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African Union's big budget and begging bowl

The African Union (AU) Commission has tabled a US$274 million budget proposal for 2012, which African leaders are expected to debate and later adopt.

However, questions have been raised that the money is mainly sourced from donor partners, with some African members failing to pay their annual subscriptions.

The AU is owed millions of dollars in arrears, forcing the continental body to always extend the begging bowl for its activities.

Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, confirmed that most of the money had been obtained from the commission's partners, warning that this raised challenges as to who drove the body's agenda.

Mwencha said from the proposed budget, US$152 million was for development programmes, with the rest being allocated for various administration purposes.

"The member states are responsible for the operational budget. However, partners contribute a significant quota to the programme budget.

"This raises some challenges of ownership and emphasises the need for the union to seriously explore alternative sources of funding for its programmes," he said.

Mwencha indicated that the bulk of the programme budget is for improving food security and for promoting continental infrastructure as well as focus on energy, education, peace and security, health and gender.

The budget proposal reflects a slight increase from the US$256 million for the previous year.

A high level panel on alternative sources of financing the AU was commissioned under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria.

The panel is expected to submit their report shortly.

A number of member states have been sanctioned and will not take part in the AU's electoral processes for failure to pay their annual payment.

Leaders from Africa who will gather this weekend are expected to endorse the proposed budget.

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