(File image) South Africa's former home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has been elected as the first female head of the African Union Commission.

Addis Ababa - Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo acknowledges readily that her boss, President Paul Kagame, did not vote last year for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to become chairwoman of the AU Commission.

But now that Dlamini-Zuma is in the job, Mushikiwabo supports her fully.

“We’ve made it clear that we think she’s the best candidate Africa could get. She’s proving that,” she told South African journalists at this week’s AU summit in Addis Ababa.

She explained that Rwanda had opposed Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature and voted instead for her rival, the incumbent chairman, Jean Ping of Gabon, not because of any concerns about her personal qualities but only on the principle that Africa’s big countries – she mentions South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria and Kenya – should not hold the continent’s top job.

But this week, she enthused about Dlamini-Zuma’s performance in her first three months, especially the way she presided over the summit.

“One feels the change. She seems to me like a very serious person and she’s punctual,” Mushikiwabo said, noting that the summit meetings had taken place on time for a change.

“We’ve been complaining about meetings going on until 3am. Who can think at 3am?

“People have noticed a much more practical, hands-on approach.

There is a positive change and we feel it,”she said, adding that as a woman she also appreciated another woman being in charge of the AU Commission.

Rwanda prides itself on the efficiency of its government – seeing itself as an African Singapore – and Mushikiwabo said she hoped Dlamini-Zuma would help to create the modern, forward-looking, business-like AU that Rwanda wanted.

The AU needed to forge consensus among African governments and then to project a much stronger African voice to the outside world.

Dlamini-Zuma expressed her surprise shortly after arriving at her new job at how much of the AU’s activities were funded by foreign donors. She said the AU had to start finding the money to fund its own activities.

This attitude was evident throughout the summit and several leaders echoed that sentiment.

Cape Argus