The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa.
The AU was announced in the Sirte Declaration in Sirte, Libya, on 9 September 1999, calling for the establishment of the African Union.
The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
The intention of the AU was to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa by 32 signatory governments;
The OAU was disbanded on 9 July 2002. The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.
The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa.
The largest city in the AU is Lagos, Nigeria, while the largest urban agglomeration is Cairo, Egypt.
The African Union has over 1.3 billion people and an area of around 29 million km2 (11 million sq mi) and includes popular world landmarks, such as the Sahara and the Nile.
The primary working languages are Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Kiswahili.
Within the African Union, there are official bodies, such as the Peace and Security Council and the Pan-African Parliament.
History of African Union
The historical foundations of the African Union originated in the First Congress of Independence African States, held in Accra, Ghana, from 15 to 22 April 1958. The conference aimed at forming the Africa Day, to mark the liberation movement each year concerning the willingness of the African people to free themselves from foreign dictatorship, as well as subsequent attempts to unite Africa, including the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was established on 25 May 1963, and the African Economic Community in 1981.
Critics argued that the OAU in particular did little to protect the rights and liberties of African citizens from their own political leaders, often dubbing it the “Dictators’ Club”.
The idea of creating the AU was revived in the mid-1990s under the leadership of Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi: the heads of state and government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration (named after Sirte, in Libya) on 9 September 1999, calling for the establishment of an African Union.
The Declaration was followed by summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the plan for the implementation of the African Union was adopted. During the same period, the initiative for the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), was also established.
The African Union was launched in Durban on 9 July 2002, by its first chairperson, Former South African head of state Thabo Mbeki, at the first session of the Assembly of the African Union. The second session of the Assembly was in Maputo in 2003, and the third session in Addis Ababa on 6 July 2004.
Four summits that led to the formation African Union were:
The Sirte Extraordinary Session (1999) decided to establish an African Union
The Lome Summit (2000) adopted the Constitutive Act of the Union.
The Lusaka Summit (2001) drew the road map for the implementation of the AU
The Durban Summit (2002) launched the AU and convened the 1st Assembly of the Heads of States of the African Union.
African Union: Member States
Burkina Faso (suspended)
Central African Republic
Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
São Tomé and Príncipe
Israel (suspended as of February 2023)
United Arab Emirates
Visions of African Union (AU)
Re-launching of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as the African Union was done to realise the potential of Africa to fight against colonisation with a major focus towards increased cooperation and integration of African states for economic development.
AU is guided by its vision of a peaceful, prosperous and an integrated Africa representing a dynamic force in the global economy and is driven by its own citizens.
Objectives of African Union (AU)
The objectives of AU were laid by the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
Achieving greater unity and solidarity among the African countries and the people.
Defending the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of the 55 Member States.
Accelerating the political as well as the socio-economic integrity of the African continent.
Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
Encouraging international cooperation and promoting peace, security, and stability of the continent
Promoting the popular participation and governance of the continent including democratic principles and institutions
Development and promotion of common policies related to trade, defence and foreign relations strengthening its negotiating positions.
Invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union.
Protect human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
To provide sustainable development of the continent at the social, economic and cultural levels.
Development of the continent through the advancement in the field of science and technology
Structure of African Union
The work of the AU is implemented through several principal decision-making organs:-
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government
The Executive Council,
The Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC)
Specialized Technical Committees (STCs)
The Peace and Security Council and the African Union Commission.
The AU structure promotes participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).
Organs that handle judicial and legal matters, as well as human rights issues, include:-
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR)
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR)
AU Commission on International Law (AUCIL)
AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) and
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
The AU is also working towards the establishment of continental financial institutions (The African Central Bank, The African Investment Bank and the African Monetary Fund)
The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Peer Review Mechanism are also key bodies that constitute the structure of the African Union.