With the Kigali, Rwanda, African Union (AU) summit just around the corner, there has been no official confirmation so far that Tanzania's immediate former president, Dr Jakaya Kikwete will run for the post of AU Commission chairperson, which the incumbent, Madam Nkosazama Dlamini-Zuma has decided not to contest a second term.
However, Dr Kikwete's name has circulated widely, perhaps as the most qualified of all the possible candidates so far, to succeed Ms Dlamini- Zuma, who did not return forms for contesting the post for a second four year term when the time to do so expired on March 31, this year. She was elected to the post in 2012.
It is not clear why Dlamini- Zuma has decided to quit working for the continental body although her tenure in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU headquarters, was received with mixed feelings. Some feel she was effective while others say it is like the post was all along vacant anyway and her departure won't be missed.
Back home in South Africa, rumours are rife that her decision could be motivated by the desire to run for president to succeed her politically embattled ex-husband, President Jacob Zuma.
The next presidential elections in South Africa are due in 2019. It could be that Ms Dlamini-Zuma felt that she needed time to lobby party stalwarts within the ruling African National Congress.
Whatever the case, African leaders who will gather in Kigali in early July will have to consider a possible successor to Ms Dlamini-Zuma. Voting could be postponed to the next summit next January if a competent person is not found.
Dr Kikwete's name has popped up amid concerns that the post now needs a seasoned diplomat and preferably, a former head of state, familiar with the burden of leading largely cash strapped nations seeking a place and voice in the global community.
One of the criticisms against Ms Dlamini-Zuma is that she was hardly heard as the collective voice of the continent when it mattered most, especially during crises and disasters.
She is also blamed for not being an effective administrator to the point that AU coffers are technically dry at the moment. Therefore, whoever succeeds her shall inherit a list of challenges, including but not limited to improving the AU's image, ensuring financial inflows for a functional budget and dexterous stewardship of Agenda 2063, charted in 2013 as a blueprint of where Africa wanted to be in the next 50 years.
That will present a number of formidable challenges. It will require the new AUC Chairman to be a charismatic leader who is not just all talk but one who delivers.
The AU budget for instance, is still highly donor dependent (over 8o per cent) while there are signs of fatigue among donors and an increasingly sense of pride back home that Africa should be able to support itself and live within its means.
The gap between reality and aspirations is thus going to determine what kind of a person the AUC Chairperson will be. Agenda 2063 is an ambitious programme for greater regional integration and improving the economies of all the 54 AU member states so that poverty in Africa shall be a thing of the past.
It is quite possible to transform the continent within that time save for the fact that many countries are weighed down by civil strife, wars and truly inferior modes of production such that transforming societies becomes a gargantuan task.
The new AUC chairperson shall have to be that behind the scenes anchorman, helping member states work out viable programmes that shall enable Africa eventually to move as a unit.
In many respects, Dr Kikwete embodies the kind of hope that Africa needs. He was Tanzania's Foreign Minister for 10 years before he became his country's president for another ten years.
Thus, he is familiar with regional affairs for more than 20 years, during which Africa transformed from the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to AU, with more emphasis on regional integration and transformation.
His ability to listen to all views and even tolerate criticism ranks him among seasoned diplomats, the kind of figure that Africa needs both at home and abroad. Dr Kikwete is also a deft planner.
As president of Tanzania, he concentrated on building a network of roads in his relatively big country to the point that Tanzania today boasts enviable record for kilometres of road. He also has an impressive record in communications, education, health services delivery and free speech for a country that for many years had known only single party democracy.
A former head of state as AU Commission Chairperson, makes the office holder comfortable talking to fellow leaders as one of them and could instil into AU greater sense of resolve, comparable in some aspects to the time when former president of Mali, Alpha Oumar Konare held the office.
Source: Tanzania Daily News