Deepening security and food crises are likely to dominate the agenda when heads of state convene in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa this weekend, Feb. 17-19, for the annual African Union (AU) summit.
Armed conflict from West Africa’s Sahel to the Horn of Africa in the east and the impacts of droughts and floods have driven ever more Africans from their homes, with the number of displaced people south of the Sahara Desert rising more than 15% over the past year, according to United Nations figures. The U.N. estimates 44 million people were displaced in 2022 up from 38.3 million people at the end of 2021.
AU Peace and Security Commissioner Bankole Adeoye is expected to try to rally support for a proposal for new financing of security operations from the United States, African Union members and the European Union, two diplomats told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Financing has been a perennial challenge for AU initiatives like its peacekeeping mission in Somalia. In 2020, the AU postponed plans to start financing security operations from a new fund until 2023 because it had received less than half of the targeted $400 million.
Heads of state will also be briefed on fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the security situations in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Sudan, which all experienced military takeovers in 2021 and 2022, the two diplomats said.
Bankole and a spokesperson for the Peace and Security Council did not respond to requests for comment.
Another major subject of discussion is expected to be worsening hunger in several regions, which has been driven by armed conflict and extreme weather that scientists have linked to fossil fuel-driven climate change.
Somalia is on the verge of famine after five failed rainy seasons, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering catastrophic food shortages.
In addition to leaders from the 55 AU members states, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and European Council President Charles Michel will attend the summit.
African leaders will advocate for permanent seats for the continent on the U.N. Security Council and among the G20 group of large economies, according to a draft of the summit’s conclusions.
They will also adopt a series of protocols aimed at accelerating full implementation of Africa’s new free trade area, under which trading officially began in 2021.