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Transition and successions remain political challenges in several important countries such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe.

On conflict management, the success of African solutions has been decidedly mixed.

A problem not unique to the AU is that not all members are committed to working through it or empowering a body that might take decisions that go against their interests.

Power politics, often characterised as tensions between the AU and regional economic communities, threatens to reduce the AU to a bystander in places where it once held sway, such as in Burundi.

Though challenging, current global strategic evolution does present the opportunity to develop a stronger, fit-for-purpose multilateralism on the continent.

To maintain credibility and relevance, the AU must both deal head on with the five realities Faki pointed out and also seek ways to adjust to external pressures.

This will not be easy, since change depends on member states. The continent’s most debilitating constraint is conflict.

There are few AU leaders with a truly pan-African vision.

Traditional partners in Europe and the US are narrowing the definition of some of their interests, and upcoming actors like the Gulf states, Turkey, China and Japan are seeking greater influence.

How the AU is able to adapt will determine its relevance as well as its potential.

African forces have also backed up a UN peacekeeping mission, the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in eastern Congo, and most recently established coalitions of states such as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to degrade the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.

These different peacekeeping formats show a welcome desire to adapt, but structural issues, especially lack of money and operational capacities, undermine them. Africa – its regional power brokers, the AU as well as sub-regions – will have to do more. Much will depend on implementing reforms proposed by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame at the January 2017 summit.

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