The African Union (AU) has been instrumental in fostering continental integration and development since its establishment 20 years ago. In 2015, the African Union adopted an ambitious blueprint, for Africa’s development which they called Agenda 2063, “Africa We Want”. The Agenda, 2063 serves as Africa’s strategic blueprint for transforming the continent into a global powerhouse in the future. It represents Africa’s commitment to inclusive and sustainable development, unity, self-determination, and collective prosperity under the principles of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The genesis of Agenda 2063 emerged from the realization among African leaders that the focus needed to shift from the struggle against apartheid and political independence to prioritize social and economic development, regional integration, democratic governance, peace, and security (African Union Commission, n.d).
To reaffirm their commitment, African heads of state and government signed the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration in May 2013 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the OAU/AU’s formation. This declaration marked Africa’s rededication to the Pan-African Vision of an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, playing a dynamic role in the international arena. Agenda 2063 was subsequently developed as a concrete manifestation of how Africa aims to achieve this vision within a 50-year period from 2013 to 2063, as outlined in a letter presented by former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Considering the multitude of challenges faced by the continent, including coups, poverty, health risks, political instability, the digital divide, migration, and brain drain, it becomes increasingly important to establish a long-term 50-year development trajectory for Africa. This trajectory is crucial as it enables the continent to address and overcome these challenges, leading to improvements in structural transformations, peacebuilding efforts, conflict reduction, economic growth, and social progress. By envisioning such a trajectory, Africa can strategically plan and implement measures to tackle these issues and work towards a more prosperous and stable future. Additionally, Africa needs to adapt to changing global contexts, embrace people-centered development, promote gender equality and youth empowerment, harness the benefits of globalization and the ICT revolution, leverage its unity as a global power, and capitalize on emerging development and investment opportunities in sectors such as agri-business, infrastructure development, health, education, and value addition in African commodities.
Agenda 2063 not only encompasses Africa’s aspirations for the future but also outlines flagship programs that can drive economic growth, development, and rapid transformation on the continent. Furthermore, it delineates specific activities to be undertaken within 10-year implementation plans, ensuring that Agenda 2063 delivers transformative outcomes, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for the people of Africa.
Against this background, South Africa as a member state has actively participated in the AU’s initiatives and programs aimed at promoting socioeconomic growth, peace, and stability since its joining on 6 June 1994. It is crucial to acknowledge that the National Assembly in South Africa holds a significant position in advancing and incorporating the development agenda of the African Union within the country. This article examines the importance of the National Assembly in South Africa and its role in harmonizing the country’s legislative framework with the goals and objectives of the African Union. It also delves into the consequential impact this alignment has on South Africa’s developmental path.
The National Assembly’s Role in Advancing the AU’s Development Agenda in South Africa
This segment comprises the diverse aspects of the National Assembly’s engagement in promoting and domesticating the African Union’s development agenda in South Africa. It seeks to give feature the legislative alignment, adoption of AU protocols and agreements, oversight and accountability, public engagement and awareness, and resource allocation and budgeting as major areas where the National Assembly plays a fundamental role.
The Constitution of South Africa gives Parliament the sole legislative authority and responsibility of creating laws for the country in alignment with the Constitution. As the representative of the people, Parliament’s role is to uphold and promote the values of human dignity, equality, non-racialism, non-sexism, and all other rights protected by the Bill of Rights. It also oversees the implementation of constitutional requirements and ensures the independence, impartiality, accessibility, and effectiveness of the Judiciary and other State institutions through legislative and other means. The mandate of Parliament is derived from Chapter 4 of the Constitution, which establishes its existence and outlines the functions it carries out. Parliament is elected to represent the people, ensure government by the people within the framework of the Constitution, and advocate for the interests of provinces at the national level of government. With such responsibilities the National Assembly can play a key role in promoting and domesticating the African Union’s development agenda in South Africa, through ensuring that the countries laws align with the African Union’s development agenda. It is important the Parliament aligns the laws of the country with the development agenda so that there is:
promoting regional integration,
access to funding and support,
coordinated monitoring and evaluation and
By enacting the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000, the South African National Assembly exemplifies the significance of legislative alignment in fostering synergy between national and continental priorities. This legislation aligns with the AU’s Agenda 2063 Aspiration Number 4 whose objective is of promoting transparency and good governance. The Act grants citizens the right to access information held by both public and private entities, serving as a crucial tool to enhance accountability and combat corruption. Through such legislative alignment, South Africa demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development and socioeconomic progress, contributing to the collective advancement of African nations.
Adoption of AU Protocols and Agreements:
AU protocols and agreements into South African legislation. It is important to emphasize that these AU protocols and charters cover various areas, including trade, human rights, governance, and infrastructure development. By ratifying and implementing these protocols, the National Assembly ensures that South Africa fulfils its obligations and commitments to the AU, actively contributing to the AU’s development goals. The adoption of AU protocols also serves as a tangible demonstration of solidarity and a concrete expression of cooperation between South Africa and the rest of the continent. This process is significant for strengthening Pan-Africanism and reaffirming South Africa’s dedication to advancing the aspirations of the entire continent. For instance, the National Assembly ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), a flagship initiative of the AU. By being among the 46 out of 54 countries (see figure 1 below) that have adopted and deposited their instruments of AfCFTA ratification, South Africa demonstrates its commitment to enhancing intra-African trade, economic integration, and industrial development in line with the AU’s aspirations. This year’s AU theme, “Accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” highlights the importance of South Africa’s adoption and ratification of this protocol in advancing the AU’s development agenda. By taking this step, South Africa is moving in the right direction to support the AU’s objectives and promote economic integration and growth across the continent. The implementation of AfCFTA signifies South Africa’s commitment to fostering regional cooperation and expanding trade opportunities, which aligns with the AU’s vision for a more integrated and prosperous Africa.
Figure 1: Countries that have ratified AfCFTA: Source tralac
Oversight and Accountability:
Oversight and accountability are essential foundations of parliamentary systems worldwide, serving as key aspects of parliamentary work. The National Assembly assumes a vital role in ensuring accountability and oversight of the government’s actions related to the AU’s development agenda. Parliamentary committees act as the driving force within the Parliament, where extensive work is carried out. Through these committees and structures, the National Assembly diligently monitors the implementation of AU programs and policies, evaluates their efficacy, and holds the executive branch responsible for their execution. This oversight function reinforces the government’s dedication to the AU’s development agenda and fosters transparency throughout the implementation process.
The South African National Assembly has effectively utilized its parliamentary committee structures to advance the AU’s agenda. By means of these committees, the National Assembly has meticulously examined the implementation of the AU’s Peace and Security Architecture. This oversight has played a pivotal role in monitoring and evaluating South Africa’s engagement in AU peacekeeping missions, ensuring both accountability and the efficient utilization of resources.
Public Engagement and Awareness:
The National Assembly serves as a platform for public engagement and awareness regarding the AU’s development agenda. Members of the National Assembly act as representatives of the people and provide a channel for citizens to voice their concerns, opinions, and expectations related to the AU’s development goals. This can be done through various mechanisms such as public hearings, consultations, and outreach programs. It is the prerogative of the National Assembly to ensure that the aspirations of the South African people are considered while promoting the AU’s continental agenda. The South African National Assembly has made efforts to enhance public engagement and awareness regarding the AU’s agenda and the government’s response to it. Recognizing the importance of public participation, the National Assembly has taken steps to ensure that citizens are informed and involved in matters pertaining to the AU’s agenda. This includes facilitating open dialogues, public consultations, and disseminating relevant information through various channels. By promoting public engagement, the National Assembly aims to foster transparency, inclusivity, and accountability in the implementation of the AU’s agenda within South Africa. For instance, the National Assembly conducted public hearings on the AU’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Agenda. These hearings allowed civil society organizations, women’s rights advocates, and other stakeholders to provide input and recommendations, influencing the formulation of gender-related policies and programs aligned with the AU’s agenda.
Resource Allocation and Budgeting:
Moreover, the National Assembly plays a significant role in resource allocation and budgeting, which is essential for implementing the AU’s development agenda. Through budgetary deliberations and oversight, the National Assembly ensures that adequate financial resources are allocated to programs and initiatives as well as those that are associated with the AU’s priorities. This process warrants that South Africa’s financial obligations to the AU are accomplished, enabling the successful accomplishment of development projects at both national and continental levels. A clear example is when during the budgetary process, the National Assembly allocated funds to support South Africa’s participation in the AU’s infrastructure development projects. For example, funds were earmarked for the construction of the Trans-African Highways, contributing to the realization of the AU’s vision for expanded regional connectivity and incorporation.
These examples highlight how the National Assembly’s legislative actions, adoption of protocols, oversight function, public engagement, and resource allocation have actively promoted and domesticated the AU’s development agenda within South Africa. By translating AU commitments into concrete actions at the national level, one can note that the National Assembly contributes significantly to the advancement of South Africa’s development priorities in line with the broader goals of the AU.
From the paper, it is clear that the National Assembly of South Africa plays a dynamic role in promoting and domesticating the African Union’s development agenda within the country. By aligning legislation, adopting protocols, providing oversight, engaging the public, and allocating resources, the National Assembly contributes to the realization of the AU’s goals and objectives. Its active participation ensures that South Africa remains committed to the AU’s vision of a prosperous, integrated, and peaceful continent. As South Africa commemorates 20 years since the founding of the AU, the National Assembly’s role in advancing the development agenda serves as a testament to the country’s commitment to African unity and progress. It is important that the country’s National Assembly continues to do all in its power to support the development agenda of the African Union.