The union's two-week long summit in Addis Ababa aims to discuss ways to resolve endemic corruption and protracted conflicts that have affected millions of lives on the continent.
Head of states and leading politicians from Africa are meeting at the Summit for Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), which is taking place in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. Started on November 5, the event is scheduled to end on November 18.
At an annual meeting in January this year, the AU came up with the theme "Combating Corruption - A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation," which is being thoroughly explored in the two-week-long summit.
Founded in 2001 and established as the ‘Organisation of African Unity,’ the union aims to address the problems that hurt millions of people in the African continent.
Paul Kagame chairs this year's summit.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa reported that corruption swallows at least $140 billion in all the AU member states every year.
Most of this lost wealth meant to be invested in infrastructure projects, humanitarian aid and good governance.
Nigeria’s ambassador for the AU says that the AU loses estimated $ 50 billion every year because of illicit financial outflows.
“One can imagine what the impact of that resource would be on Africa’s development in terms of infrastructure and social sectors, schools, hospitals, etc.,” Segun Apata said.
The AU’s annual budget is dependent on foreign aid by 73 percent.
In other words, to put it simply: Various African nations are not capable of financing their own national costs. Therefore, they heavily rely on foreign aid, which mostly comes from outside of Africa.
Billions of dollars of this aid does not find its actual recipients, deepening financial vulnerability across the continent.
Protracted conflicts, weak security grids and political instability further deepens the crisis.
At present, 15 African countries are in war or face post-war trauma.
The majority of these conflicts are in West and Central-west Africa, causing at least 5 million deaths since 1998 in Congo and claiming more than 2 million lives in another longstanding conflict in Sudan.
Famines in South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania; displacement crisis in Western Africa; migration due to war and conflict and climate refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo--these are other compelling issues the continent is dealing with today.
To resolve these issues, there's a strong need for developing strong institutions.
And finance is one of them.
Attempts at Reforms
Under the new chairmanship of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the AU announced that combating corruption would be its main focus in 2018.
The lack of good governance illustrates itself in Transparency International's corruption index, featuring 21 African countries with alarmingly poor ratings.
Therefore, a new system of benefits has been implemented. Declaring anti-corruption champions every year and contributing, political and economic support to those in reward.
The Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari was announced the anti-corruption champion for 2018. Buhari has many times spoken against the abuse of trust and is known for his tough fight against corruption.
The African Union addresses corruption in both public and private sectors. It builds a consensus on how African countries should tackle siphoning of foreign aid, and also develops mechanisms to recover stolen assets and punish corrupt officers in bureaucracies.
The two-week summit focuses on broadening the union's responsibilities to improve the functioning of African Economic Union. A new African Union passport has already been introduced. A continent-wide document, the passport makes visa-free travel a reality and facilitates the growth of tourism and trade between African countries.
The steps taken by the union are certainly constructive. Will they succeed in stabilising the region, eliminating corruption and bringing long lasting peace?
Only time will tell.