Reforming the African Union

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame signed a free trade agreement in his term as head of the African Union’s assembly
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the outgoing head of the African Union Assembly, signed the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in March 2018 (source: dpa)
  • The African Union is trying to revitalize itself through a continent-wide free trade area
  • Its reform strategy is realistic by downplaying political in favor of economic integration
  • However, lack of consensus and a worsening security outlook put the trade deal at risk

Founded in 2002, the African Union (AU) evolved through a delicate balance of federalist ambitions and a gradualist approach – inspired by the European Union – that focused on economic integration and political cooperation, without compromising state sovereignty. But 16 years after its creation, and much like its EU model, the AU finds itself stymied by an overcentralized and inefficient structure and a lack of the financial means needed to achieve its goals.

In 2018, under the leadership of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who assumed the rotating chairmanship of the AU Assembly, the organization gained new momentum. Mr. Kagame, known for his pragmatism and reformist bent, is admired by his African counterparts as a firm advocate of the motto “African solutions for African problems.” His plan for overhauling the AU focuses on four key areas: political affairs, peace and security, economic integration, and representing Africa on the world stage.

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