Historical perspective

The 37th summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) held between the 9th 13th of July, 2001 was the last summit of the 38-year-old organization. It also marked the birth of a new organization, known as the African Union (AU) which was adopted by 50 of the 53 member countries. Consequently, on Monday, 8th July, 2002, African leaders formally marked the end of the Organization of African Unity and the birth of African Union in its place. Forty of the continent’s 53 presidents, heads of government and monarchs gathered in Durban, South Africa, to inaugurate the new union.



  1. The new union is to be people-oriented.
  2. The union’s anthem called, Unity Afrika was composed by veteran award-winning South African musicians, Caiphus Semeny and Jonas Gwangwa.
  3. Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa, became the first A.U. Chairman.


Charter of the AU

  1. The draft act for the A.U. provides for the right of member states to request intervention in order to restore peace and security.
  2. The proposed charter for AU also gives the Union the right to “intervene in a member state pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity”.
  3. The draft charter also provides “that any member state that fails to comply with the decisions and policies of the union may be subject to sanctions”.


Institutions of A.U

1) Establishment of Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA).


  • To address Africa’s myriad of security issues.
  • Stability and development problems looking at factors inhibiting stability and development.
  • To be located in the office of the chairman of A.U.


2) African Union Constituent Act

  • This Act empowers members to intervene in any of AU’s member states where massive violence and disorder is taking place even if it is caused by misgovernance.
  • This is a departure from the concept of non-interference in the domestic affairs of any member state which existed under the former O.A.U.
  • Similarly, in the new order, it is going to be government to people and no more ?government to government.


3) Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the A.U

Established under the provision of Article 5 and 22 of the African Union Constituent Act.



It is to be a vehicle for building a strong partnership between governments across the continent of Africa.

The first President is Professor Wangari Mathai of Kenya and the first Deputy President is Mr. Ayodele Aderinwale of Nigeria.

Other regions in the Assembly are: Central Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa.


4) Peace and security council and Pan African Agency

Both were constituted under the Union Act with the mandate to advise the leadership of A.U. and to address new situations as they” come up.


5) The secretariat (the commission)

It will be like its European Union Counterpart.

Some of the features

  • To retain elements of OAU, with a conference of Heads of states and governments as its top decision – making body.
  • Foreign ministers of member states to be grouped into an Executive Council. The conference of Heads of state will decide on the powers of the foreign ministers.
  • Agreement was reached that the AU’s Executive Commission will be based in Ethiopia’s Capital, Addis Ababa, the home of the OAU.


6) African Union Parliament

African parliamentarians will for the first time debate on continental – wide issues at a new Pan-African parliament.

The parliament with MPS from 53 member states of the African Union has been officially inaugurated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Commission’s 1st Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said that the members will craft the political map of the continent.

At the inauguration, only 190 MPS from 38 countries were sworn in.

Function: To advise the heads of states and governments of the African Union.


7) Structure of the African Union

The African Union is modelled in part after the European Union (E.U.)

The 4th Ordinary Session of Assembly of African Union (AU) came up with the following decision:

  • African Parliament-to be located in South Africa.
  • African Central Bank in West Africa.
  • African Investment Bank in North Africa.
  • African Monetary Fund in Central Africa.
  • African Court of Justice in East Africa.


The African Union will be built on six strong pillars:

  1. An institutional framework with sufficient authority and capacity for implementing agreed decisions.
  2. Regional infrastructure in transport, communication and energy.
  3. Full private sector and civil society participation.
  4. Sustainable development through the adoption of regional strategies and policies.
  5. Promotion of intra-regional trade at a level that matches the potential of the continent.
  6. Equitable burden – sharing in matters affecting the continent and the Union’s administration.

It is gratifying to note that the African Union will not only be building on existing regional blocs, but also broadening the objectives of economic co-operation and regional integration.

There will also be shared values – peace and stability, democracy and good governance, respect for the human rights of the people.


Proposed Gains of the African Union

  1. Regional economic co-operation: and integration can also make it possible for the Union to collectively build integrative infrastructures in transport, communications and energy which would otherwise be too costly for some African countries to undertake or embark upon.
  2. In the competitive world of globalization and liberalization, co-operation and integration offers the only chance to be relevant and to speak with one voice in international negotiations.
  3. First generation of Africa’s integration arrangement focused primarily on trade promotion through trade liberalization schemes.

This strategy (proposed gains) was to overcome three fundamental development constraints characterizing African economies which include:.

  • The small-sized economies of many countries.
  • The lack of structural complementaries as manifested in the narrow set of similar low-value added primary agricultural and mineral export commodities;
  • The dependence on the import of intermediate and capital goods.

Regional integration was viewed as offering opportunities for market expansion, economic scale and diversification of Africa’s economic base.

Consequently, a plethora of regional and sub-regional integration institutions were established.


Problems that may likely confront AU

Some analysts are of the view that the union may likely inherit many problems from its progenitor. These problems may include:

  1. Debts which are up to the tune of about 40 million U.S. dollars.
  2. Problem of resources and political will to attain its lofty goals.
  3. The union is likely to become another toothless bull dog like it’s predecessor, the OAU.
  4. The Union may not have the power to rein in the despots and corruption-riddened governments that plague the African continent.
  5. Africa’s participation in world trade has remained at an insignificant stage (in the neighbourhood of about two percent while intra-African trade has lowered around ten percent.
  6. The absence of any significant change in the structure of African economies.
  7. Exports are still confined to basic minerals and primary agricultural products. However, a critical review of the integration process in Africa will reveal more than ten (10) reasons for past failures. The most obvious of these are;
  • Lack of political will by African governments to subordinate domestic political and economic interests to supranational institutions with long-term goals.
  • Lack of good governance and rule of law.
  • Inadequate mechanisms for equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of regional arrangements.
  • The pervasive weaknesses in regional integration structures, such as weak industrial structures, the absence of intra-industry linkages, poor infrastructure and non-convertibility of currencies.
  • Lack of policy consistency and credibility as well as antipathy to market-oriented state domination of production through inefficient parastatals.
  • The overlapping memberships of several regional groupings.
  • Lack of private sector and civil society involvement.


Aims/Goals of AU

  1. A commitment to democracy and fundamental human rights.
  2. A commitment to economic development.
  3. To end conflicts in Africa.
  4. To eradicate poverty, disease, wants and ignorance in the continent.
  5. To foster deep and strong political, economic and social integration among member states.
  6. To develop and introduce a single currency for the African continent.

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