Fresh off the back of the G7 Leaders’ Summit (where the outcomes were disappointing) comes the Mid-Year Coordination Meeting (MYCM) of the African Union member states, which provides a hope for moving forward to end poverty and its systemic causes on the African continent.
From July 14-17, Zambia will host the fourth AU mid-year meeting, welcoming 13 African heads of state and 8,000 international delegates.
This year’s meeting is crucial as it provides a prime opportunity for African leaders to discuss a way forward through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and conflict affecting parts of Africa; and provides a space for them to strategise active solutions for the continent’s biggest issues — which include food insecurity, insurgency, and the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the African continent, including skyrocketing prices of wheat and fertiliser, among other things.
With 2022 having been declared the Year of Nutrition by the African Union, solutions for the growing hunger crisis and increased rates of food insecurity and famine across the continent should be crucial topics of discussion at this year’s conference.
The African continent has been dealt blow after blow over the last two years, and steps to get the continent on track to ending extreme poverty need to be taken immediately. Africa was not only left far behind the rest of the world when it came to vaccinating its population against COVID-19 (meaning the virus is still a very real threat to millions of people on the continent), but the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic have contributed to increased poverty rates, and subsequently, increased rates of hunger.
Meanwhile, with African countries importing 44% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia prior to the war; and the World Food Programme getting nearly 50% of its wheat from the Ukraine-Russia region, the conflict in Ukraine is also having a dramatic impact on food supply levels and food costs across Africa.
The climate crisis has also taken a swing at the continent with droughts defining the eastern, western, and central parts of the continent, limiting food production and killing livestock; and tropical storms causing destruction and displacing thousands of people in the south.
Africa’s leaders have a huge responsibility to lift the continent out of these issues, and the summit is a great place to start. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What Is the African Union?
The African Union is a congregation of the continent’s 55 member states, represented by each country’s president or head of state. The purpose of the AU is to promote unity among all Africans; to protect Africa’s people from a lack of harmony; address social, political, and economic issues that are setting the continent back; and to work towards the continued development of the African continent.
How Does the AU Mid-Year Meeting Work?
The Mid Year Coordination Meetings were first conceptualised in 2017, as a main forum for the AU and the Regional Economic Communities to align their work, and coordinate the implementation of the continent-wide integration agenda.
This year the meetings will take place on July 17, and will be preceded by the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, which will run from July 14-15 in Lusaka, Zambia.
In this Ordinary Session meeting, foreign ministers or selected representative ministers from each state discuss progress towards certain decisions that were made at previous meetings, and also review policies and declarations that have to be decided upon.
The MYCM itself is a meeting of heads of state aimed at reviewing the state of the continent, and setting out definitive strategies towards bettering Africa overall.
The agendas for both meetings have yet to be released by the host country and the African Union. However, thanks to media briefings, we know that the following are likely to be key focuses in both meetings:
- Strengthening food systems and eradicating food insecurity on the continent.
- The promotion of peace and the eradication of conflict in certain regions.
- The ongoing war in Ukraine and how the loss of essential resources from Ukraine and Russia — such as essential grains and fertiliser for farming — will impact the continent.
- Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why Is This Year’s Meeting So Important?
This year’s meeting is important because it will look at the current state of the continent, and hopefully help to answer the question: where do we go from here?
These meetings come at a time when Africa, and the world, are faced with multiple crises, including a looming food crisis and ongoing climate crisis. With the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 to be hosted on the African continent for the first time this year, in Egypt in November, these meetings are an important milestone this year for African leadership to set the tone on not only continental integration, but the necessary steps towards ending extreme poverty and addressing the fallout from the ongoing global crises.
Africa is dealing with critical issues that need immediate solving, and this summit is key to seeing what the continent’s leaders are willing to do to move things forward. Not only that, it will be attended by the heads of Africa’s eight Regional Economic Communities, whose role it is to advance economic alignment and integration between Africa’s countries. This means that there is a high potential for the current and future focus of Africa’s finances to be up for discussion at the summit.
All of this is to say that this meeting is critical to ending extreme poverty across the continent. It will address some of the biggest contributors to poverty Africa has witnessed over the last few years (namely the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and conflict); and it will also look at how the AU has been dealing with Africa’s most urgent issues (including food insecurity and access to resources) to see where it can do better.
Why Should I Take Action?
The time to focus on getting Africa back on track to achieving the United Nations’ Global Goals and ending extreme poverty is right now. Africa is far behind the Global North on the road to recovering from the pandemic, and being able to fully focus on the other major issues; and that needs to change.
At this year’s mid-year meeting, we need Africa’s leaders to do more than just talk about the things they’re planning to do to end poverty and advance continental development — we need to see commitment from them, that indicates that they will step up and act for the good of the continent and its people.
With the voices of Global Citizens behind us, we can help keep ending extreme poverty and its systemic causes at the top of the agenda, and hold Africa’s leaders accountable to the responsibilities they have.
How Can I Take Action?
From there you can take action to call on all Africa’s leaders and global leaders to prioritise ending food insecurity across the continent, and around the world. Sign our open letter to call for global action immediately to avert a worldwide food crisis; and find further actions you can take to help alleviate hunger in Africa here.
The food security emergency in Africa is worsening, and a key way to help avert a full-blown crisis is by investing in smallholder farmers — who are responsible for a third of the world’s food — and protecting their food production from the impacts of climate change, and the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Help us call on world leaders to help smallholder farmers weather any storm by signing our petition.
We will also continue calling on Global Citizens to take further action with us in the lead up to the meeting and beyond, so sign up to join the movement and follow us on social media @GlblCtznAfrica to stay up to date on more ways you can take action with us.