‘Foreign donors dictate to AU’

2012-10-13 15:51

New AU chairperson determined to make the organisation more self-reliant

The first priority for former home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the African Union (AU) will be to make the organisation less dependent on foreign donors.

Dlamini-Zuma is due to be sworn in tomorrow as the new chairperson of the AU Commission, which serves as the secretariat of the AU.

In an interview shortly before she left for the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dlamini-Zuma said almost 90% of the AU’s budget comes from foreign donors who can then dictate how the money should be used.

An example of this, she said, was Libya. According to her, when that country was erupting into violence last year, the commissioner for peace and security at the AU wanted to go to Libya but the donors asked what he intended to do.

“He said he would go to have conversations with everyone there, including Gaddafi. They said: ‘No, this money is not for discussions with Gaddafi,’” Dlamini-Zuma said.

She said the contribution system by member states must be changed so that the organisation does not need that much money
from foreign donors.

China paid for the new AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, while Germany sponsored the new building next door to it for the Peace and Security Council.

A suggestion that countries contribute a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP) was shot down, Dlamini-Zuma said, because countries said they would then feel dominated by big countries with large GDPs, such as South Africa.

“But they have no problem being dominated by foreign donors,” she remarked.

South Africa along with Libya, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt contribute 75% to the budget, while the remaining member states contribute the rest.

Despite countries such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea seeing their income growing tremendously thanks to their oil reserves, they still contribute relatively little to the AU coffers.

Salaries at the AU are notoriously low and therefore the institution is not an employer of choice for Africa’s best and brightest.

But Dlamini-Zuma said the South African government agreed to top up the salaries of the officials she is taking with her.

Former South African AU ambassador and current UN representative, Baso Sangqu, will join her in Addis Ababa.

According to Dlamini-Zuma, top AU officials earn the same salaries as deputy directors in the South African government, about R450?000 a year.

She says this is why the quota for South Africans at the AU is not yet filled, because the low pay discourages competent people from going there.

Now South African officials will go there on secondment, meaning they will not have their salaries reduced.

Dlamini-Zuma hopes to promote the interests of women, especially those in agriculture and business, in her new job.

She also hopes to make a dent in maternal mortality to ensure fewer women die during childbirth.

During her election campaign for the AU job, some AU officials opposed her appointment because they knew of her no-nonsense reputation and how she cleaned up South Africa’s home affairs department.

Is she nervous about going into that environment now?

“I’m always nervous when I start any new job. I know they are nervous, I’m equally nervous,” she said.

“But nobody should be threatened if we all are serving the best interests of the AU and the continent.”

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