The African Union’s turned a good move into a PR and humanitarian own-goal by delaying a planned donor conference by two weeks. Just when are African leaders going to realise they need to put real money where their mouths are? By SIMON ALLISON.
For once, the African Union was doing the right thing. In the face of the overwhelming humanitarian disaster in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, and the need for huge funding to deal with it, the much-maligned institution roused itself to organise a high-level donor conference. The conference, to be held in Addis Ababa on 9 August, would allow heads of state to discuss the issues and make firm monetary commitments.
But African solutions can’t run on “Africa time” and news that the conference has been postponed by two weeks is very difficult to stomach given the urgency of the situation. Ostensibly, the delay is due to the busy schedules of African leaders, who need more time to clear their diaries for the meeting. More likely, the overoptimistic staff at AU headquarters, who are responsible for putting this thing together, are struggling to get countries to commit real money to the problem and are hoping the two extra weeks might allow them enough time to force the issue through.
The response of African countries in general to the famine has been woeful, with even South Africa making only token efforts to alleviate the crisis.
According to data from the Guardian, the most generous country in Africa has so far been Sudan; hardly the government we should be holding up as an aspirational model.
Not that African countries have much of a history of helping with continental causes. For all the lovely pan-African rhetoric which forms the foundations of the political philosophy of so much of the continent, even the AU itself struggles for money, with 75% of its budget usually coming from only five member states: South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Nigeria. This has taken a hit in the last few years when Libya suspended payments in a fit of pique after the AU refused to immediately implement Gaddafi’s vision of a “United States of Africa”.
It’s about time for African leaders to put their money where their mouths are, and begin paying for the things which they claim are important. Significant donations to the Africans starving in Somalia would be a good place to start. DM
Main Photo: The African Union plenary chamber. Reuters.
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