Ambassador William Azumah Awinador-Kanyirige, Senior Special Advisor for Governance and Peacebuilding, African Union

Africa Needs Common Foreign Policy, Defence Strategy Like EU – Amb. Awinador-Kanyirige

5 mins read

Senior Advisor at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,  Ambassador William Azumah Awinador-Kanyirige, has called for a united Africa front in foreign policy and security.

Awinador-Kanyirige, who currently works for the Governance, Peace building Office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace & Security Department at the African Union headquarters, is among the stakeholders participating in the ongoing maiden West Africa Civil Society Week 2023  which kicked off in Lagos on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, with the theme, “Civil Society in West Africa: Reimagining the role of the third sector in protecting civic space and consolidating democracy for regional development.”

Speaking to Prime Business Africa at the sideline of the three-day event attended by a wide spectrum of civil society organisations (CSOs) across the continent, Ambassador Awinador-Kanyirige canvassed a common African foreign and defense policy, just as he urged CSOs to “occupy their space” in response to the shrinking civic space in Africa.

Drawing parallels with the European Union, he emphasized that regional integration is not only crucial for individual member states but also imperative to stand strong against global challenges.

“The region’s integration is akin to a lifeline for each member state. The reality is that standing alone, individual countries cannot effectively compete with larger global powers. To hold our ground on the international stage, it’s imperative that we unite our efforts and resources,” Awinador-Kanyirige advised.

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He stressed that the unity would provide African nations with the collective strength and influence necessary to navigate the complexities of global politics. “Even economically stable nations recognize the value of unity, as evident in the European Union,” he said. “Given Africa’s unique challenges and opportunities, it becomes even more compelling for us to adopt a similar approach.”

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Awinador-Kanyirige delved into strategic initiatives that mirror successful models like the European Union. “Take, for instance, the common currency,” he said. “Just as West Africa envisions a common currency, the African Union is working towards a continental currency and a shared passport to facilitate seamless movement within the continent. The recent resurgence of digitalization further enhances the prospect of a united African system.”

The potential benefits of a unified approach are immense. “Imagine the economic possibilities if we achieve a common currency,” Awinador-Kanyirige elaborated. “Africans could move freely across the continent, much like in the European Union or the United States. This could create a thriving intra-African market akin to those of China or India.”

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When asked about the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in realizing this vision, Awinador-Kanyirige emphasized their significance at both the national and regional levels. “CSOs play a crucial role in influencing decisions and policies,” he explained. “By organizing themselves and building the necessary capacities, CSOs can ensure that the public’s voice is heard in the formulation of policies that transcend borders.”

Regarding foreign policy beyond currency matters, Awinador-Kanyirige highlighted the imperative of a coordinated approach. “A united African foreign policy and defense strategy are intertwined necessities,” he stated. “Much like the European Union’s approach, having a designated authority responsible for these aspects would enhance Africa’s global standing.”

“African nations need to address both the economic and developmental dimensions collectively,” Awinador-Kanyirige stressed. He cited the African Continental Free Trade Area as an example of a policy that marries economic advancement with regional integration.

He also mentioned the nexus conference held in Morocco to address peace and security concerns as evidence of the African Union’s commitment to holistic policy-making.

In the ever-evolving global landscape, Ambassador Awinador-Kanyirige further urged African states to recognize the need for synergy and cooperation. “The challenges facing our member states and regions are growing increasingly complex,” he concluded. “To tackle them effectively, a united front in foreign policy, defense, and beyond is not just an option—it’s a necessity.”

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