By Felix Onuah
ABUJA, Feb 7 (Reuters) – The African Union must conduct a comprehensive reform if it is to stay relevant, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said at the close of the bloc’s two-day summit on Sunday.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and the largest economy on the continent, making it an influential member of the 55-nation bloc that was formed to promote international cooperation and harmonise member states’ policies.
The bloc decided in 2016 it needed to work on changes to make it more nimble, focused and accountable, putting Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in charge of the process.
“Global realities demand that the AU be overhauled, if it must remain relevant in intergovernmental processes,” Buhari said in a statement at the conclusion of the virtual summit.
“Nigeria demands a truly reformed, efficient and effective AU Commission, one that is fully committed to the discharge of its duties and responsibilities.”
Buhari did not outline any specific changes he envisaged for the bloc that also has a peacekeeping mission that enables it to send forces to member states and has secured millions of shots of COVID-19 vaccines for the continent.
In a report during the summit, Kagame said the AU needed to overhaul its judicial branch, the pan-African parliament and its commission structures.
He said a division of labour with the patchwork of regional economic communities that have sprung up, sometimes overlapping, across the continent was overdue.
“I ask the incoming commission to give priority attention to these items, so that they are completed this year, without fail,” Kagame said.
He also called for changes that he said would strengthen African healthcare systems, including by ranking nations according to service, rather than per-capita spending, and the creation of regional platforms to support member states in increasing domestic health financing. (Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; Writing by Libby George; Editing by Alison Williams)
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