Thursday, February 23, 2012

The African Union

monarchy republic non-AU stateImage via Wikipedia


The survival of any organization depends on the nature, approaches, and competence of its leadership and the effective application of the various strategic planning processes at play. In modern times, academics have been strenuously writing research papers that have been of profound importance to many struggling organizations within and outside of the United States. The process of globalization and human interaction and human interconnectedness may be attributed to the drastic rise in the development of organizations witnessed sprouting in almost every corner of the world. One such international organization is the African Union (AU) that evolved with the first struggles for independence that was spearheaded by African leaders who were determined to create political, social, and economic stability for their nations that constitute the Union and for the entire continental population. Established as an organization meant to fight apartheid and colonialism, the AU has in the last few decades, transformed into an international organization enjoying respect in the international community. The purpose of this research paper is to discuss the strategic planning processes of the AU and the many factors that make its operations achievable or unattainable.

The African Union

The African Union (AU) is the largest single entity representing the social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of the African continent and is an amalgamation of fifty-three sovereign states enjoying various political, social, and economic indicators. The only country that is not part of the AU is the North African kingdom of Morocco that left the Union in 1982 after majority of African states recognized the Sahrawi Republic. According to Touval (1967), Morocco’s resentment of the OAU governing systems started in 1963 when King Hassan absented himself from the plenary session in protest of Mauritania’s participation. OAU had until 2002 when it changed named name to AU, not resolved the long simmering disputes between Morocco and Algeria; Somalia and Ethiopia; Somalia and Kenya; and Ghana and Upper Volta (currently Burkina Faso) (Touval, 1967).

Despite being blessed with natural resources and manpower, the continent lags behind the rest of the world socially, politically, and economically and is much dependent on foreign aid provided by powerful Western governments. The AU’s name change was conceived in March 2001 at the Assembly of Heads of State and Government hosted by the former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Kaddafi in the tented city of Sirte (Magliveras & Naldi, 2002). To this day, the AU has not succeeded in ushering the much-needed concepts of Pan-African ideology, self-sufficiency, political stability and political maturity. Union representatives constitute nations that have been colonized by European powers England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France respectively. The continent has become a source of competition for bigger powers given the vast untapped natural resources it contains.

Organizational Mandates

The term mandate implies the duration an individual holds an office or the timeframe required for the establishment of a certain mission. The AU is divided into various departments with the highest jurisdiction and the most important one being the Assembly of the African Union currently headed by President Yayi Boni of Benin who took over from Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea at the 18th ordinary meeting of the Assembly in January of 2012. Other important political institutions of the AU include the Executive Council that comprise foreign ministers of member states, the Permanent Representatives Committee based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) which is a civil society consultative body. Jean Ping of Gabon is the current chairman of the AU Commission. Other political structures managed by other member states include the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights based in Banjul, The Gambia; and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and APRM Secretariats and the Pan-African Parliament that are housed in Midrand, South Africa.

The AU has various mandates that guide its operational procedures. As Armstrong (1982) construes, discussions regarding the importance of mandates have become widespread in recent years in organizations that give thorough thought and reflection to organizational mode of operations. According to Bryson (2004), mandates exist to define the importance of “laws, regulations, and ordinances, articles of incorporation, charters, and so forth (p. 97-98)”.
One outstanding AU mandate is what became known as the Sirte Declaration adopted during the Fourth Extraordinary Session of the Assembly on September 6, 1999 in Libya coinciding with Muammar Kaddafi’s thirty years of autocratic rule. The adoption of the treaty was a change of nomenclature and a refurbishment of the old OAU governing system that paved way for the issue of human rights in the continent (Udombana, 2002). This mandate bounds Union members to observe the importance of human rights in their respective countries. The second mandate was named the Banjul Charter and was mandated to enforce and restore the dignity of the African woman. The third mandate is the issue of self-determination which allows Africans to help each other to get out of the horrors of European colonialism into an atmosphere of peace, prosperity, and unity (Blay, 1985). The crafters of the OAU and AU mandates have succeeded in their efforts to restore the rights of the oppressed African; they fought for the rights of the African woman; and they have succeed in ensuring that no African nation remains under the shackles of colonialism.

Mission and Values

The mission that acts as a driving lever for the UA is ensuring efficient and value-adding institutions that exist to integrate and develop African Union member states. The values the Union looks to as a guiding principle is mainly geared toward respect and diversity of teamwork, the existence of transparency and accountability, nurturing integrity and impartiality, efficiency and professionalism, and sharing of information and knowledge among member states. One fundamental Socratic question that binds the relevant governing principles of the AU while ensuring efficacy in its dealings with the international community and within member states is: What factor is hindering the AU from accomplishing its goals and expectations? The answer to this question lies with the manner of governing and leadership styles that have remained the same despite of change of administrations since the sixties.

Stakeholder Analysis

Major stakeholders of the AU include the Assembly, the Executive Council, and the Pan-African Parliament. The Assembly is the highest authority as it holds the banner for the AU and is by far the most important stakeholder in the implementation of policies. The Assembly, the most powerful organ of the Union, has the power to expel any rebel state that it finds absconding justice. It is also empowered to elect members of the Court of Justice and the Chairman of the Commission. The Executive Council, working directly with the Assembly, is responsible for matters pertaining to restoration of peace and peacekeeping operations. These three stakeholders of the AU constitute a group with common interests and agendas and are thus responsible for spearheading the political, social, and economic ideals of the massive continent. They do observe the statutes of a charter that is sacrosanct and legally binding. According to Dewhurst and Fitzpatrick (2005), stakeholders can be made into advocates through the use of the structured approach. Regardless of the equality of member states as enshrined in the AU constitutional stipulations, still, there are a few select nations that enjoy leverage over others-like Libya of old under Muammar Gaddafi. Union members are bound by unalterable process guidelines that are akin to democratic institutional governance which is separation of powers. Through the use of co-optation, Union members are able to succeed in their projected activities. The AU solicits funds from donor nations like the EU and the U.S. to accomplish its missions. Financially, the Union cannot survive without philanthropic assistance from big powers like the EU and the U.S.

External and Internal Environments

The term SWOT is an abbreviation for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Its use proliferated during the last few decades and as such its demand is getting much more attention among academics who wish to see their writings practiced and perfected in the field. The use of SWOT by organizations is getting remarkably widespread as its effective use and sound implementation have become a source of solace for many struggling organizations beset by either poor management practices or by economic despair. Lee, Lo, Leung, Ruth, & Andrew (2000) are of the opinion that SWOT is a method used to scrutinize organizations and their working styles based on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. To be able to identify the strengths of an organization like the AU, the main internal and external factors at play will have to be given utmost attention. The strengths of the African Union (AU) include overseeing the relationships that exist between the fifty-three nations that form the union, ensuring existence of leadership to deter vacuum in governance, monitoring of a diverse staff drawn from member states employing various cultures, skills, and background. To the contrary, weaknesses focus on factors related to customer conduct and overall contentment in the delivery of services. The weaknesses of the AU are varied and according to Sherman (2007), organizations have been in the practice of strategic management for over a century. Unequal workforce and diminishing resources that cannot support the explosive continental population are some other weaknesses that need deliberation and containment. The AU suffers from low organizational culture, intangible teamwork that is not up to its reputation, and directorial and guidance challenges confounded by differing political ideologies (Ping, 2009).

Endorsement of organizational culture rewards system, performance measurement, and integrated business planning are vital concepts in organizational successes (Aguilar, 2003). Some opportunities include transitioning to international level, creating a remarkable financial structure, partnering with other nations in elevating the way the union is managed, and partaking in manufacturing strategies. There is the need for member states to speak in one voice to overcome their grievances be it be territorial disputes, economic conflicts, immigration concerns, water wars, and military incursions through dialogue and settlement. Threats that can cripple the smooth running of the union emanate from uncontrolled pandemics, gender inequality, dependency on diminishing resources, and rising food and energy needs.

Strategic Issues

There are multiple burning strategic issues that deserve to be addressed within the AU. Some important strategies that come in the form of questions include: How can African states transform their national economies so as to attain sustainability? How can the current dangers associated with state formation be curtailed? How can Africa’s poor labor relations disputes be regulated? These are the major questions that need answers if Africa is to move forward and compete with the international community of nations. Transforming Africa’s national economies will create better opportunities for the millions that currently suffer deprivation, hunger, and disease. Africa has the potential to succeed if its people are allowed to choose governments of their choice. The few governments in the continent that have embraced democracy seem to fare better than those that continue to cling to authoritarianism. Having effective labor relations will ensure the rights of the employee are protected.

Strategies to Address the Issues

The issue of the economy can be addressed through education, communication, and implementation of advanced technologies while working hand in hand with member states and other industrialized nations globally. There has to be commitment to successful agricultural advancement and industrialization so that every citizen can have food on the table and have access to other vital basic needs. Leaders of the Union must commit themselves to the applications of democracy and accept to transform their governing styles by allowing their citizens to choose their preferred leaders through the ballot box. The AU should compel itself and impose punitive measures on nation’s that fail in their pledges to overturn their governing systems. The use of a rapid deployment force drawn from multi-disciplinary contingents, according to Ciliers (2008), can be used as effective tools for pressuring nations reneging on their pledges or commitments. Often, failure by nations to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, according to Carbone (2002), results from skepticisms and paralysis. Alemayehu and Kebret (2007), feel that even Africa’s strongest economic organization, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), suffers from lack of political assurances, overlapping memberships, and poor private sector involvement. The creation of trade unions must be enhanced and enforced so that employees can have access to better services and benefits at work.

Adopting the Strategic Plan

Adopting the strategic plan can either be emergent or deliberate. In the case of the AU, adopting the five-part process will trigger better results. According to Bryson (2004), the five-part process can be applied to overcome misconceptions and unending conflicts that can cripple an organization in the long run. Leaders of the AU will have to be empowered to undertake conventional strategies that lead to the realization of their desired outcomes. Posing questions when dealing with specific issues will help alleviate existing and future huddles. Use of graphs will help chart where failures are bound to occur. By applying the oval mapping strategy and the five-part process, leaders that are endowed with the power to oversee and intervene, can be assured of progress in the long run.

Organizational Future Vision

The organizational future vision for the AU member states entails having an inherent notion of commitment and success in every mission. The outcome of the AU vision statement is a result of inspirational decision-making exercises. By adopting the basic philosophies enshrined in the AU’s vision statement, every nation will experience power and efficiency in its overall operations. By observing visional guidelines, the Union will eventually end up regaining its prestige in the international arena. Reliance on foreign hands will ultimately diminish and a sense of pride and prosperity will engulf the continent.

Implementation Process

Three important guidelines that can place the Union in a better place include the use of general guidelines that help in organizing human needs, budgetary needs, and human efforts (Bryson, 2004); planning through the use of effective communication and education, and building platforms as appropriate indicators. However, to envision success in the implementation process, strategic planners will have to be given the tools that will enable them to execute their responsibilities without interference of any sorts. Having highly qualified personnel will be an added advantage in creating advocates for administration.

Monitoring and Re-evaluation

Monitoring and re-evaluation is another term for re-assessing and revisiting practical procedures that have been put in place in the past. It is prudent to ensure the firm structural and strategic foundations earlier put in place are never left unattended or abandoned. However, lack of resources or shortage of funds may lead to breakdown of strategic plans. The issue of human rights violations-which is failing to protect fellow citizens from all sorts of harm and giving them their rights as enshrined in the constitution without regard to race, creed, color, religion, national and political origin-is an enigma in many African countries. In Africa, as many women get educated, their empowerment and their presence in the political, social, and economic field are seemingly gaining ground. The issues of the rights of the citizen and empowerment of women will need re-evaluation as change of power within ruling elites could turn catastrophic at times.

Reflections on the Strategic Planning Process

Strategic planning process can inject a sense of awareness and understanding if allowed to take its effective course. It is not a policy meant only for top CEOs and other cadres of society holding higher offices in public and private enterprises. Use of vision, goals, and issues that are specific to any organization would be the best way to garnering support for my future project and organization. Strategy change is possible when processes specific to an organization are tailored to suit the steps to be taken (Bryson, 2004). Issues can be managed by strengthening relations with stakeholders and shareholders and as well streamlined through the use of the five-part process. Implementation failure is failure of formulation and must be avoided at all cost. After all is done, it will be prudent to make a review of strategic plans so that past errors are kept at bay and never allowed to evolve again.


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