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African Union
"A United and Strong Africa"
An orthographic projection of the world, highlighting the African Union and its member states (green).
Dark green: member states
Political centres
Largest city Lagos
Official languages
Demonym African
Type Continental union
Membership 55 member states
Paul Kagame[2]
Moussa Faki[3]
Roger Nkodo Dang
Legislature Pan-African Parliament
25 May 1963; 54 years ago (1963-05-25)
3 June 1991
9 September 1999
• African Union founded
9 July 2002
• Total
29,922,059[4] km2 (11,552,972 sq mi)
• 2016 estimate
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
• Total
$5.5 trillion
• Per capita
HDI (2014) 0.524
Internet TLD .africa c

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of all 55 countries on the African continent, extending slightly into Asia via the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. It was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa,[6] with the aim of replacing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). 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 African Union was created on May 26, 2001.


The objectives of the AU are:

  1. To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and Africans.
  2. To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States.
  3. To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent.
  4. To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples.
  5. To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  6. To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent.
  7. To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance.
  8. To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.
  9. To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations.
  10. To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies.
  11. To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples.
  12. To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union.
  13. To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology.
  14. To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.

The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ is the Assembly of the African Union, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU. The Assembly is chaired by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national legislatures of the AU member states. Its president is Roger Nkodo Dang.

Other political institutions of the AU include

The AU Commission, the secretariat to the political structures, is chaired by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa. On 15 July 2012, Ms. Dlamini-Zuma won a tightly contested vote to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon.

Other AU structures are hosted by different member states:

The AU covers the entire continent except for several territories held by Spain (Canary Islands, Plazas de soberanía), France (Mayotte, Réunion, Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean), Portugal (Madeira, Savage Islands) and the United Kingdom (Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha).

The AU's first military intervention in a member state was the May 2003 deployment of a peacekeeping force of soldiers from South Africa, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to Burundi to oversee the implementation of the various agreements. AU troops were also deployed in Sudan for peacekeeping during Darfur conflict, before the mission was handed over to the United Nations on 1 January 2008 UNAMID. The AU has also sent a peacekeeping mission to Somalia, of which the peacekeeping troops are from Uganda and Burundi.

The AU has adopted a number of important new documents establishing norms at continental level, to supplement those already in force when it was created. These include the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003), the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and its associated Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance.[7]


In force
OAU Charter
Abuja Treaty
Sirte Declaration
  Organisation of African Unity (OAU) African Economic Community: (AEC)
  Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD)
  Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  East African Community (EAC)
  Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)
  Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
  Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
  Southern African Development Community (SADC)
  Arab Maghreb Union (AMU)
Casablanca Group African Union (AU)
Monrovia Group


All UN member states based in Africa and African waters are members of the AU, as is the disputed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco, which claims sovereignty over the SADR's territory, withdrew from the Organisation of African Unity, the AU's predecessor, in 1984 due to the admission of the SADR as a member. However, on 30 January 2017 the AU admitted Morocco as a member state.[8]


 Regions of the African Union  North   Southern   East   West   Central 
Regions of the African Union
 North   Southern   East   West   Central 


Map of the African Union.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the African Union

The African Union has a number of official bodies:

Pan-African Parliament (PAP)
To become the highest legislative body of the African Union. The seat of the PAP is at Midrand, South Africa. The Parliament is composed of 265 elected representatives from all 55 AU states, and intended to provide popular and civil-society participation in the processes of democratic governance. Its president is Roger Nkodo Dang, of Cameroon.
Assembly of the African Union
Composed of heads of state and heads of government of AU states, the Assembly is currently the supreme governing body of the African Union. It is gradually devolving some of its decision-making powers to the Pan African Parliament. It meets once a year and makes its decisions by consensus or by a two-thirds majority. The current chair of the AU is Chadian President Idriss Déby.
African Union Commission (or Authority) 
The secretariat of the African Union, composed of ten commissioners and supporting staff and headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In a similar fashion to its European counterpart, the European Commission, it is responsible for the administration and co-ordination of the AU's activities and meetings.
Court of Justice of the African Union
The Constitutive Act provides for a Court of Justice to rule on disputes over interpretation of AU treaties. A protocol to set up this Court of Justice was adopted in 2003 and entered into force in 2009. It was, however, superseded by a protocol creating an African Court of Justice and Human Rights, which will incorporate the already established African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (see below) and have two chambers: one for general legal matters and one for rulings on the human rights treaties.
Executive Council
Composed of ministers designated by the governments of member states. It decides on matters such as foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and communications, is accountable to the Assembly, and prepares material for the Assembly to discuss and approve.It is chaired by Mr Shawn Makuyana of Zimbabwe (2015–).
Permanent Representatives' Committee
Consisting of nominated permanent representatives of member states, the Committee prepares the work for the Executive Council, similar the role of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union.
Peace and Security Council (PSC)
Proposed at the Lusaka Summit in 2001 and established in 2004 under a protocol to the Constitutive Act adopted by the AU Assembly in July 2002. The protocol defines the PSC as a collective security and early warning arrangement to facilitate timely and effective response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa. Other responsibilities conferred to the PSC by the protocol include prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, post-conflict peace building and developing common defence policies. The PSC has fifteen members elected on a regional basis by the Assembly. Similar in intent and operation to the United Nations Security Council.
Economic, Social and Cultural Council
An advisory organ composed of professional and civic representatives, similar to the European Economic and Social Committee. The chair of ECOSOCC, elected in 2008, is Cameroonian lawyer Akere Muna of the Pan-African Lawyers Union (PALU).
Specialised Technical Committees
Both the Abuja Treaty and the Constitutive Act provide for Specialised Technical Committees to be established made up of African ministers to advise the Assembly. In practice, they have never been set up. The ten proposed themes are: Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters; Monetary and Financial Affairs; Trade, Customs, and Immigration; Industry, Science and Technology; Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Transport, Communications, and Tourism; Health; Labour, and Social Affairs; Education, Culture, and Human Resources.
Financial institutions

These institutions have not yet been established, however, the Steering Committees working on their founding have been constituted. Eventually, the AU aims to have a single currency (the Afro).

Human rights
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in existence since 1986, is established under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Charter) rather than the Constitutive Act of the African Union. It is the premier African human rights body, with responsibility for monitoring and promoting compliance with the African Charter. The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights was established in 2006 to supplement the work of the Commission, following the entry into force of a protocol to the African Charter providing for its creation. It is planned that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights will be merged with the Court of Justice of the African Union (see above).
African Energy Commission


 The African Union's headquarters complex in Addis Ababa.
The African Union's headquarters complex in Addis Ababa.

The main administrative capital of the African Union is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the African Union Commission is headquartered. A new headquarters complex, the AU Conference Center and Office Complex (AUCC), was inaugurated on 28 January 2012, during the 18th AU summit.[9] The complex was built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation as a gift from the Chinese government, and accommodates, among other facilities, a 2,500-seat plenary hall and a 20-story office tower. The tower is 99.9 meters high to signify the date 9 September 1999, when the Organization of African Unity voted to become the African Union.[10] The building cost US$ 200 million to construct.[11]

Espionage accusations

Five years after the building's completion the French Newspaper Le Monde[12] published an article stating that the Chinese government had heavily bugged the building.[11] Installing listening devices in the walls and furniture and setting up the computer system to copy data to servers in Shanghai daily. The Chinese government denied that they bugged the building, stating that the accusations were "utterly groundless and ridiculous."[11]

African Union Summits

Session Host Country Host City Date Theme Notes
29th[13]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 27 June-4 July 2017 “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”
28th[14]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 22-31 January 2017 “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth” Morocco rejoins the AU after 33 years
27th[15]  Rwanda Kigali 10-18 July 2016 “African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women” Launch of African Union Passport
26th[16]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 21-31 January 2016 “African Year of Human Rights with particular focus on the Rights of Women”
Third India-Africa Forum Summit  India New Delhi 26–29 October 2015 Reinvigorated Partnership-Shared Vision
25th[17][18]  South Africa Johannesburg 7-15 June 2015 “Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063” Featured Angelina Jolie[19]
24th[20]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 23-31 January 2015 “Year of Women Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”
2nd Africa-Turkey Summit[21][22]  Equatorial Guinea Malabo 19-21 November 2014 “A new model of partnership to enhance a sustainable development and integration of Africa”
23rd[23]  Equatorial Guinea Malabo 20-27 June 2014 “Year of Agriculture and food security”
22nd[24][25]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 21-31 January 2014 “Year Agriculture and food security, Marking 10th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)”
ICC - Extraordinary Summit[26]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 11-12 October 2013 “Africa's relationship with the ICC This was in regards to the ICC's non-adherence to AU calls to drop certain charges against sitting leaders and that it was disproportionally targeting Africans.[27]
21st[28]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 19-27 May 2013 “Panafricanism and African Renaissance” 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Organisation of African Unity
20th[29]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 27-28 January 2013 “Panafricanism and African Renaissance”
Diaspora Summit[30]  South Africa Sandton 23-25 May 2012 “Towards the realisation of a united and integrated Africa and its diaspora”
19th[31]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 9-16 July 2012 “Boosting Intra-African trade”
18th[32]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 23-30 January 2012 “Boosting Intra-African trade”
17th[33]  Equatorial Guinea Malabo 23 June-1 July 2011 “Youth empowerment for sustainable development”
2nd Africa-India Summit[34]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 20-25 May 2011 “Enhancing partnership: shared vision”
16th[35]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 24-31 January 2011 “Towards greater unity and integration through shared values”
15th[36]  Uganda Kampala 19-27 July 2010 “Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Development in Africa”
14th[37]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 25 January-2 February 2010 “Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Africa: Challenges and Prospects for Development”
13th[38]  Libya Sirte 24 June-3 July 2009 “Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security”
12th[39]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 26 January-3 February 2009 “Infrastructure Development in Africa”
11th[40]  Egypt Sharm el-Sheikh 24 June-1 July 2008 “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water and Sanitation”
10th[41]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 25 January-2 February 2008 “Industrial Development of Africa”
9th[42]  Ghana Accra 25 June-6 July 2007 “Grand Debate on the Union Government”
8th[43]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 22-30 January 2007 1. Science, Technology and Scientific Research for Development
2. Climate change in Africa
7th[44]  Gambia Banjul 25 June-2 July 2006 “Rationalisation of Recs and Regional Integration”
6th[45]  Sudan Khartoum 16-24 January 2006 “Education and Culture”
5th[46]  Libya Sirte 28-29 June 2005
Extraordinary summit on UN Reform[47]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 4 August 2005
4th[48]  Nigeria Abuja 24-31 January 2005
3rd[49]  Ethiopia Addis Ababa 6-8 July 2004
2nd[50]  Mozambique Maputo 2-12 July 2003
1st[51]  South Africa Durban 28-10 July 2002 “Peace, Development and Prosperity: The African Century” Notable events include the launch of the African Union.[52]

Current issues

The AU faces many challenges, including health issues such as combating malaria and the AIDS/HIV epidemic; political issues such as confronting undemocratic regimes and mediating in the many civil wars; economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans; ecological issues such as dealing with recurring famines, desertification, and lack of ecological sustainability; as well as the legal issues regarding Western Sahara.

Union Government

The principal topic for debate at the July 2007 AU summit held in Accra, Ghana, was the creation of a Union Government,[53] with the aim of moving towards a United States of Africa. A study on the Union Government was adopted in late 2006,[54] and proposes various options for "completing" the African Union project. There are divisions among African states on the proposals, with some (notably Libya) following a maximalist view leading to a common government with an AU army; and others (especially the southern African states) supporting rather a strengthening of the existing structures, with some reforms to deal with administrative and political challenges in making the AU Commission and other bodies truly effective.[55]

Following a heated debate in Accra, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government agreed in the form of a declaration to review the state of affairs of the AU with a view to determining its readiness towards a Union Government.[56] In particular, the Assembly agreed to:

  • Accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent, including the formation of a Union Government of Africa;
  • Conduct an audit of the institutions and organs of the AU; review the relationship between the AU and the RECs; find ways to strengthen the AU and elaborate a timeframe to establish a Union Government of Africa.

The declaration lastly noted the "importance of involving the African peoples, including Africans in the Diaspora, in the processes leading to the formation of the Union Government."

Following this decision, a panel of eminent persons was set up to conduct the "audit review". The review team began its work on 1 September 2007. The review was presented to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the January 2008 summit in Addis Ababa. No final decision was taken on the recommendations, however, and a committee of ten heads of state was appointed to consider the review and report back to the July 2008 summit to be held in Egypt.[57] At the July 2008 summit, a decision was once again deferred, for a "final" debate at the January 2009 summit to be held in Addis Ababa.

Role of African Union

Somaliland Cape Verde Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic South Sudan Liberia Guinea Sierra Leone Ghana Nigeria Gambia Ivory Coast Benin Guinea-Bissau Senegal Togo Burkina Faso Niger Morocco Tunisia Libya Mauritania Algeria Egypt Somalia Comoros Eritrea Sudan Djibouti Ethiopia Uganda Rwanda Burundi Democratic Republic of the Congo Kenya São Tomé and Príncipe Chad Cameroon Central African Republic Republic of the Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Angola Mozambique Namibia South Africa Botswana Swaziland Zimbabwe Mauritius Zambia Malawi Seychelles Madagascar Tanzania Lesotho Community of Sahel-Saharan States Arab Maghreb Union Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa East African Community Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries Southern African Development Community Southern African Customs Union Economic Community of Central African States Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa West African Economic and Monetary Union Liptako–Gourma Authority Mali Economic Community of West African States Intergovernmental Authority on Development African Union Mano River Union West African Monetary Zone
The image above contains clickable links
Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational African entities vde

One of the key debates in relation to the achievement of greater continental integration is the relative priority that should be given to integration of the continent as a unit in itself or to integration of the sub-regions. The 1980 Lagos Plan of Action for the Development of Africa and the 1991 treaty to establish the African Economic Community (also referred to as the Abuja Treaty), proposed the creation of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the basis for African integration, with a timetable for regional and then continental integration to follow.[58]

Currently, there are eight RECs recognised by the AU, each established under a separate regional treaty. They are:

The membership of many of the communities overlaps, and their rationalisation has been under discussion for several years – and formed the theme of the 2006 Banjul summit. At the July 2007 Accra summit the Assembly finally decided to adopt a Protocol on Relations between the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.[59] This protocol is intended to facilitate the harmonisation of policies and ensure compliance with the Abuja Treaty and Lagos Plan of Action time frames.

Selection of chair

In 2006, the AU decided to create a Committee "to consider the implementation of a rotation system between the regions" in relation to the presidency. Controversy arose at the 2006 summit when Sudan announced its candidacy for the AU's chairmanship, as a representative of the East African region. Several member states refused to support Sudan because of tensions over Darfur (see also below). Sudan ultimately withdrew its candidacy and President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo was elected to a one-year term. At the January 2007 summit, Sassou-Nguesso was replaced by President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana, despite another attempt by Sudan to gain the chair. 2007 was the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence, a symbolic moment for the country to hold the chair of the AU—and to host the mid-year summit at which the proposed Union Government was also discussed. In January 2008, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania took over as chair, representing the East African region and thus apparently ending Sudan's attempt to become chair—at least till the rotation returns to East Africa.[60] The current chair is Benin.

AIDS in Africa

The AU has been active in addressing the AIDS pandemic in Africa. In 2001, the AU established AIDS Watch Africa to coordinate and mobilize a continent-wide response.[61] Sub-Saharan Africa, especially southern and eastern Africa, is the most affected area in the world. Though this region is home to only 6.2% of the world's population, it is also home to half of the world's population infected with HIV.[62] While the measurement of HIV prevalence rates has proved methodologically challenging, more than 20% of the sexually active population of many countries of southern Africa may be infected, with South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe all expected to have a decrease in life expectancy by an average of 6.5 years. The pandemic has had massive implications for the economy of the continent, reducing economic growth rates by 2-4% across Africa.[63]

In July, 2007, the AU endorsed two new initiatives to combat the AIDS crisis, including a push to recruit, train and integrate 2 million community health workers into the continent's healthcare systems.[64]


The AU attempted to mediate in the early stages of the 2011 Libyan civil war, forming an ad hoc committee of five presidents (Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni) to broker a truce.[65] However, the beginning of the NATO-led military intervention in March 2011 prevented the committee from traveling to Libya to meet with Libyan leader and former head of the AU until 2010 Muammar Gaddafi.[66] As a body, the AU sharply dissented from the United Nations Security Council's decision to create a no-fly zone over Libya,[67] though a few member states, such as Botswana,[68] Gabon,[69] Zambia,[70] and others expressed support for the resolution.

As a result of Gaddafi's defeat at the Battle of Tripoli, the decisive battle of the war, in August 2011, the Arab League voted to recognise the anti-Gaddafi National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of the country pending elections,[71] yet although the council has been recognised by several AU member states, including two countries that are also members of the Arab League,[72][73] the AU Peace and Security Council voted on 26 August 2011 not to recognise it, insisting that a ceasefire be agreed to and a national unity government be formed by both sides in the civil war.[74] A number of AU member states led by Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Rwanda requested that the AU recognise the NTC as Libya's interim governing authority,[75][76] and several other AU member states have recognised the NTC regardless of the Peace and Security Council's decision.[77][78] However, AU member states Algeria[79] and Zimbabwe[80] have indicated they will not recognise the NTC, and South Africa has expressed reservations as well.[81]

On 20 September 2011, the African Union officially recognised the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of Libya.[82]

Interventions in support of constitutionality


In response to the death of Gnassingbé Eyadéma, President of Togo, on 5 February 2005, AU leaders described the naming of his son Faure Gnassingbé the successor as a military coup.[83] Togo's constitution calls for the speaker of parliament to succeed the president in the event of his death. By law, the parliament speaker must call national elections to choose a new president within sixty days. The AU's protest forced Gnassingbé to hold elections. Under heavy allegations of election fraud, he was officially elected President on 4 May 2005.


On 3 August 2005, a coup in Mauritania led the African Union to suspend the country from all organisational activities. The Military Council that took control of Mauritania promised to hold elections within two years.[citation needed] These were held in early 2007, the first time that the country had held elections that were generally agreed to be of an acceptable standard. Following the elections, Mauritania's membership of the AU was restored. However, on 6 August 2008, a fresh coup overthrew the government elected in 2007. The AU once again suspended Mauritania from the continental body.[84] The suspension was once again lifted in 2009 after the military junta agreed with the opposition to organize elections [85]


In March 2012, a military coup was staged in Mali, when an alliance of Touareg and Islamist forces conquered the north, resulting in a coming to power of the Islamists. After a military intervention with help from French troops, the region was in control of the Malian army. To reinstall local authorities, the AU helped to form a caretaker government, supporting it and holding presidential elections in Mali in July 2013.[86]

Regional conflicts and military interventions

One of the objectives of the AU is to "promote peace, security, and stability on the continent".[87] Among its principles is 'Peaceful resolution of conflicts among Member States of the Union through such appropriate means as may be decided upon by the Assembly'.[88] The primary body charged with implementing these objectives and principles is the Peace and Security Council. The PSC has the power, among other things, to authorise peace support missions, to impose sanctions in case of unconstitutional change of government, and to "take initiatives and action it deems appropriate" in response to potential or actual conflicts. The PSC is a decision-making body in its own right, and its decisions are binding on member states.

Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, repeated in article 4 of the Protocol to the Constitutive Act on the PSC, also recognises the right of the Union to intervene in member state in circumstances of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Any decision to intervene in a member state under article 4 of the Constitutive Act will be made by the Assembly on the recommendation of the PSC.

Since it first met in 2004, the PSC has been active in relation to the crises in Darfur, Comoros, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Côte d'Ivoire and other countries. It has adopted resolutions creating the AU peacekeeping operations in Somalia and Darfur, and imposing sanctions against persons undermining peace and security (such as travel bans and asset freezes against the leaders of the rebellion in Comoros). The Council is in the process of overseeing the establishment of a "standby force" to serve as a permanent African peacekeeping force.,[citation needed] Institute for Security Studies, South Africa, March 2008.

The founding treaty of the AU also called for the establishment of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), including the African Standby Force (ASF), which is to be deployed in emergencies. That means, in cases of genocide or other serious human-rights violations, an ASF mission can be launched even against the wishes of the government of the country concerned, as long as it is approved by the AU General Assembly. In the past AU peacekeeping missions, the concept was not yet applied, forces had to be mobilised from member states. The AU is planning on putting the concept into practise by 2015 the earliest.[86]

Darfur, Sudan

In response to the ongoing Darfur conflict in Sudan, the AU has deployed 7,000 peacekeepers, many from Rwanda and Nigeria, to Darfur. While a donor's conference in Addis Ababa in 2005 helped raise funds to sustain the peacekeepers through that year and into 2006, in July 2006 the AU said it would pull out at the end of September when its mandate expires.[89] Critics of the AU peacekeepers, including Dr. Eric Reeves, have said these forces are largely ineffective due to lack of funds, personnel, and expertise. Monitoring an area roughly the size of France has made it even more difficult to sustain an effective mission. In June 2006, the United States Congress appropriated US$173 million for the AU force. Some, such as the Genocide Intervention Network, have called for UN or NATO intervention to augment and/or replace the AU peacekeepers. The UN has considered deploying a force, though it would not likely enter the country until at least October 2007.[90] The under-funded and badly equipped AU mission was set to expire on 31 December 2006 but was extended to 30 June 2007 and merged with the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur in October 2007. In July 2009 the African Union ceased cooperation with the International Criminal Court, refusing to recognise the international arrest warrant it had issued against Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir, who was indicted in 2008 for war crimes.[91]

The AU struggled to have a strategic role in the independence talks and the reconciliation process of South Sudan, anyway due to overwhelming interests of African and non-African powers, its influence is still limited and not consistent.[92]


From the early 1990s up until 2000, Somalia was without a functioning central government. A peace agreement aimed at ending the civil war that broke out following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime was signed in 2006 after many years of peace talks. However, the new government was almost immediately threatened by further violence. To temporarily shore up the government's military base, starting in March 2007, AU soldiers began arriving in Mogadishu as part of a peacekeeping force that was intended by the AU to eventually be 8,000 strong.[93] Eritrea recalled its ambassadors to the African Union on 20 November 2009[94] after the African Union called on the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on them due to their alleged support of Somali Islamists attempting to topple the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the internationally recognised government of Somalia which holds Somalia's seat on the African Union.[95] On 22 December 2009, the Security Council passed UNSCR 1907, which imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea, travel bans on Eritrean leaders, and asset freezes on Eritrean officials. Eritrea strongly criticised the resolution. In January 2011, Eritrea reestablished their mission to the AU in Addis Ababa.[96]

Anjouan, Comoros

A 2008 attempt to gain independence for Anjouan from Comoros was successfully stopped by joint AU forces.


The AU's future goals include the creation of a free trade area, a customs union, a single market, a central bank, and a common currency (see African Monetary Union), thereby establishing economic and monetary union. The current plan is to establish an African Economic Community with a single currency by 2023.[97]


According to the Constitutive Act of the African Union, its working languages are Arabic, English, French and Portuguese, and African languages "if possible".[98] A protocol amending the Constitutive Act, adopted in 2003 but as of June 2016 not yet ratified by a two-thirds majority of member states, would add Spanish, Swahili and "any other African language" and declare all "official" (rather than "working") languages of the African Union.[99] The Executive Council shall determine the process and practical modalities for the use of official languages as working languages.

Founded in 2001 under the auspices of the AU, the African Academy of Languages promotes the usage and perpetuation of African languages among African people. The AU declared 2006 the Year of African Languages.[100][101] 2006 also marked Ghana's 55th anniversary since it founded the Bureau of Ghana Languages originally known as Gold Coast Vernacular Literature Bureau.


Member states of the African Union cover almost the entirety of continental Africa and several off-shore islands. Consequently, the geography of the African Union is wildly diverse, including the world's largest hot desert (the Sahara), huge jungles and savannas, and the world's longest river (the Nile).

The AU presently has an area of 29,922,059 square kilometres (11,552,972 sq mi), with 24,165 kilometres (15,015 mi) of coastline. The vast majority of this area is on continental Africa, while the only significant territory off the mainland is the island of Madagascar (the world's fourth largest island), accounting for slightly less than 2% of the total.


Africa Day, formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day, is an annual commemoration regarding the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), on 25 May 1963, and occurring on the same date of the month each year.

Foreign relations

The individual member states of the African Union coordinate foreign policy through this agency, in addition to conducting their own international relations on a state-by-state basis. The AU represents the interests of African peoples at large in intergovernmental organisations (IGOs); for instance, it is a permanent observer at the United Nations General Assembly. Both the African Union and the United Nations work in tandem to address issues of common concerns in various areas. The African Union Mission in United Nations aspires to serve as a bridge between the two Organisations.

Membership of the AU overlaps with other IGOs and occasionally these third-party organisations and the AU will coordinate matters of public policy. The African Union maintains special diplomatic representation with the United States and the European Union.

In 2016, the Union introduced continent-wide passports.[102]

Upon the election of Donald Trump for the presidency of the U.S., in 2017, the latter passed an executive order for a ban on citizens from seven countries with suspected links to terrorism, that concerns three African countries. During the 28th African Union Summit, in Ethiopia, African leaders criticized the ban[103] as they expressed their growing concerns for the African Economy, under Trump's policies.


The historical foundations of the African Union originated in the Union of African States, an early confederation that was established by Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s, 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".[104]

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, South African 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.

Since 2010, the African Union eyes the establishment of a joint African space agency.[105][106][107][108]

Barack Obama was the first ever sitting United States president to speak in front of the African Union in Addis Ababa, on 29 July 2015. With his speech, he encouraged the world to increase economic ties via investments and trade with the continent, and lauded the progresses made in education, infrastructure and economy. But he also criticized lacks of democracy and leaders who refuse to step down, discrimination against minorities (LGBT people, religious groups and ethnicities) and corruption. He suggested an intensified democratization and free trade, to significantly increase living quality for Africans.[109][110]


 Emblem of the African Union
Emblem of the African Union

The emblem of the African Union consists of a gold ribbon bearing small interlocking red rings, from which palm leaves shoot up around an outer gold circle and an inner green circle, within which is a gold representation of Africa. The red interlinked rings stand for African solidarity and the blood shed for the liberation of Africa; the palm leaves for peace; the gold, for Africa's wealth and bright future; the green, for African hopes and aspirations. To symbolise African unity, the silhouette of Africa is drawn without internal borders.

The African Union adopted its new flag at its 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government taking place in Addis Ababa 2010. During the 8th African Union Summit which took place in Addis Ababa on 29 and 30 January 2007, the Heads of State and Government decided to launch a competition for the selection of a new flag for the Union. They prescribed a green background for the flag symbolising hope of Africa and stars to represent Member States.

Pursuant to this decision, the African Union Commission (AUC) organised a competition for the selection of a new flag for the African Union. The AUC received a total of 106 entries proposed by citizens of 19 African countries and 2 from the Diaspora. The proposals were then examined by a panel of experts put in place by the African Union Commission and selected from the five African regions for short listing according to the main directions given by the Heads of State and Government.

At the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, the Heads of State and Government examined the report of the Panel and selected one among all the proposals. The flag is now part of the paraphernalia of the African Union and replaces the old one.

The old flag of the African Union bears a broad green horizontal stripe, a narrow band of gold, the emblem of the African Union at the centre of a broad white stripe, another narrow gold band and a final broad green stripe. Again, the green and gold symbolise Africa's hopes and aspirations as well as its wealth and bright future, and the white represents the purity of Africa's desire for friends throughout the world. The flag has led to the creation of the "national colours" of Africa of gold and green (sometimes together with white). These colours are visible in one way or another in the flags of many African nations. Together the colours green, gold, and red constitute the Pan-African colours.

The African Union has adopted a new anthem, Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together, and has the chorus O sons and daughters of Africa, flesh of the sun and flesh of the sky, Let us make Africa the tree of life.

List of chairpersons

 Muammar Gaddafi embracing Tanzanian President Kikwete after assuming the chairmanship.
Muammar Gaddafi embracing Tanzanian President Kikwete after assuming the chairmanship.
Chairpersons of the African Union
Name Beginning of term End of term Country
Thabo Mbeki 9 July 2002 10 July 2003  South Africa
Joaquim Chissano 10 July 2003 6 July 2004  Mozambique
Olusegun Obasanjo 6 July 2004 24 January 2006  Nigeria
Denis Sassou-Nguesso 24 January 2006 24 January 2007  Congo
John Kufuor 30 January 2007 31 January 2008  Ghana
Jakaya Kikwete 31 January 2008 2 February 2009  Tanzania
Muammar al-Gaddafi 2 February 2009 31 January 2010  Libya
Bingu wa Mutharika[111][112] 31 January 2010 31 January 2011  Malawi
Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo[113] 31 January 2011 29 January 2012  Equatorial Guinea
Yayi Boni 29 January 2012 27 January 2013  Benin
Hailemariam Desalegn 27 January 2013 30 January 2014  Ethiopia
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz 30 January 2014 30 January 2015  Mauritania
Robert Mugabe 30 January 2015 30 January 2016  Zimbabwe
Idriss Déby 30 January 2016 30 January 2017  Chad
Alpha Condé 30 January 2017 28 January 2018  Guinea
Paul Kagame[114] 28 January 2018 Incumbent  Rwanda


The following table shows various data for AU member states, including area, population, economic output and income inequality, as well as various indices, including human development, viability of the state, perception of corruption, economic freedom, state of peace, freedom of the press and democratic level.

Country Land Area

(km²) 2015[115]




(Intl. $) 2015[115]


per capita

(Intl. $) 2015[115]















 Algeria 2,381,741 40,606,052 548,293,085,686 13,823 0.736 78.3 34 50.06 2.21 41.69 3.56
 Angola 1,246,700 28,813,463 173,593,223,667 6,938 0.532 90.5 18 48.94 2.14 39.89 3.40
 Benin 112,760 10,872,298 21,016,184,357 1,932 0.48 78.9 36 59.31 2.00 28.97 5.67
 Botswana 566,730 2,250,260 33,657,545,969 14,876 0.698 63.5 60 71.07 1.64 22.91 7.87
 Burkina Faso 273,600 18,646,433 28,840,666,622 1,593 0.402 89.4 42 59.09 2.06 22.66 4.70
 Burundi 25,680 10,524,117 7,634,578,343 683 0.4 100.7 20 53.91 2.50 54.10 2.40
 Cape Verde 4,030 539,560 3,205,197,585 6,158 0.646 71.5 59 66.46 N/A 19.82 7.94
 Cameroon 472,710 23,439,189 68,302,439,597 2,926 0.512 97.8 26 54.18 2.36 40.53 3.46
 Central African Republic 622,980 4,594,621 2,847,726,468 581 0.35 112.1 20 45.23 3.35 33.60 1.61
 Chad 1,259,200 14,452,543 28,686,194,920 2,044 0.392 110.1 20 46.33 2.46 40.59 1.50
 Comoros 1,861 795,601 1,098,546,195 1,393 0.503 83.8 24 52.35 N/A 24.33 3.71
 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 2,267,050 78,736,153 56,920,935,460 737 0.433 110 21 46.38 3.11 50.97 1.93
 Congo, Republic of the 341,500 5,125,821 27,690,345,067 5,993 0.591 92.2 20 42.80 2.25 35.84 2.91
 Côte d'Ivoire 318,000 23,695,919 74,916,780,423 3,300 0.462 97.9 34 60.01 2.28 30.17 3.81
 Djibouti 23,180 942,333 2,911,406,226 3,279 0.47 89.7 30 55.96 2.29 70.90 2.83
 Egypt 1,010,407 95,688,681 1,173,000,000,000 10,250 0.69 90.2 34 55.96 2.57 54.45 3.31
 Equatorial Guinea 28,050 1,221,490 32,317,928,931 38,243 0.587 85.2 N/A 43.67 1.94 66.47 1.70
 Eritrea[123] 101,000 4,954,645 8,845,000,000b 1,300b 0.391 98.6 18 42.7 2.46 83.92 2.37
 Ethiopia 1,104,300 102,403,196 152,057,290,468 1,530 0.442 97.2 34 51.52 2.28 45.13 3.60
 Gabon 257,670 1,979,786 32,539,376,597 18,860 0.684 72 35 58.96 2.03 32.20 3.74
 Gambia, The 10,120 2,038,501 3,140,820,062 1,578 0.441 86.8 26 57.14 2.09 46.53 2.91
 Ghana 227,540 28,206,728 108,393,071,924 3,955 0.579 71.2 43 63.00 1.81 17.95 6.75
 Guinea 245,720 12,395,924 14,316,884,358 1,135 0.411 103.8 27 53.33 2.15 33.08 3.14
 Guinea-Bissau 28,120 1,815,698 2,521,743,682 1,367 0.42 99.8 16 51.81 2.26 29.03 1.98
 Kenya 569,140 48,461,567 133,592,522,053 2,901 0.548 98.3 26 57.51 2.38 31.16 5.33
 Lesotho 30,360 2,203,821 5,914,437,068 2,770 0.497 80.9 39 50.62 1.94 28.78 6.59
 Liberia 96,320 4,613,823 3,533,313,381 785 0.43 95.5 37 52.19 2.00 30.71 5.31
 Libya[124] 1,759,540 6,293,253 94,010,000,000b 14,900b 0.724 96.4 14 N/A 3.20 57.89 2.25
 Madagascar 581,800 24,894,551 33,354,200,458 1,376 0.51 84.2 26 61.06 1.76 27.04 5.07
 Malawi 94,280 18,091,575 19,137,290,349 1,112 0.445 87.6 31 51.8 1.82 28.12 5.55
 Mali 1,220,190 17,994,837 33,524,899,739 1,905 0.419 95.2 32 56.54 2.49 39.83 5.70
 Mauritania[125] 1,030,700 4,301,018 16,190,000,000b 4,400b 0.506 95.4 27 54.8 2.30 24.03 3.96
 Mauritius 2,030 1,262,132 23,817,914,134 18,864 0.777 43.2 54 74.73 1.56 27.69 8.28
 Morocco 446,300 35,276,786 257,398,957,178 7,365 0.628 74.2 37 61.27 2.09 42.64 4.77
 Mozambique 786,380 28,829,476 31,326,751,237 1,120 0.416 87.8 27 53.19 1.96 30.25 4.02
 Namibia 823,290 2,479,713 24,043,436,006 9,778 0.628 71.1 52 61.85 1.87 15.15 6.31
 Niger 1,266,700 20,672,987 17,857,377,171 897 0.348 98.4 35 54.26 2.24 24.62 3.96
 Nigeria 910,770 185,989,640 1,168,000,000,000 5,639 0.514 103.5 28 57.46 2.88 35.90 4.50
 Rwanda 24,670 11,917,508 19,216,033,048 1,655 0.483 91.3 54 63.07 2.32 54.61 3.07
 São Tomé and Príncipe 960 199,910 575,391,345 3,023 0.555 72.9 46 56.71 N/A N/A N/A
 Senegal 192,530 15,411,614 34,398,281,018 2,274 0.466 83.6 45 58.09 1.98 27.99 6.21
 Seychelles 460 94,228 2,384,515,771 25,525 0.772 60.2 N/A 62.2 N/A 30.60 N/A
 Sierra Leone 72,180 7,396,190 9,511,431,824 1,474 0.413 91 30 52.31 1.81 29.94 4.55
 Somalia[126] 627,340 14,317,996 4,431,000,000c 400c N/A 114 10 N/A 3.41 65.35 N/A
 South Africa 1,213,090 56,015,473 742,461,000,000 12,393 0.666 69.9 45 61.9 2.32 21.92 7.41
 South Sudan 619,745 12,230,730 21,484,823,398 1,741 0.467 113.8 11 N/A 3.59 44.87 N/A
 Sudan 1,886,086 39,578,828 165,813,461,495 4,121 0.479 111.5 14 N/A 3.27 72.53 2.37
 Swaziland 17,200 1,343,098 10,452,834,007 8,122 0.531 87.6 N/A 59.65 2.07 52.37 3.03
 Tanzania 885,800 55,572,201 130,297,806,032 2,510 0.521 81.8 32 58.46 1.90 28.65 5.76
 Togo 54,390 7,606,374 10,018,697,437 1,372 0.484 85.8 32 53.64 1.95 30.31 3.32
 Tunisia 155,360 11,403,248 121,200,025,401 10,770 0.721 74.6 41 57.55 1.95 31.60 6.40
 Uganda 200,520 41,487,965 67,856,334,117 1,738 0.483 97.7 25 59.26 2.15 32.58 5.26
 Western Sahara[127] 266,000 538,755 906,500,000d 2,500d N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
 Zambia 743,390 16,591,390 58,400,082,027 3,602 0.586 86.3 38 58.79 1.78 35.08 5.99
 Zimbabwe 386,850 16,150,362 26,180,942,292 1,678 0.509 100.5 22 38.23 2.32 40.41 3.05
 African Union 30,370,000 1,225,080,510 5,457,724,064,668 4,602 0.524d 88.99d 31.51d 55.55d 2.27 37.89 4.30
Country Land Area (km²) 2015 Population 2016 GDP (PPP)

(Intl. $) 2015


per capita

(Intl. $) 2015















a External data from 2016.

b External data from 2015.

c External data from 2014.

d AU total used for indicators 1 through 3; AU weighted average used for indicator 4; AU unweighted average used for indicators 5 through 12.

See also


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