Producing Worthy Diplomats in Africa

By Raymond Erick Zvavanyange

Twitter: @zvavanyanger3

 

Fast Read

  • Universities have a pool of talented students who can assume diplomatic roles in the African Union Model Summit.
  • Young men and women in Africa should keep abreast of issues (such as women’s empowerment towards Agenda 2063) that affect their well-being, communities, states, and Africa as a whole.
  • It is an individual responsibility to be cognisant of the workings of the African Union, its organs, and any other collective bodies around the world.

 

A new career choice among University students in Africa has just emerged.  A Diplomat. A career in International Relations.  A career in Foreign Service.  Diplomats are in the making in Africa.

Recently, a group of excited young men and women enrolled in fourteen Universities/Institutions of Higher Learning in Zimbabwe gathered over two scheduled days, representing Diplomats of thirty-four African countries, deliberating on pertinent issues centered on the theme “2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.”

Participating students excelled in the assumed roles, such as to warrant an open suggestion from a Women’s University in Africa’s official, who in his concluding remarks, proposed for the African Union (AU) Model Summit to be an annual event, hosted on a rotating basis by the Universities in Zimbabwe.

African Union Model Summit Programme

The AU Model Summit is a simulation of the actual AU Assembly held twice a year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  It is also a platform on which learners usually male and female students are introduced through real-life experience to the workings of the African Union, a continental body.  As learners, participants get to assume diplomatic roles, and thus can improve on their leadership skills, especially “soft skills.” According to official documents from Women’s University in Africa, the Host University, the objectives of the AU Model Summit were:

(i) To develop solidarity through the promotion of awareness among university students about the aims and objects of the AU;

(ii) To enable understanding of the role and functions of the various organs of the AU;

(iii) Help students appreciate the linkages of the AU with other international bilateral and multi-lateral agencies; and (iv) Contribute to the study of Africa and the AU.

Currently, Zimbabwe is the AU Summit Chairperson, led by the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, HE Robert G. Mugabe.  Therefore, it appeared logical to the organisers of the AU Model Summit Programme to have the simulation done in Zimbabwe.

The fourteen participating Institutions of Higher Learning in Zimbabwe were: Women’s University in Africa, Harare Institute of Technology, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, Lupane State University, Africa University, Reformed Church University, University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe Open University, Solusi University, Bindura University of Science Education, Great Zimbabwe University, and National University of Science and Technology.

Leadership skills displayed by the Diplomats included following up on unclear statements, use of argumentation, public speaking, negotiation, compromise, team work, and co-operation.  Each participating University had three Diplomats per each assigned AU Member State allocated to the same.  The assumed role by the young diplomats could be one of the following: (i) President, King, Prime Minister; (ii) Minister of Foreign Affairs; and (iii) Ambassador to the AU Summit.  Leadership and coaching experts assert that soft skills can decide the odds of success or failure in business environments, and in moments, where quick thinking and action is required.

The AU Model Summit Programme featured an array of activities such as the Specialized Technical Committee Meeting, Permanent Representatives Meeting, Executive Council Meeting, Heads of States and Government Meeting, and the Assembly Meeting.  During the Summit, English was the working language used by the participants. In reality, the AU has four working languages namely, Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese.

The Founding of the Organisation of African Unity and the African Union

The African Union Handbook 2015 proclaims that on May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 32 Africa states that had achieved independence at that time agreed to establish the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the AU.  A further 21 members joined gradually, reaching a total of 53 by the time of the AU’s creation in 2002. Morocco, however, left the OAU in November 1984.  South Sudan became the 54th African Union Member State in July 2011.  The OAU’s main objectives as set out in the OAU Charter were “to promote the unity and solidarity of African states; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States; rid the continent of colonization and apartheid; promote international cooperation within the United Nations framework; and harmonize Member’s political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defense policies.”  The African Union Handbook 2015 continues that “many of the OAU’s core commitments, decisions and strategy frameworks continue to frame AU policies.”

HE Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, from South Africa, is the current Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  Under her leadership is the Directorate of Women, Gender and Development (WGDD), which works to promote gender equality in Africa and within the Organs of the AU.  Amongst many duties and responsibilities, WGDD “oversees the development, harmonization of gender-related policies; initiates gender mainstreaming strategies within the Commission and for AU Organs and Member States; and supports capacity building by providing training on gender policies and instruments.”There are also other Commission bodies such as the Africa Union Women’s Committee, which assumes an advisory role to the Chairperson of the AU Commission as a whole on issues of gender and development in Africa.

Agenda 2063

Agenda 2063 is a shared vision and framework to guide the AU in its work until 2063.  The vision of the AU is that of an“an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa, driven by its own people to take its rightful place in the global community and the knowledge economy”. The AU vision puts the development of the human resources of the continent at the center, including young men and women in Africa.  According to Agenda 2063 Aspiration 1 on “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”, “Africa’s human capital will be fully developed at its most precious resource through sustained investments based on universal early childhood development and basic education, and sustained investments in higher education, science, technology, research and innovation, and the elimination of gender disparities at all levels of education.”  The visible participation by the different Universities in Zimbabwe in the inaugural AU Model Summit created one big image “The future of African diplomacy is in able hands and looks bright”.

The complete Seven Aspirations articulated in Agenda 2063 are as follows:

  1. A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;
  2. An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance;
  3. An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;
  4. A peaceful and secure Africa;
  5. An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics;
  6. An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children; and
  7. Africa as strong, united and influential global player.

 

Snapshot: AU Model Summit Sessions

The AU Model Summit re-consolidated the actual Specialised Technical Committees (STC) for purposes of time management and for students to prepare issues according to the theme.  Similarly, the Summit constituted seven Regional Economic Committees (REC), out of the eight that are recognized by the AU.  The Committee of Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment(one of the STC’s) comprised of the following Member Countries: Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Mali, Seychelles, Somalia, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Togo, and Equatorial Guinea.  The Committee was chaired by Nigeria (Africa University).  From the Committee Meeting, a sub-Committee (Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Gambia and Mozambique) was tasked to work on a Resolution on Agricultural Funding, Agricultural Development and Climate Change.

The Committee of Agriculture, Rural Development, Water and Environment Resolutions were as follows:

  1. The Committee recommended for Member states to increase agricultural funding (and give priority to women and youth) in line with the 2003 AU Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security and the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods;
  2. The Committee acknowledged that agricultural funding is linked economic integration and inter-African trade e.g. export as processed rather than exporting as raw materials;
  • The Committee acknowledged that climate change is real and adopt measures and strategies to increase resilience of our rural populations, the who are engaged in agricultural production;
  1. The Committee recommended for Member states to adopt traditional/indigenous crops which are drought resistant crops, as a measure to improving food security in our countries; and
  2. The Committee recommended for Member states to improve of water use efficiency through irrigation schemes and community-owned and managed facilities in water, sanitation and health.

In the RECs, they were interesting issues that were raised during the Conference of the Heads of State and Government in their regional blocks.  For instance, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN – SAD) with a membership of twenty-eight African countries, was formed in 1998, with “the primary objective of promoting the economic, cultural, political and social integration of its Member States.” The Africa Union Handbook 2015 states that “Article 1 of the Treaty establishing the Community provides that the aims and objectives of CEN – SAD are to:

  • Establish a comprehensive economic union with a particular focus in the agricultural, industrial, social, cultural, and energy fields;
  • Adopt measures to promote free movement of individuals and capital;
  • Promote measures to encourage foreign trade, transportation and telecommunications among Member States;
  • Promote measures to coordinate educational systems; and
  • Promote cooperation in cultural, scientific and technical fields.”

According to the AU Model Summit, the key issues that were discussed and identified as critical to the Community of Sahel – Saharan States, chaired by Libya (Chinhoyi University), were:

  • To promote gender sensitivity in programmes (education, Information and Communication Technologies, and Health);
  • To prioritize the engines of economic growth for self-reliance (agriculture – access to land, resource extraction, and renewable [solar and hydro power] and non-renewable energy sources);
  • To improve peace and human security (trade and business, well-resourced and agile standing force for the community)
  • To foster cooperation, partnerships and relations [bi- and multi-lateral] (working with other regional communities)
  • To promote the sovereignty and self-determination, taking into consideration the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (democracy and decolonisation of African states).

Rules of Engagement 

As anyone who has observed open Meetings of Authorities can attest to, rules of engagement makes the debates solution-oriented as well as engaging to Members with the Observer status.  During the Meetings of the Ambassadors and Ministers of Foreign Affairs, it could be seen that some Member States chose not to participate and hence, abstain from any voting on the subsequent motions that were out of tandem with their State’s interests.  Still, others Diplomats used their given time to speak to deliver “long speeches”, which gave the Sessions an interesting twist.  The quick-witted Diplomats were quick to use the “Point of Order” and “Point of Privilege”, showing that the AU Model Summit Programme, was a learning platform.

The AU Model Assembly, chaired by Zimbabwe, brought a highly acknowledged selection balance as both, the AU Chair and AU Secretary General, gave equal chances to Member States to state their opinions on the Assembly agenda.  The Assembly reinforced the importance placed on the ability of Member States to exercise their right to agree, disagree, or disengage, in line with their values and interests.  Parallels can be drawn from the AU Model Summit, the United Nations (UN) Conference in New York, U.S., in September 2015, where the new Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by all UN Members, and the upcoming Paris Climate Talks, in December 2015.  The ability to articulate a country’s values and interests, negotiation skills, abstaining from taking action, are all permissible, within the rules of engagement.

What Do Diplomats Do?

Diplomacy, anywhere, Africa included, is complex yet it can be one of the most rewarding career choice, with the opportunity to serve in different parts of the world as a representative of one’s country.  A Diplomat must be representative of his/her country’s values and interests, at all times and in all circumstances.  There is no exception.  It is a calling to some – a need to pursue one’s country’s interests above and beyond one’s own.  Diplomats are people also – for they deal with a whole range of issues.  They do not only address issues of gender disparity, but also broad issues covering social, economic, political development.

There is often a lot of speculation on the work of diplomats, in fragile economies and especially from foreign Governments who are deemed hostile to the interests of a Host country. The general aim of diplomatic work in a Host country is foster cordial relations, mutual cooperation, and development between the Host Government and Foreign Government.  The specifics of the actual written agreement and work falls within diplomatic secrets, as these are arrangements, which respective Governments agree on mutual terms.  International bodies such as the UN and European Union work together with the AU along diplomatic lines.  It is their leadership, guidance and strength of partnerships that help to eliminate, should any surface, perceived ambiguity in the work of Diplomats.

However, Diplomats, sometimes, can become entangled in conflict and violent situations.  For instance, there are Diplomats who have lost their lives during the course of discharging their duties.  Security protocols, therefore, must be adhered to at all times.  There are also debatable cases where Diplomats became the “extra boots on the ground” in the resolution of conflicts.  What this shows, is that, diplomacy is an important factor when assessing the state of International Relations.   Successful Diplomats are those who are firm in their country’s position and embody Africa’s interests.

Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together

The AU Model Summit Programme coincided with the African Universities Day, celebrated across Africa, on November 12, 2015 under the theme “Internationalization of Higher Education.”One compelling message at the end of the Programme came from the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Women’s University in Africa, Professor Charles M. Nherera, who in his concluding remarks, encouraged the young men and women Diplomats to “Share all the knowledge participants had learned on the countries they represented as well as to go beyond Africa.”  The Pro-Vice Chancellor further challenged all Diplomats with the striking words, “If you were not like that [a Head of State and Government, Ambassador, and Minister of Foreign Affairs], be like that. If you were like that, continue being like that.”Diplomats and all who will participate in the future AU Model Summit Programme should bear in mind that the development of Africa depends on the active participation of every one: Students, University Officials, Heads of State and Government, Ambassadors, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Elected Leaders, Government, Civil Society, Private Sector, and International Community.  When each entity has given the best that they have to Africa, it is possible to join and sing along, without restrictions and in one’s local language, the AU Anthem: Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together.

RuralReporters.com is a news platform with in-depth coverage of under-reported issues in rural communities in Nigeria and across Africa. We report on Agriculture, Health, Women and generally on Rural Development. To pitch a story idea or submit a report, please email: editor@ruralreporters.com

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