SMS and travel taxes to fund AU?

2014-01-28 08:39

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Taxes on SMSes and travel could in future fund programmes of the cash-strapped African Union (AU) if a proposal on this is accepted.

For now, the continental body is considering booting out seven member countries that have failed to pay their dues.

AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told foreign ministers yesterday morning at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the AU commission would soon have to take “some of the difficult decisions to ensure that it improves its institutional effectiveness”.

She also said it would have to focus on “domestic resources mobilisation”, meaning it would try to find ways to get money and to get members to pay their dues.

The Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Uganda could be suspended from the AU following this week’s summit for not paying their dues, civil society organisations revealed yesterday at the sidelines of the summit.

As of mid-2012, only 11 countries paid their dues, with South Africa, Algeria, Egypt (currently suspended), Libya and Nigeria being the major contributors.

Ibrahima Kane, AU advocacy director for the Open Society Foundation, said all of the $170 million currently budgeted for programmes, is being funded by countries outside Africa. The entire budget is $308 million.

“It is a problem. We have a problem because in 2012 $43 million in dues were not paid by member states,” he said.

“Uganda has been invading countries, but it hasn’t been paying its dues.”

Kane said former Nigeria president Olesegun Obasanjo was tasked with looking at the funding issue, and among others, suggested that taxes on SMSes and air travel tickets into Africa fund the AU.

Export and import taxes were also considered as possible sources of funding, as is currently the case in west African regional body Ecowas.

“His report is ready, but it has not been submitted and will not be examined at this summit,” Kane said.

Dlamini-Zuma said a meeting of finance ministers at the end of March would look at this report, as well as at the joint Economic Commission for Africa and AU report, compiled by a high-level panel chaired by former president Thabo Mbeki, on illicit outflows of capital and resources from the continent.

The AU wants to become capable of funding development programmes from continental budgets, as well as peace and security programmes. Recent conflicts in Mali and the Central African Republic saw France sending in peacekeeping troops because the AU could not afford to.

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