SA could cough up R5bn a year for AU

2014-02-02 06:00

South Africa could cough up more than R5 billion a year to help fund the African Union (AU) if a funding proposal by African ministers is accepted.

The suggestion that countries on the continent pay 0.5% of their annual budgets to the continental body is contained in a report compiled by African foreign ministers.

It will be considered by finance ministers from AU member countries at a meeting in Abuja next month as a way of minimising the AU’s dependence on foreign donors.

The AU’s $170 million (almost R1.9 billion) for special projects all come from non-African states, while the remaining $138 million (R1.5 billion) are contributed by member states.

Shortly after her election in 2012, AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she was shocked about the amount of money coming from foreign donors.

She told a Business Unity SA banquet in Joburg at the time: “No liberated mind can think their development agenda can be funded by donors.”

She wanted the AU to be self-reliant and governments to put more money in the kitty.

South Africa last year contributed R162 million to the AU from its international relations budget, and in October gave another R22 million to help Dlamini-Zuma run her office.

President Jacob Zuma also pledged an extra R11 million to Misca, the African-led intervention force in the Central African Republic.

This year’s budget for Misca is $409 million (R4.5 billion) but the conference only managed to raise $314 million (R3.5 billion) from various heads of state and regional bodies today.

South Africa is one of the major contributors to the AU, as well as Algeria, Egypt (which is currently suspended), Libya and Nigeria. These countries together contribute 66%, while the remaining 48 contribute the rest.

Only 11 countries paid their dues to the AU as of mid-2012, while the Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia and Uganda could be suspended because of nonpayment.

The funding proposals report by ministers was compiled last weekend while they were at a presummit retreat in Bahir Dar, about 600km northwest of Addis Ababa.

These are meant to be an alternative to proposals by an AU high-level panel on alternative sources of funding, chaired by former Nigeria president Olusegun Obasanjo, which seemed to have died a quiet death because of disagreements among member states.

Although that report was ready in 2012, it had never been submitted to an AU summit.

Obasanjo’s report proposed a $5 (R55) tax on each air ticket into Africa to help fund the AU, or a $2 hospitality levy for hospital stays on the continent, or a small levy on SMSes, which would hit millions of low income earners on the continent.

African countries with high tourist numbers complained about the proposed levies, saying their contribution would be disproportionate.

Civil society has urged for stronger self-reliance in the AU.

Head of international liaison office with the AU for Oxfam, Desire Assogbavi, this week said: “We have to ensure that our leaders commit to the ideals of the union by investing in it fully. We have the means, but AU leaders must have the will to finance the idea of a strong and vibrant African Union.”

Currently countries’ levies to the AU are based on GDP and are revised every few years.

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