Background of the Union
The Organisation for African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and paved the way for the African Union’s formation on 9th of July, 2002 in South Africa. The African Union consists of all 55 countries of the African continent. The formation of the Union initially came up during the meeting between some African leaders, held in Accra. The meeting was held under the leadership of Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah, who strongly stood for unity and prosperity in Africa. He realized that it would take a long time to get the people of Africa united so there was a need to have a platform where the continent’s solidarity could be defined and defended. For Nkrumah, strategies and practices that aimed to protect national sovereignty and led to unity between nations, felt difficult to implement. Hence, Nkrumah toiled for and advocated a Pan-African Union and led Ghana to its independence in 1957.
The current elected chairperson of the African Union for the year 2018 is the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame, and the vision of the Union is “An integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” The African Union is aiming for a dynamic and integrated Africa and believes this can be achieved through relentless struggle on several fronts. The focus of the African Union has shifted from supporting liberation movements like OAU did in the African territories earlier under colonial rule and apartheid, to go ahead and work on establishing an ‘organization spear-heading Africa’s development and integration’. (AU, 2018)
Ghana’s Contributions to the African Union
Ghana has been regularly contributing to the African Union to help it overcome its financial needs. Ghana, along with every member state, has been encouraged by the AU to pay annual dues to contribute to its budget. The dues paid help in financing the legislature’s activities and the policy-making front of the African Union.
When we talk of continent-wide efforts, Ghana has made significant contributions in the past, and continues to do so by supplying the African Union with soldiers to take part in peace-keeping missions on the continent. Ghana has sent its troops to some of the most important and strategically located countries like Darfur and Somalia, in order to bring peace and stability in the continent.
Another way in which Ghana has contributed to the AU has been through their acceptance of refugees from other countries on the continent, refugees who have faced sufferings and instability, leading to political turmoil and humanitarian crises. Long ago, for many years, the people from Togo rushed to Ghana to seek help and find refuge when there country was experiencing political turmoil. Ghana also took in refugees from the wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The country is present at every summit organized by the African Union, and has also been taken lead when required to take important decisions for the African continent. Ghana also hosted the 2007 summit of the African Union, and the successfully organized summit of Heads of State and Government in the same year. Furthermore, based on the qualifications, and capabilities in areas of specialization, a lot of Ghanaians have been employed by the Organization. Thus, we can deduce that human resource in Ghana has been instrumental in the management and conduct of the African Union.
Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in the year 2017, announced a new import tax in the country aimed at supporting the activities of the African Union (AU). According to Akufo-Adddo, Ghana, being a founding member of the OAU (now AU) and committed to the realization of the ideals and objectives of the Union, has accelerated their economic integration and development.
Taking this further and giving Ghana the stage, the African Union on 14th of November, 2017 launched the Gender and Development Initiative for Africa (GADIA) under the Ghanaian President H.E Nana Akufo-Addo, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union’s Committee on Gender and Development, under the theme of “African women as leaders in business and politics”.
Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament for North Tongu District appreciated and applauded the initiatives taken by Ghana for the AU. He further said that Ghana’s first president Nkrumah, also played a major role in the independence of most African states. Under the leadership of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a meeting led to the formation of the OAU, and so the African Union’s story cannot be told without the contribution of Ghana.
Since the year 2008, the African Union has been supporting the use and development of science in Africa, and so it has been running the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Awards for Scientific Excellence (AUKNASE). The awards are in memory of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, who always believed in and supported the idea of African liberation and unity. Nkrumah followed a revolutionary pan-African propaganda and a strong perception, both of which went beyond national boundaries. Today the “dream and determination” of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah inspires Africa in all facets of development (AU, 2017). This is how Ghana has immensely contributed to the African Union and this is why it holds a significant position in the Union’s future.
Ghana’s Contribution to the Union’s Future
In an attempt to revive its role in the African Union that experienced a lull in between, Ghana is now ready to host the Africa Space Agency. According to the Ghanaian Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, this initiative by the AU will allow Africa to launch and explore the space for improved technological advancement.
Boateng said that, “Out of the five countries including—Ghana, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Egypt that are bidding to host the Space Agency, Ghana, located at the center of the world and on the Equator, is better suited and more prepared to host the Agency for space exploration that has become important in the world.”
Ghana, 2018 onwards, is also launching their supercomputer facility at the Institute of Scientific and Technological Information (INSTI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Kuntunse, near Accra. This facility is aimed at helping Ghana’s socio-economy transition from the “the Adam and Eve Economy” phase into a modern technology-propelled one. This transition of the economy is also expected to help Ghana move beyond the Aid Agenda of the Government.
According to Boateng, studies have already been conducted to plan the establishment of computer machine tool centers where scientists in Ghana will be trained on how to use computer technology to manufacture tools and spare parts that will help industrialists operate. This should stop industrialists from importing even a single tool to fix or manufacture their products.
To their credit, Ghana has also been working on eradication of corruption from the country. Even before the celebration of AU’s 55th Anniversary commenced this year in May, Ghanaian government had started taking steps to prioritize the battle against corruption to promote national development. Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration Charles Owiredu said, “The government’s setting up of the national anti-corruption plan (NACAP) is expected to contextualize and mobilize efforts and resources in a bid to help prevent and fight corruption through the promotion of high ethics and integrity as well as via vigorous enforcement of applicable laws.”
The AfroChampions Initiative and the African Union also undertook a roadshow in Ghana recently to raise local entrepreneurs’ awareness on the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) organized in partnership with the Association of Ghana Industries. According to AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga, they were able to present the opportunities offered by free movement of goods and services on the continent and the end of tariff and non-tariff barriers and they also received many questions and comments on the best schedule of actions to implement AfCFTA’s protocols, challenges relating to the simplification of customs, which simply exhibits Ghana’s keenness to take up a more important role in the continent and the Union.
– Dr. Neha Sinha, Associate Fellow, VIF