The Role of African Union in Promoting Intra-African Cooperation

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The African Union is the apex continental organisation tasked with promoting Pan-Africanism and protecting the interests of its member states. As a pan-African organization in the continent, the African Union is charged with promoting unity and solidarity, coordinating and intensify development, and safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. The organization also promotes international cooperation between African nations and their international counterparts.

The African Union was birthed in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, following a decision in September 1999 by its predecessor, the OAU, to create a new continental organisation towards increased cooperation and integration of African states to drive Africa’s growth and economic development. The African Union was established with the core values of “An Integrated, Prosperous, and Peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”.

To perform the responsibilities of the AU, member states, which make up the Assembly of Heads of States; the AU’s supreme policy and decision-making organ determine the AU’s policies, establish its priorities, adopt its annual programme, and monitor the implementation of its policies and decisions. The Assembly of Heads of States is responsible for electing the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission as well as admittance of new members into the assembly and adopting the budget.

The AU is significant to Pan-Africanism as, through the Assembly of Heads of States, it also takes decisions on important matters, amends and interprets the Constitutive Act of the organization which is adhered to by all members, thereby carving out a path for the continent. This path can be economic, security, organizational, or legislative structures that member states are meant to adopt to foster growth and development within the continent.

The AU has several other organs that enable it to implement its functions; the executive council or the Executive Council of Ministers of the Union; is responsible for foreign trade, energy, industry, and mineral resources; food, agricultural, and animal resources, livestock production forestry; water resources and irrigation; environmental protection, humanitarian action and disaster response and relief; transport and communications, the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), Specialised Technical Committees (STCs), the Peace and Security Council and The African Union Commission. This AU structure promotes participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).

Through these arms and institutions associated with the AU, the organization is equipped to proffer security and economic initiatives across the continent. Initiatives like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) are one of the many initiatives explored by the AU to bring about commerce on a continental level. The AfCFTA connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion and a potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty. The agreement is aimed at reducing trade tariffs among member countries to facilitate trade and services, as well as regulatory measures and standards among member states.

As much as the AU is meant to protect the sovereignty of African States, there have been unconstitutional changes of government in recent years which have brought up a lot of questions about the effectiveness of the African Union. Some observers have also argued that there is a level of disconnect between the AU and its member states civil society stakeholders because of a lack of engagement from the Union. The Union has also bemoaned inadequate funding from member states to meet up to its functions.

The African Union has been influential in the continent in more than one way; from its response to the COVID-19 outbreak to the establishment of organisations and unions that have been influential in addressing issues like; education, hunger, climate change, technology development, and security in the continent. But for the AU to meet its full potential, it is imperative that every member state is cooperative and has faith in the Pan-African dream.


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