The annual change of the ceremonial leadership of the African Union from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame to his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fatah al-Sisi comes with a striking difference in approach and style. Though both men have military backgrounds, President Kagame has distinguished him as a crusader for trade and transparent economic governance.
It’s during his one-year tenure that the formation of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) was agreed on in Kigali by 44 nations last March, heralding the promise of increased trade and economic co-operation between the member states. However, it’s rather disappointing that the CFTA is yet to take off as only 19 countries have ratified the agreement while 22 must sign up.
President Kagame has put Rwanda on the global map for creating a conducive environment for economic growth and development. Besides ranking high in the ease of doing business index, Rwanda has also gained admiration for its zero tolerance to corruption. But the economic revolution that continues to earn Kigali plaudits has not been replicated in the other countries.
For the Egyptian leader, the emphasis is most likely going to be on security. This is an issue close to Mr Sisi’s heart, considering his own rise to power in the military that deposed elected President Mohamed Morsy.
Indeed, coming from a country that continues to grapple with religious fundamentalism, violence and the radicalisation of youth, President Sisi has the knowledge, expertise, experience and insights others can learn from.
However, most importantly, the future of the AU lies in strengthening the commission, which is its executive and administrative arm, to play a bigger and more proactive role in African affairs.