AFRICAN Union (AU) commissioner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma got a rude awakening on her first week in office: nearly all of the AU’s programmes are funded largely by foreign donors.
"No liberated mind can think their development agenda can be funded by donors," Ms Dlamini-Zuma told a Business Unity South Africa banquet in her honour at the weekend in Johannesburg.
"Over 97% of programmes in the AU are funded by donors.
"We should be more selfreliant. Our governments must put more money there (in the AU)," Ms Dlamini-Zuma said.
She said donors were even footing the bill for African institutions to develop the continent’s strategic agenda, a fundamental task in what has been dubbed the African century. The rocketing value of mineral resources over the past decade has given Africa unprecedented opportunities to shape its own future.
"Our forebears liberated us from colonisation. But we must also liberate our minds."
The AU, whose executive branch, the AU Commission, Ms Dlamini-Zuma has led since October 15, was founded in 2002 with decisive traction provided by a handful of African leaders, including then South African president Thabo Mbeki.
Compulsory contributions to the body’s annual budget were blithely ignored by many governments. Donors stepped in to pay for peacekeeping, health and educational programmes, as well as staff salaries.
But to really break with the past, the 54 AU members will have to pay their contributions in full and on time. Even then, the AU’s programmes budget will be financed by donors, although precise numbers are kept virtually secret, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative US think tank.
"The total support provided by American taxpayers to the AU is unknown, because the organisation lacks the most rudimentary standards in transparency," it said in a report last March.
Ms Dlamini-Zuma has already beg un to get the feel of her new job, spending the bulk of her first eight days in Bamako, Mali, because of infrequent flights between continental capitals.