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Delegates pose for a group photo after the opening session of the Executive Council of Ministers of African Union meeting in Kigali. Timothy Kisambira.

The 39th ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) on Tuesday kicked off at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa.

In the framework of the 33rd AU summit, the PRC is holding its two-day sessions, from Jan. 21, under the theme of the year, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”

The ambassadors of the AU member states and officials of the 55-member pan-African bloc are expected to discuss draft reports and prepare the agenda for the 36th ordinary session of the AU Executive Council, which comprises foreign ministers of member states, scheduled to take place during Feb. 6-7.

Top on the agenda for discussion are the AU institutional reforms and the operationalization of the African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA).

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission, Kwesi Quartey, reaffirmed his Commission’s commitment to working with the PRC, in order to give full measure to the desirable cooperation and synergy between them.

“We need to continue to improve on our budgetary processes and focus on implementation of our vision, Agenda 2063. We seek to use this opportunity to enhance collaboration between the PRC and the Commission,” he said.

He has also recalled the decision at the AU summit in November 2018 on the Union’s institutional reform.

The Decision mandates the chairperson of the AU Commission to develop a new departmental structure that is lean and performance-oriented, taking into account the division of labor between AU, regional economic communities (RECs) and regional mechanisms, member states and continental organizations.

Proposals for the restructuring of the AU Commission were developed between March and April 2019 with the support of an independent consulting firm, said the Deputy Chairperson, adding that the proposals were submitted to member states for their consideration in May 2019.

Following initial deliberations, the Deputy Chairperson said that member states decided first that the restructuring proposals should be budget neutral, and if this is not possible that any additional cost should be financed from budget savings.

Secondly, the member states decided to extend the period for the review of the structure to allow member states to consult their capitals, according to Quartey.

The Sub-committees of the Permanent Representatives Committee reviewed the proposed new structure along with the proposed financing strategy in October and November, and the revised proposal was considered and adopted by the PRC from 4 to 5 December 2019.

According to the Deputy Chairperson, it will now be considered by policy organs in February 2020.

He further said that the sub-committee provided feedback on the transition plan for the new departmental structure, and based on feedback provided and following validation by the AU Commission, the sub-committee will review the revised financing and transition plan and then transmit the same for the PRC’s consideration during this session.

The AU heads of states will be holding their 33rd ordinary session from Feb. 9 to Feb. 10. Enditem

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