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German development cooperation

“Africa must unite”

by Gudrun Kopp
Regional integration is not an end in itself. Close cooperation with neighbours leads to new opportunities and, accordingly, higher standards of living. It is a healthy sign that regional institutions are generally appreciated and operational in Africa today. [ By Gudrun Kopp ]

“Africa must unite” – so reads the motto on the start page of the African Union’s website. As the website loads, the outlines of all the countries of Africa fall into place, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, to form a picture of the whole continent. The shapes that appear to form a whole so easily in fact represent 53 countries with over 2,000 languages and over 40 currencies. Africa is the world's second-largest continent and is made up of more countries than any other. Many of these countries are far ­larger in size than Germany. Yet their markets are small. South of the Sahara, there are 24 countries with a population of less than ten million. Average gross domestic product in the countries of West Africa (besides Nigeria) is only around 0.16 % of ­Germany's.

Only 10 % of trade in Africa takes place between the continent’s various countries. In South East Asia, by comparison, intraregional trade accounts for 50 % of all trade, and in the EU the figure is as high as 74 %. So for Africa, there is room for improvement. In short, there is no other option than to achieve closer regional integration.

And indeed that is the goal the AU has set itself. Its vision is that of “… an Africa integrated, prosperous and peaceful; an Africa driven by its own citizens, a dynamic force in the global arena”. Regional integration covers a variety of aspects, the main ones being peace and security, good governance and economic development and trade.

Africa is currently in a good position to achieve progress on all these issues. Founded in 2002, the African Union and its main organs – in particular the Commission, the Pan-African Parliament and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights – provide a forum for pan-African policymaking. And in the African Development Bank, which has grown in strength under Donald Kaberuka, its current ­president, the continent has an African economic institution that can drive economic development forward. Regional communities also serve as an important link between national polices and pan-African endeavours.

Yet the AU and the regional communities do not yet feel fully able to play the roles assigned to them. That is why Germany, through its development cooperation, is supporting integration efforts at both regional and continental levels. Our cooperation covers such varied areas as good governance, peace and security, transboundary water management, trade, regional economic integration, energy and natural resource management. What this means in practice is discussed in the following paragraphs.

Cooperation with the AU

The agreement between the parties in Germany’s present governing coalition states that “for the lasting stabilisation of the continent, we are looking to a strong African Union as an important component of African ownership”. That is why, at government negotiations at the end of last year, the BMZ more than doubled its funding for the AU Commission and committed € 30 million to it for the coming year. This funding is to be used in particular for institutional capacity-building because strong pan-African institutions are vital to the continent's development. In all these efforts, German development policy is always aligned with our partners' own strategies and we are ­also focused on implementing the joint EU Strategy for Africa.

Traditionally, the focus of our cooperation with the AU has been on peace and security and, in this area, we work in close cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office, which has lead responsibility for this aspect of policy. Two prerequisites for our embarking on development ­cooperation were the AU mandate on the establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the relaxation of the principle of non-interference. The first AU peacekeeping missions in Darfur (Sudan), Somalia and the Comoros, and the decision to suspend Mauretania, Guinea and Madagascar from the AU following coups in those countries in 2008, were clear signals that the AU takes its extended mandate seriously.

We advise the AU Commission's Directorate of Peace and Security and lend our support to strategic processes. The main focus is on avoiding armed conflict. This includes establishing conflict early warning systems at continental and regional levels and strengthening Africa's own structures for conflict mediation. At the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre, 300 future African peacekeepers have been trained to take part in joint missions.

One positive aspect is particularly worth noting: since 2008 our work on regional and pan-African ­water policy has been based on the AU Declaration of that year on strengthening regional efforts in the sector. This has lent our efforts added momentum. ­Another area in which we have recently become involved is regional economic integration. Here, efforts are aimed in particular at developing cross-border infrastructure, something that is essential to economic integration and trade.

One encouraging example of African ownership and accountability is the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), which has now become a well-established instrument. Germany's support for the mechanism has been mainly focused on the APR Secretariat responsible for coordinating the mechanism. By adopting the African Peer Review Mechanism, the AU countries have agreed on a politically very demanding procedure for assessing governance in each other's countries. By adopting this instrument Africa has proven that it has recognised its own problems and is endeavouring to find its own solutions.

Cooperation with regional organisations

Africa’s regional organisations are the backbone of regional integration. They are the vital link connecting pan-African policies with national policies. In addition to the role they play in their respective regions, they ­also play a decisive role in the implementation and realisation of pan-African initiatives.

When many experts in the field look at these regional organisations, they still see an innumerable multitude of organisations with a tangled web of overlapping memberships and mandates. Yet some order has, in fact, now been brought to this supposed chaos. Across the continent, there are eight African regional organisations recognised by the AU. Added to these are multi-country institutions dealing with specific ­issues, such as water and energy. There is, however, still some inclarity and instances of overlapping membership, and some regional organisations have only limited capacities. That is why Germany has adopted a strategic approach and is working with those organisations with which it believes cooperation can be of strategic value. These include, for example, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the East African Community (EAC), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). We can see what form this cooperation takes by looking at SADC as an ­example.

At the most recent government negotiations between Germany and SADC, it was agreed that the aim of cooperation would be to systematically foster the process of integration. Germany supports SADC in ­being self-reliant, effective and efficient in playing both the role expected of it by the AU and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as a driving force and facilitator of pan-African processes and also the leading role its member countries expect it to play in initiating and coordinating regional integration. Efforts focus on market integration, trade liberalisation and economic liberalisation. All these aspects are to be strengthened as key elements on the agenda for deeper regional integration. Structural obstacles, such as overlapping membership of SADC and other organisations and Africa's underdeveloped intraregional trade, are also being addressed.

The aim is to help the Secretariat (and other institutions downstream) to be able to better carry out its coordination and steering function, for example, on transboundary water management and the protection and use of natural resources. With regard to peace and security, Germany is helping to build the capacity of the Directorate in charge of those issues and advising it on how to improve cooperation with the AU, ­develop a civilian component to the regional peace and ­security system, and fight transboundary crime.

Looking to the future

Further regional integration is absolutely vital to Africa's development. The countries of Africa have ­already come a long way along this difficult road. The mere fact that Africa now has respected, functioning institutions gives cause for optimism and also makes our cooperation much easier. Recent developments have reinforced that optimism. At the end of 2009, for example, the East African Community (EAC) adopted a Common Market Protocol.

Despite these achievements, many of them ­remarkable, a great deal remains to be done. The AU and the regional organisations still have limited institutional capacities. Once decisions are taken, they are implemented only slowly and hesitantly. Perceived national interests are hard to overcome. One African politician put it very succinctly when he said at a meeting on regional integration that “elections are won locally, not regionally”.

That is a dilemma that is familiar all over the world and to all politicians. Regional integration does not come for free. It can sometimes mean painfully relinquishing national competencies. We Europeans learned that in the course of European integration. Regional integration can only succeed if citizens actually experience its benefits and added value for themselves. It is not an end in itself and it must not be the preserve of the elites. Its aim is to bring tangible improvements to people's development opportunities and lives through the expansion of trade, greater political stability and more affordable water and energy. The donor community must also play its part and ­respond flexibly to requests of support for regional processes and investment. Germany is, for example, particularly supporting the ­efforts of the EU and the African Development Bank to fund cross-border infrastructure.

Germany can contribute a great deal to regional integration. As a member of the EU, we have gained a great deal of experience in successfully achieving integration. As a development donor, we can deploy our instruments at all three levels – national, regional and continental.

Africa must unite – neither our partners in Africa, nor we as development policy makers, should shrink from complex debates or opt for the supposedly easier national solutions. The complexity of regional integration is a challenge to which we must rise.