The Director of Programmes of Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) in the Gambia, Mr Edmund Amarkwei Foley, has called on the African Union (AU) to take steps to offer direct financial support to its member States as the continent battles the spread of the novel COVID-19.

Mr Foley, made the call when he delivered via Zoom, the second lecture of the 14-week long “Law and Ethics Web Series”, on the theme, “Regional Governance in Africa in the Wake of Covid-19 and Prospects for the Future”.

This session was moderated by Ms. Selasi Dede Bedzrah, a former student of the GIMPA Faculty of Law and currently a final year student at the Ghana School of law. The presentation evaluated the transition from the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU), which represented a new phase of regional governance in Africa, and whether this change had achieved the desired results.

The role of the AU in contemporary times was appraised, particularly in light of its Agenda 2063 as well as other institutional reforms. The responses to the COVID-19 pandemic by the AU as well as other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), were thus examined to assess their impact on Human Rights in Africa generally in these times.

The challenges for regional governance in the wake of COVID-19 are multifaceted in nature and they include: whether the AU and other RECs can become more relevant to the ordinary African; sustainability of the use of innovative and efficient ways of working; financial sustainability measures; whether intra-African trade can be boosted through AfCFTA; ensuring credible elections with compliance to health and safety regulations; the potential for Human Rights abuses; and increase in focus on potential conflict areas.

The recommendations in this policy paper, based on the presentation of Mr Edmund A. Foley, are that the AU should direct resources towards supporting Member States as ECOWAS is doing, and this should be replicated by other RECs. Moreover, The AU needs to enhance its communication mechanism to ensure that it is close to the African citizenry as envisaged in the AU Reform Agenda.

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Policy statement