President Ruto’s star keeps shining as he assumes a distinguished role at the AU.

At the just concluded African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President William Ruto was appointed as the next Champion for the AU Institutional Reforms.

The AU Champions position is a critical role in the continental body, ranking below the ceremonial and rotational AU Chairperson position. Heads of states designated as champions by their colleagues lead processes in focal thematic areas that the AU considers critical in driving growth and development, and lead to the achievement of Africa’s Agenda. The champions are expected to “garner political support and advocate for AU activities at the highest level possible, promoting political buy-in as well as full ownership by Member States, thereby facilitating the implementation of key programmes of the Union”

Since inception, 22 current and former heads of state and government have served as continual champions for various thematic focus areas. Among these is our former President, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, who served as AU’s Champion for Climate Change in his capacity as Coordinator of the Committee of the African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change.

President Ruto is taking over as the Champion for AU’s Institutional Reforms from President Paul Kagame of Rwanda who has served in that role since 2017. H.E Kagame’s 7-year tenure has been defined by elevated pace and intensity of reforms at the AU. Known for his trailblazing and consequential leadership style back home, President Kagame appointment came with the much-needed impetus and he hit the ground running upon taking over the role.

To begin with, he appointed a 9-member Pan-African Advisory team to look at the continental body’s problems as reported in various documents and advise on key critical focus areas on which the reform agenda would be anchored. The team included Ms Cristina Duarte (Former Minister of Finance, Cabo Verde); Dr Donald Kaberuka (Former President, African Development Bank); Mr Strive Masiywa (Founder, ECONET Wireless), Ms Amina Mohammed (former Minister of Environment, Nigeria and now Deputy Sec General of the UN Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group) as well as Dr Vera Songwe, (United Nations Under Secretary-General & Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); Mariam Mahamat (Minister of Economy and Development, Chad); Tito Mboweni (Former Governor of South African Reserve Bank); Tito Mboweni (Former Governor of South African Reserve Bank) and Dr Acha Leke (Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company).

The advisory team recommended the AU’s reform agenda to be anchored on the following 5 issues:

(1) Focus on key fewer priorities with continental scope, and improve the division of labor with Regional Economic Communities;
(2) Re-align African Union institutions to deliver on those priorities;
(3) Connect the work of the African Union more directly to citizens;
(4) Manage the business of the African Union more efficiently at both the political and operational levels; and
(5) Sustainable self-financing of AU’s activities.

For the last 7 years, President Kagame has done a stellar job in all these 5 focus areas and he leaves behind a long list of achievements including:

✅ The establishment of 3 high-level supervision arrangements for the AU reform process namely the AU Institutional Reform Unit domiciled in the AU Commission.
✅ Overseeing the endowment of the AU Peace Fund from members’ contribution. The fund received the highest member contributions in 2017 since its establishment in 1993.
✅ Rallying members to adopt the self-financing of AU’s programs through the domestication of the Kigali Decision on Financing the Union. Through his efforts, the number of countries adopting the new financing mechanism grew significantly thereby helping the union to cut its reliance on external funding of its programs/activities…

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