultural investment.
African women demand representation and end of violence
Women activists from across Africa also gathered at a women’s conference in Entebbe, Uganda, to demand that AU Heads of State consider gender equality when choosing representatives at all levels of AU structures. The female African activists raised concerns that there were very few women representatives within AU structures which made it harder to push gender-related issues. The regional co-ordinator of Akina Mama wa Africa, Christine Butegwa, said: “Seventy per cent of the people in African Union structures are men despite women being critical partners for development.”
She pointed to the fact that in many countries, other than AU structures, few women were being promoted into senior public sector roles like ambassadors. “We are left at parliament and local government level,” she added. Education International’s Africa Region Officer, Anais Dayamba, echoed these views and said: “There is a similar trend of women’s under representation in leadership positions across teacher unions and the administration of education across Africa despite women forming the majority of the education workforces. This is a trend that EI is trying to reverse through our African Women in Education Network which involves 98 teachers unions in 47 countries across Africa. We hope that AU decision makers will support us in this direction.”
At the same conference, the President of the Network for Women and Development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Jeanne Nzuzi, said that increasing incidences of violations in eastern Congo called for urgent attention by the heads of state at the AU Summit. According to Nzuzi, there are ‘unending wars’ in the Democratic Republic of Congo which force soldiers to rape women who then give birth to fatherless children. “I am sorry for sounding emotional but this is what happens in my country,” Nzuzi said. “All armies, including rebel forces, local defence and UN peace-keeping forces engage in violations.” She called on Heads of State to use their powers to ensure that peace prevails in the DRC and to end the violations of women in the area.
Source: Education International (EI), www.ei-ie.org