The African Union needs to enhance its continental communication efforts before it can effectively establish its proposed economic, political and social development, the results of a study conducted by a group of independent researchers showed. “The overall level of understanding for both businesses and the general public is still low due to a lack of interest and ineffective use of available communication channels,” the conclusion of the Survey on lacklustre African Union’s building efforts notes. According to the survey that covered Africa’s 20 largest cities by population, while over 80 percent of the populations living in the capital cities of Africa are familiar with the AU’s name, more than 60 percent of people lack a basic understanding about what the group actually does. However, the challenge now is for African Union to intensify its imprint and understanding among its citizens in capital cities and rural communities alike, the study said. For the general public, the focus should be on the organisation and community’s ability to bring peace and security to all African citizens, improve its economic situation and create more job opportunities.The authors also singled out the social media and partnership with civil society organisations and industry associations as the recommended platform to promote interaction among African citizens.
It blamed the ineffectiveness in communication between the organisation and its citizens which has resulted in low levels of understanding and awareness in the African Union as an organisation mostly on language barriers and differences in educational levels among member states. The authors of the study recommends the creation of a more unified and simplified understanding of the community, including in local languages, alongside the main official AU’s languages, English and French. To enhance the communication strategy, the study said that three key elements needed to be considered. The first issue mentioned was to make unfamiliar issues more familiar. Communication should also move from a conceptual message to a concrete one and be able to demonstrate the real cost and benefit of a single community. It added that communication messages needed also to be adapted to different audiences, with the key targets being businesses and the general public. The survey recommended that for businesses, a clear policy on the free flow of goods and services, the differences in competitiveness among members states and the impact of the anticipated free movement of skilled labor should be addressed.