African Union (AU)


The vision of the African Union (AU) is that of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” The AU is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to be an efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process, in close collaboration with its member states,

Regional Economic Communities (RECs), and African citizens. The AU is the sole pan-African organization, including 54 of the continent’s 55 countries, making it the forum to discuss national, regional, and bilateral issues. It is also the main mechanism through which countries can share information and concerns, and make joint requests from the international community and multilateral donors.


The Assembly is the AU’s supreme organ and comprises Heads of State and Government from all member states. It determines the AU’s policies, establishes its priorities, adopts its annual program, and monitors the implementation of its policies and decisions. The Assembly must meet at least once a year in ordinary session.

The Executive Council works in support of the AU Assembly and is responsible to the Assembly. All member states participate in the Executive Council, usually at the Foreign Minister level. The Executive Council meets at least twice a year in ordinary session, usually immediately prior to the Assembly Summit.

The Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) conducts the day-to-day business of the AU on behalf of the Assembly and Executive Council. It reports to the Executive Council. All AU member states are members of the PRC. The PRC meets at the AU Headquarters at least once a month.

The PRC has numerous subcommittees on a wide range of areas and topics. Particularly relevant is the Sub-Committee on New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). This subcommittee oversees and supports activities promoting NEPAD, which is the AU’s strategic framework for pan-African socio-economic development. The subcommittee is composed of 15 members based on agreed geographic distribution, and in accordance with established practice, the composition of the subcommittee is determined by internal consultations.

NEPAD was officially adopted in 2002 as the primary mechanism to coordinate the pace and impact of Africa’s development in the 21st century. Its primary objectives are the following:

  • Eradicate poverty
  • Place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development
  • Halt the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process
  • Accelerate the empowerment of women
  • Fully integrate Africa into the global economy

NEPAD is primarily implemented at the REC level. It is widely used by international financial institutions, U.N. agencies, and Africa’s development partners as a mechanism to support African development efforts. NEPAD is governed by the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) and NEPAD Steering Committee. The AU Assembly oversees NEPAD and considers and adopts recommendations from the HSGOC chairperson.

Decision-making in the Assembly, Executive Council, and PRC is by consensus, or failing that, by a two-thirds majority of the member states. Procedural matters require a simple majority vote.

There are also Specialised Technical Committees across a range of thematic areas, which report to the Executive Council. The Peace and Security Council is the standing organ of the AU for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflicts. It is a key element of the main AU mechanisms for promoting peace, security, and stability in Africa. The African Union Commission is the AU’s secretariat.

The production of technical papers and/or larger investments is often driven by donor funding availability, as AU members are limited in their ability to provide funds beyond national budgets. For example, the Partnership for African Fisheries (described below) is primarily supported by the World Bank, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, Global Environment Facility, and other organizations.


The fisheries sector is important to communities across the African continent. According to 2011 reports, the fisheries sector in Africa (including Morocco) employed 12.3 million people as full-time fishers or full-time and part-time processors, which represents slightly more than 2 percent of Africa’s population between 15 and 64 years old.1 It is also noteworthy that while Africa has the least subsidized fisheries relative to other regions, their subsidies are predominately capacity-enhancing and are the highest in subsidy intensity as measured by a percentage of landed value.2

Overall, while the AU has not addressed fisheries subsidies directly, it is aware that this issue will eventually need to be considered as part of its broader fisheries agenda. Unsurprisingly, it is a risky subject for policymakers to address, as it could potentially impact many of their most impoverished constituents. However, it is encouraging that this subject is being discussed, and a well-funded project proposal to address harmful fisheries subsidies while minimizing negative social impacts would likely find strong support within the AU’s members.

In 2005, NEPAD held the Fish for All Summit in Abuja. This technical symposium aimed to chart out a shared strategy for strengthening fisheries development planning for Africa and increasing investment in the sector to help eradicate hunger and poverty. The Summit produced The Abuja Declaration on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture in Africa.

The Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF) is the program that implements fisheries reform based on The Abuja Declaration and the NEPAD Action Plan. The PAF has working groups in five key policy areas: fisheries trade, good governance, illegal fishing, trade and access to markets, aquaculture, and finance and investment in fisheries & aquaculture. There have been discussions about fisheries subsidies in the PAF.

In addition, during the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations, the AU stressed that flexibilities should be designed to address the specific concerns of African States, in particular the small and more vulnerable coastal states, and called for special and differential provisions without conditionality on fisheries management systems.3

What could the African Union produce/do on fisheries subsidies?

There is the potential in the AU to promote an organization and membership that are better informed about fisheries subsidies and potential avenues for reform. The AU could also promote and support national level reforms to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and redirect resources to more beneficial uses.

The following are some specific initiatives the AU could undertake:

  • The AU could produce political-level declarations and commitments directed at cooperatively addressing fisheries subsidies.
  • The AU could provide guidelines and incentives to help countries implement plans to reform or reduce harmful subsidies in their domestic fisheries. It could also support fisheries subsidies reforms through its technical assistance to countries.
  • The AU could conduct research or surveys on the fisheries subsidies programs of its members.


African Union Headquarters
P.O. Box 3243
Roosvelt Street (Old Airport Area)
W21K19 Addis Ababa

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