On May 1963, representatives of 32 independent African states convened in Addis Ababa to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to help members transition into independence. In 2002, the African Union (AU) succeeded the OAU, with a renewed mandate of integrating the continent. The AU is currently made up of 55 member countries with the official languages being Swahili, Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
The first gathering of African states of its kind was in 1958 during the First Congress of Independent African States in Ghana, championed by then president Kwame Nkrumah, to ultimately drive the continent to become a United States of Africa. Subsequently, the OAU was formed with an immediate goal to help African countries decolonise. The OAU was particularly vital in helping liberate Zimbabwe and South Africa from repressive white rule, by providing prominent groups such as South Africa’s ANC with training and weapons.
However, during the Cold War, many African states were divided between those that either supported the ideological beliefs of the USA or the USSR. These issues caused a divide between the states and, particularly with foreign influence, African countries were rocked by a series of civil wars and shifts in political ideologies which weakened the influence of the OAU.
Due to this, the OAU was overhauled. The AU was then formed to attain political and economic integration of member states. Economic integration is underway through trading blocs such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as plans to form a common currency. The AU has also started issuing Africa-wide passports to increase inter-country travel.
One of the AU’s greater targets is to foster collaboration under a Union Government of Africa, a topic that is still deeply under discussion.
By Edel Were