The Road To African Union: Retrospect And Prospect

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

The Road To African Union: Retrospect And Prospect


The thesis “the Road to African Union” evaluates earlier and current attempts made to unify the States of Africa.
The evaluation covers a period of almost one-century, from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 21stcentury.

The main objective of the research is to identify whether there were (are requisite conditions fro unification, such as compatibility of political values, greater economic and social transaction, peace and security and positive external environment in Africa.

The thesis concludes that those requisite conditions for unification have not been sufficiently available in Africa despite some changes occurred after the demise of the Cold War in the 1990s.

The paper also tries to evaluate the achievements and failures of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
It argues that the achievements of the OAU, in the political, economic and social dimensions were low.

Finally, the paper attempts to show the structure, objective and functions of the new African Union, and tries to compare and contrast the Union with the defunct OAU.

Chapter One


Background of Study

Africa is a mosaic of peoples, cultures, ecological settings and history. The continent has an area of 11,677,240 square miles (30,244,050 square Kilometers), stretching from the Mediterranean in the north to the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the south (Chazan 1999: 5). It has the highest arable land per capita in the world; its landmass of 2.1 million hectars with 32% of forest and woodland and 6.2% arable land is twice its share of world population (Mosha 1981) Africa has a population of some 730 million (roughly 10 percent of the world’s population) who speak more than eight hundred languages. Seventy percent of the population lives in the rural areas who earn their living either through farming or animal rearing (Chazan 1999: 5). Africa is also rich in minerals and other resources. It has one quarter of the world’s hydroelectric power and only 3% is presently utilized. The continent contains the largest reserves of metallic ores (top producer of cobalt and nickel), non-ferrous base metals (top producer of copper, lead and zinc); precious metals (top producer of gold and diamond) and non-metallic deposits (a leading producer of phosphates) (Mosha 1998).

Africa’s international contact in the 16th century and afterwards, was to its disadvantage. European merchants shipped millions of Africans, to work on their plantations in the Americas. In the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, more than 30 million Africans were transported to America from 1500 to 1890, leaving the continent with out young cultivators.

The trade distorted the already booming economic and cultural civilizations. While Europe and America were prospering through industrialization, Africa failed in an exploitative and unproductive system and relation of trade. The trade also created psychological inferiority on the part of Africans.

Following the deterioration of the importance of slavery in the economy, Europeans began to colonize Africa, which culminated at the Berlin conference of 1884-1885. The impact of colonialism was again severe on Africa, a continent that was still under the debacle of slave trade.

In the social dimension, they disrupted accustomed ways of earning a livelihood. In the name of Christianity, the colonizers dismantled African customs, and obsessed in perpetuating white domination. In the name of education, they taught their civilization and history, with little regard for African civilization.

In the economic aspect, colonialism adversely affected production, distribution and consumption. Africans became producers of raw materials for the industries of Europe. They produced cash crops such as palm oil, rubber and cotton, and minerals like copper and gold by ignoring the production of subsistence (consumer) goods.

Migrants from Europe appropriated the most fertile land from the natives and established their own farms or plantations, as a result of which African farmers began to sell their labour to the land owners. African men also migrated to supply labor for the production of minerals in the mines, particularly to western Africa. Hence, only women became producers of food for their families. Forced labour was also common during the construction of railways that served for the exploitation of the economy.

Politically, the boundaries they left behind became a source of conflict among the present states of Africa. These boundaries were artificially made to satisfy their own system of administration, which in the distortion of traditional social and economic patterns. It also created differences among the various African countries in their quest for nation building and economic development and stability

Statement of Problem

The direct involvement of the United States and the Soviet Union and their allies in African politics created instability, tension and suspense among the states of Africa. There were a lot of conflicts, either directly or indirectly instigated by the Super-Powers, and a lot of conflicts where they or their allies were directly involved, the intervention of France in Chad and in Zaire (Congo), Britain in Rhodesia and Uganda, Cuba in Angola and Libya in Chad among others are illuminating. Eventually, when the Cold War ended, Africa became marginalized. It no more became a continent of strategic importance to the Super-Powers.

According to the Dependency School of Thought, the trade patterns that developed in the 16th century and thereafter during the colonial period by Western Europe made many African countries to produce food and minerals for the world market and primarily to trade with the former colonial countries. The price and the demands for the products fluctuate greatly, affecting incomes for sustainable development programs. Multi-National Corporations of the North-frozen small competing firms of Africans, leaving the continent to remaina supplier of primary goods, which are not sufficiently available in the industrialized countries.

In the name of trade liberalization, Africa is expected to lose around US $ 1.2 Billion by 2005, when the world trade volume is expected to increase by US $ 200 billion, out of which 70 percent of the wealth is set to go to the treasures of the West (Panos 1999).

In a recent study, the unequal exchange of countries shows how much Africa lost its world trade share. From 1965-1995 the unequal exchange of Mozambique grew from -8% to -75%, Nigeria’s from -1% to 172%, Angola’s from -25% to 203% and Egypt from -1% to -21% on the other hand the industrialized countries’ registered positive growth rate USA from + 1% to 6%, France from + 2% to +7%, Germany from +2% to +11%, and Japan from +1% to +11%.

Another major problem in relation to this factor is the debt problem. The total external debt of Africa skyrocketed from its low level of US $ 12.6 billion in 1975 to nearly US $ 300billion currently. The debt proportion to GNP (Gross National product) increased from 20% to 100% in 1977 and 110% in the late 1980s. Regionally, in East and Southern Africa the ratio was 11.55%, and in North Africa it was 163.02% between 1997 and 1998. The figures indicated Africa’s complicated economic situation.

Conflict has become a hindrance to the development of Africa. It inflicts human misery through death, destruction of assets and property, and constant displacement and insecurity. Violent conflict hinders the process of production, produces situations for pillage of the countries’ resources, and diverts their application from development to servicing was the third world.

Between the 1960s to the 1990s Africa has experienced as many as 80 violent changes of governments. By 1980s, only 39% of the 48 Sub-Saharan African countries (i.e. 19) enjoyed a more or less stable political condition, 23% (i.e. 18 countries) were under armed conflict. A study conducted by one research group shows that in the conflict countries, the majority had negative growth in real per capita. Life expectancy also deteriorated. For instance, among the 18 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in conflict, life expectancy is between 40 and 50 years. Infant mortality grew alarmingly; for example, in Sierra Leone it reached 132, in Guinea Bissau 129, in Liberia 113, in Chad, Somalia and Angola 112, and in Ethiopia 107 per 1000 by 1995.

Adult literacy in the continent is again one of the least in the world. For instance, literacy rate in Somalia by 1993 was 25%, in Sierra Leone 30%, and in Burundi and Ethiopia 34%. With regard to access to safe water between 1991 and 1993 only 12% of the Central African 18% of the Ethiopians, 25% of the Guinea Bissauans and 33% of the Ugandans had access to safe water. Access to health services in similar years was 24% in Angola, 13% in Central African Republic, 26% in Congo (Brazzaville) and 33% in Congo (Zaire).

The idea of collaboration in the continent was inspired by the anti-colonial and antiracist activities of the peoples of African decent living in North America and the West Indies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Schraeder 1996: 35). This pan-African cooperation gained momentum, however, during the acquisition of independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s (Davidson 1994).

Even if, African leaders have accepted the need to unity, there has been major discrepancies vis-à-vis the realization of this unity. First, there seemed to be different out looks as to the sources of African commonality. Second, while the goals of unified political community was widely shared among the major spokesmen of the Movement, the question of when and under what conditions can such a unit be achieved was a source of major disagreement (Ryan 1997: 3). Third, there was also difference over the kind of structure and goals of such an organization (Schraeder 1996: 136).

The existence of such differences, nevertheless, did not determine African leaders from establishing the Organization of African unity (OAU) in 1963 in order to achieve those objectives enshrined in the Charter of the Organization. These objectives include: the promotion of unity and solidarity among African states, achieving a better life for the people of Africa, and the promotion of international cooperation.

The OAU, according to Mayall (1971: 28) was at its inception, and then after, chronically weak even by comparison with other regional organizations. Only in the area of ending colonialism, racism and apartheid, among those objectives stated, that the OAU was relatively successful.

The OAU had given birth to the African Union in Durban in South Africa in 2002. The establishment of the Union has prompted different type of questions among from different quarters with in and outside Africa.

Objective of the Study

The main objective of the study is to investigate the presence of pre-requisite conditions in Africa, which can affect the formation of a lasting and successful political community.

Research Question

What is the presence of pre-requisite conditions in Africa, which can affect the formation of a lasting and successful political community.

Significance of Study

The study will focuses on key challenges facing the AU in a rapidly changing African and global context; takes stock of the AU’s record in promoting African integration, the progress made and the lessons learnt, assesses current reforms as well as the future prospects for the institutional development of the AU, presents concrete ways of strengthening the African Union’s institutional architecture and finally , analyses the role played by the EU and other partners in supporting the AU’s institutional development and architecture, drawing lessons from the experience gained with the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) and other EU support programmes in the run-up to the third EU-Africa Summit, which is due to be held in Libya on 29-30 November 2010 and also contribute to existing knowledge of literature.

Scope of Study

The study will be to analyses the reasons that lead tot the formation of Africa Union and it conglomerate members nations.

Method of Data Collection

The thesis used both primary and secondary sources to collect the necessary data. The primary sources include resolutions, such as the resolution of the Manchester Congress (1945), Charters, like the Charter of the OAU and the UN the Constitutive Act of the African Union, different OAU documents, and works of various scholars. Lots of attempts were made by the writer to interview scholars and functionaries in the AU, but there was no success due to lack of cooperation. The secondary sources include books, articles and journals.

Chapter Five

Conclusion and Prospect

The birth of the African Union in Durban on 9, July 2002, could be said, is the result of the long years of struggle by African peoples and leaders to achieve greater unity.

There were a number of earlier pan-African Congresses organized by both people from the new world (America) and the West Indies and Africa. Such Congresses, among other things, had the objective of unifying the peoples of Africa against white domination.

In the early 1960s, some 32 countries that achieved independence by then, formed a lose organization, known as the Organization of African Unity, on 25 May 1963. The Organization was assigned to carry out some political, economic as well as social activities. In the political field, the OAU would organize African countries for more unification against internal as well as external threats. Whereas in the economic and social spheres it would improve the life of African countries and increase social interaction among different peoples of the continent.

In its 39 years of existence, the OAU achieved little in those areas. Africa has gone, both politically and economically, from bad to worse. The Organization could not save the continent from the impact of Cold War rivalry and Cold War related conflicts. The living standard of the peoples of Africa in the 1990s was by far worse than it was in the early 1960s. It was in the area of fighting against colonialism in Africa, that the OAU registered a success story. It also played an important role in mitigating Inter-state conflicts due to boundary and territorial disputes.
It is not yet vivid whether the present Union is similar to the type of union that was conceived by earlier Pan-African leaders. However, it could be argued that the African Union is the result of the continuation of the earlier PanAfrican struggles.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union holds some objectives that were not in the Charter of the OAU. Such objectives include “the promotion of democratic principles and institutions, and popular participation and good governance.” Other objectives such as “achieving greater unity, defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence of its members” were already in the charter of the OAU.

Similarly, some of the principles such as the principle of “noninterference” and the “idea of sovereignty” are simply a continuation from the OAU, with certain modifications. The Union allows member states to intervene in a state that is undergoing grave circumstances, like war crimes, genocide and crime against humanity.

The Union incorporates some additional organs that were not in the OAU. Such organs include the African Parliament, the Financial Institution and the Court of Justice. However, their duties are not yet specified adequately.
Until now, there is no indication that African leaders would cede sovereign power to any organ of the AU. The ultimate power of the Union, like that of the OAU, still rests on the Assembly, which comprises the Heads of State and Government of Africa. This seems to give the Union an inter-governmental structure rather than a supranational model.

The present Union does not resemble the type of union conceived in this thesis, i.e. a union which has a means of violence at the central institution, and the central institutions having authority to make decisions affecting the distribution of resources, unless the union transfers itself from an intergovernmental to a supranational type of organization.

For the formation of a strong political community the political, economic and social conditions are less conducive yet. This should not be interpreted in such a way that if these conditions are fulfilled a political community could be realised. But the formation of a strong political community depends on the presence of those conditions. There are no compatible political values across the continent. Some countries are relatively democratic, others are in a state of transforming themselves into democracy, and many governments are still authoritarian.

There is low social and economic transaction in the continent. Almost 90 percent of the continent’s economic relations take place with countries outside of Africa, dominantly Western Europe. Only less than 10 percent of the existing economic relation is conducted among the states of Africa. Social transaction, that is the relation between African peoples, is still at a lower level, due to infrastructure and other reasons.

War continues in many parts of Africa. This will continue to create division among member states of Africa and divert the continents’ resources for unwanted ends.

The international environment is not yet conducive for Africa. The continent remains marginalized when the developed countries’ attention diverted toward East Europe.

The prospect does not seem bright for Africa, unless African countries form a strong political community that can look for remedies for their multifaceted problems.

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