POINTING THE WAY TO prosperity

AFRICAN UNION >Introduction

SUSTAINED POLITICAL STABILITY AND SWEEPING ECONOMIC REFORMS ARE THE TWIN PRIORITIES OF THE NEWLY-FORMED AFRICAN UNION, A EUROPEAN UNION-STYLE ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL BLOC THAT HAS REPLACED THE FORMER ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY (OAU). THREE AFRICAN STATES-GHANA, THE IVORY COAST AND MALI-ARE SET TO PLAY A KEY ROLE IN THE UNION'S FUTURE

After nearly four decades of serving as the symbol of a pan-African ideal, the Organization of African Unity is finally focusing on the bread and butter issues that it needs to address in order to gain an advantage in a global economy. After reaching its main goal of African liberation after decades of struggle and aid from the international community, the 53-nation OAU voted this summer to give the body political and economic teeth, transforming itself into the African Union, a stepping stone for greater continental unity and integration.
The Organization of African Unity devoted much of its 38-year history to the struggle against colonialism and apartheid in South Africa. Now, under the newly named African Union–which is to be ratified by two-thirds of OAU member states within a year–the organization will establish a series of organs similar to those of the European Union, including the Assembly, the Executive Council and the Pan-African Parliament. A series of financial institutions will also be established, including the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Fund and the African Investment Bank.

The success of the African Union will depend on the individual states’ commitment to sustained political stability and to economic reforms that will allow them to meet the financial criteria. Three of those states, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Mali have shown amazing resilience to political bumps and have bounced back to the forefront to become case studies upon which other poor African nations can model themselves.
Ghana won praise from the international community during its successful democratic elections last year despite having suffered one of its worst economic downturns ever in 1999. This year’s economic growth rate, however, is headed for a healthy figure of some 4% and the main indicators have begun to show signs of a strong recovery. Authorities are now preparing the groundwork for sustained growth driven by a revitalized private sector under a stable political and economic environment.

At its last summit in Zambia this summer, the OAU chose former Ivory Coast foreign minister Amara Essy as secretary general of the newly formed African Union. Mr. Essay’s job will be to steer the new body through its transition into a European Union-style economic, social and political bloc. “I have been elected to build the structure of the African Union,” Mr. Essy said following the vote. “The main task is clear, because the mandate of the new secretary general is to transform the OAU into the African Union.”
Fluent in half a dozen languages, Mr. Essy served as the Ivory Coast foreign minister for 10 years and in 1990 he presided over the U.N. Security Council. His years of involvement in Ivory Coast politics, where civilian rule was restored following the October 2000 elections, and that nation’s ability to chalk up years of sustained economic growth, despite a brief slowdown last year on the heels of the Christmas Eve 1999 coup, will provide the African Union with much needed experience.

The African Union will establish a central bank and the African Monetary Fund

Mali, which the United States considers “an African gem” of democracy and economic reforms, is expected to be a key player in African integration. Its president, Alpha Oumar Konare, has been a leading proponent of securing further direct foreign investment, a major concern of the continent and of its plan for a successful African Union.
Special attention from African leaders will be given to Mali’s ability to weather last year’s economic problems stemming from a crisis in the cotton sector, which, along with the hike in oil prices, pushed real GDP growth to just 4.3%. Growth was expected to fall by 1% this year before rebounding back to 5% in 2002.

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