Education International
Education International

Leaders accused of breaking promises at African Union talks

published 26 July 2010 updated 26 July 2010

African leaders have not kept their promises and are failing their citizens, according to a new report released as Heads of State arrive in Kampala, Uganda, for the African Union summit.

The "State of the Union" coalition is the first of its kind set up to monitor how African governments are delivering on their development commitments, from increasing investment in health care and agriculture to improving human rights and tackling corruption.

Drawing on studies from 10 key AU nations, the report paints a picture of unfulfilled agreements, missed targets, and failure to invest in the development of the continent. Most of the landmark announcements made at previous AU Summits are far from being implemented.

A scorecard issued with the report rated South Africa as the best performer of the 10, closely followed by Algeria, Egypt and Senegal, but it noted that all the governments have a lot more to do. Nigeria and Cameroon came last.

Kenyan and Pan-Africa Director of Oxfam, Irungu Houghton, said: "African politics is characterised by broken promises. There is a vast gap between the words of our leaders and the reality of our citizens, and we hope holding governments accountable can be the tipping point to bring real change. Huge sums of money are being spent on the AU Summit in Kampala, but it may as well be thrown into the Nile if the only outcome is more empty rhetoric that is never turned into action."

While the scorecard shows generally poor performance by governments, it did highlight some impressive achievements as well. In particular, it welcomed the growing acceptance of concepts such as free primary education and health care and free access to treatment for HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Director of Mozambique's Civil Society Learning and Capacity-building Centre, Paula Monjane, said: "Africa's potential is enormous. This year, eight of the word's 20 fastest growing economies will be African. What matters is how this increasing wealth is invested - will AU leaders spend it on making the rich elite even richer, or on delivering real development for all of their citizens."

The report is launched exactly one year since African leaders promised to ratify all outstanding AU treaties, conventions and charters within 12 months. With 35 such agreements and 53 nations, this would require at least an additional 1,000 ratifications. Instead there were just 32 new ratifications last year. Implementing these initiatives would bring immediate benefit to hundreds of millions of Africans.

Healthcare is one example of broken promises. Nine years after AU states committed to invest 15 per cent of their national budgets on healthcare, only six countries have done so: Rwanda, Niger, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Burkina Faso. Many, such as Uganda and Tanzania, are now even reducing spending.

Africa is the world's youngest continent, with 70 per cent of its people under the age of 30, yet AU leaders are failing to realise this potential, the report found.

Most governments scored poorly on providing food security for their citizens. While many have increased investment in agriculture, most are still far below the agreed target of 10 per cent of national budgets.

African women now have a greater say in the running of the continent, but they are still far from equal. At least 80 per cent of farmers in Africa are women, yet they own one per cent of the land.

Over 40 per cent of women have never had a basic education, despite evidence that it can reduce risk of maternal mortality and HIV transmission. Rwanda was noted for praise in improving women's participation in the political process, with 56 per cent of the National Assembly now female.

Women also continue to suffer from practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, which AU leaders have previously promised to address.

The coalition said the international community also bears some responsibility for the failure to meet targets. Decades of privatisation and structural adjustment programmes have made healthcare unaffordable to millions of people.

Controlled prices and export-focused policies have undermined small-scale farmers. Africa is the only continent where food aid outstrips external financing for agricultural investment.