Senegalese President Macky Sall leaves the presidency of the African Union (AU) in favor of his Comorian counterpart Azali Assoumani during the 36th summit of the continental organization scheduled for February 15 to 19 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. For the Nigerian journalist Seidik Abba, a specialist in African political issues, the Senegalese leaves a satisfactory picture, despite the difficulties.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, whose mandate as President of the African Union ends on Sunday February 19, judged ” satisfying his record at the head of the continental institution. Is he right?
During his presidency of the African Union, Macky Sall achieved some significant results for the continent in terms of visibility and participation in all major international agendas. He traveled to Sochi, Russia, to bring the voice of Africa to Vladimir Putin and to get Russia to authorize the export to Africa of wheat blocked in Ukraine because of the war. who has been leading Moscow there since 2022. He also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelinsky on the same subject.
There was at Macky Sall the concern to mark the presence of Africa in the international agenda on major international issues. At the G20 or at the United States-Africa summit which took place in December, he showed a desire to give visibility, to carry the voice of the African continent, to ensure that Africa is called upon.
Mediation efforts in major cases can be credited to his account, as we have seen in the case of the 49 Ivorian soldiers who were detained in Mali. There was on the part of President Macky Sall a desire for intermediation.
Among the achievements of his mandate, there is also the European Union – African Union summit of February 2022 which was organized in Brussels, Belgium, during which President Macky Sall carried the voice of the African continent. From the point of view of visibility, compared to the previous presidency in particular, we felt in the Senegalese president this desire to carry the voice of Africa, to do things differently. And we can consider that the results have been satisfactory.
Like any assessment, there are achievements and shortcomings. In terms of shortcomings, we can see that the African Union has not succeeded in resolving the major crises occurring on the continent, particularly in the Sahel, in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Horn of Africa etc There also remains the self-financing agenda of the African Union.
President Sall’s June visit to Russia to ask his counterpart Vladimir Putin to facilitate grain exports was criticized by many Africans. For what ?
The approach of the Senegalese president can be understood in the condition where we were in a deadlock with the increase in food prices. There was no other solution than to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to concretely solve this problem.
Over time, the solution is certainly to ensure that Africa’s food independence is assured. But in the situation we were in, there was no other solution. Countries like Egypt or Mauritania depended exclusively on Ukrainian and Russian wheat. So it was necessary for the current president of the African Union to go and unblock the situation.
Now we have to go beyond that. This is a fundamental problem for African countries. They need to be able to produce themselves rather than depend on the outside. Every time there is an international crisis, Africa is stopped. A few years ago, it was the problem of the increase in the price of rice imported from Asia because Africa depends on this continent for its supply of rice. Today, it is the problem of the cost of wheat which has increased because of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
For Macky Sall, there was no other solution than to go see Poutine. And it is moreover this approach which enabled the United Nations, Turkey to mediate and to allow cereals, mainly wheat, to be evacuated and prices to return to reason. Inflation has caused the price of wheat to increase by 30 to 40% in some countries. We were headed for food riots like we had experienced in 2008. And the fact that there was this step made it possible to unblock this situation.
Security, food and good governance are still challenges for several countries on the continent, particularly in the Sahel. What are Macky Sall’s accomplishments in these areas?
Food security is an important issue, especially in the current context of shortages with the events in Ukraine. Many African countries depend on Ukraine and Russia for the import of cereals such as wheat. Some countries are 80% dependent on these imports, others 60% and others much less. It is therefore important that there be progress on this agenda. President Macky Sall has obtained that we can continue supplying Africa on these issues. Therefore, we can consider that his contribution was important.
However, the issue of food security in Africa can only be solved through food self-sufficiency. Today, Africa imports at least $35 billion worth of food each year despite holding 65% of the world’s arable land. People come to buy land to do agriculture in Africa, which unfortunately does not develop its land itself.
In addition, President Macky Sall can be credited with the Dakar summit on food security which was held from January 25 to 27, 2023. During this meeting, the milestones were laid for the development of agro- industry in Africa. It is very important that we can do self-production to ensure food security. There have been some positive advances that have been made on this side.
On the other hand, on political issues such as the Sahel, there has been no significant progress. On the contrary, the security situation continued to deteriorate. Burkina was the scene of two coups in January and September 2022 during President Macky Sall’s chairmanship of the African Union. The Sahel is an indicator of the deterioration of the situation, not to mention the extension of the security threat.
The year 2022 was that of the extension of the terrorist threat to the countries of the Gulf of Guinea because Benin was attacked several times, as well as Togo. There are still efforts to be made to resolve the crisis in the Sahel. Even if, here too, we feel that the African Union has encouraged cooperation between the countries of the Sahel and those of the Gulf of Guinea. President Macky Sall notably went to see the Chadian transitional president, Mahamat Idriss Déby, who is the current president of the G5-Sahel, to try to relaunch this military cooperation organization which brings together Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to fight terrorism. Because the solution to the crisis in the Sahel can only be global and transnational. It can only come from five countries taken together.
President Sall has garnered support from several developed countries, such as France, for Africa’s membership of the G20. What would this membership represent for the African continent?
The accession of Africa to the G20, if it is done, as a construction site of President Macky Sall, will allow Africa to have a voice in the chapter. It will not fundamentally change Africa’s position in international affairs, but it is better to be present. Today, the G20 is made up of 19 countries in addition to the European Union. The African Union is invited from time to time, according to the current G20 presidency. We have to get out of that precisely for the AU to be a body and become the twenty-first country of the G20. Being present in a body like this allows you to have a say, to express your opinion, to be where things are decided.
On the Ukrainian crisis, the European Union decides and wants Africa to follow. But Africa cannot follow the European Union because it is its decision. So if Africa is at the level of the G20, it can make its voice heard better, advance its issues. But we must be careful to consider that joining the G20 will solve the problem of international governance. Africa must be present on the United Nations Security Council, because it is the continent which is marked by the greatest number of crises and the greatest number of blue helmet missions. It is therefore in Africa that things must be decided.
This membership has its value. It can be useful, symbolic, but does not solve the problem of international governance. The fundamental question today is international governance. Africa is not present where the decisions are made which affect the future of the world, where the decisions on crises are made.
How should Macky Sall’s successor go about meeting the challenges facing the African Union?
President Assoumani Azali of the Comoros who will succeed Macky Sall will have to mobilize the international community and African countries. President Azali will need the support of the countries of the sub-region since he will represent East Africa. The Comoros do not have the apparatus and the diplomatic weight of Senegal. So we have to help this country succeed in its presidency of the African Union. The Comoros is an island country with a small population and does not have a diplomatic staff equivalent to that of Senegal. There will be many challenges to carry the voice of Africa as President Macky Sall did.
The Comorian presidency of the African Union will have to work on the various crises facing the continent: the Sahel, North Kivu, the Horn of Africa, etc. All of these crises are important issues as well as the challenge posed by the war in Ukraine. To succeed in his mandate, President Azali needs the support of African countries and other partners of the African Union. It is important that, for example, in the context of this transition between President Macky Sall and his Comorian counterpart, there is support. It is in the interest of the entire continent that the Comoros, which will take over from Senegal, can effectively succeed in their mission.