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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 15th February 2024

African leaders gear up for crisis summit in Addis

Blue Lines

When leaders gather at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa on 17-18 February, they will face the most serious test of the organisation's credibility since its foundation in 2002. The AU is being tested at every level: most devastatingly on its ability to prevent and resolve conflict across the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Congo-Kinshasa, northern Mozambique and the Maghreb.

To stand a hope of forestalling political and military crises, the AU has to reassert the primacy of the political and governance ideals with which it was launched. These included the African Peer Review Mechanism, which enabled assessors from across the continent to report on progress in governance standards. Their reports implicitly ruled out electoral shenanigans, third presidential terms and military takeovers – all of which have now returned to Africa's political lexicon.

Since the AU was launched, populism, bad governance and authoritarianism have gained ground globally. Political reformers will have to redouble their efforts. As a full member of the G20 starting this year, the AU has a special role to play on the global stage. Next year, South Africa will host the G20 and set out the continent's agenda.

With the African Continental Free Trade Area, the AU is setting regulatory standards for business across the continent. But the leaders gathering in Addis shouldn't ignore the political chaos that bad governance leaves in its wake.