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Exploring the African Union’s Inception, Initiatives, and Impact on Africa Day

May 25, 2021 08:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
African Union

(The African Union Emblem. Image by Civis Turdetani, )

A Congolese proverb says: “A single bracelet does not jiggle”. Similarly, through collective power, Africa would change the destiny and sound of the continent. During the fight to end colonialism in Africa, African freedom fighters realized this possibility, and designed an organization that would facilitate the eradication of colonialism, and lead Africa into its next phase of freedom.

Africa Day is celebrated on May 25th, and was created in tandem with the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, led by Pan-African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and was replaced by the African Union in 2002. The OAU was initially designed as a collaborative effort to free African countries from apartheid and colonialism and work towards further advancement of African countries. Currently, the AU’s headquarters is located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The late Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya, one of the founding members of what is now known as the African Union, proposed a unified African identity, including an African currency, African military, and African passport to strengthen Africa’s economic power. al-Qaddafi’s vision for transforming the OAU to the AU was for Africa to become a strong economic entity and wanted Africa to have the power to compete with coalitions like the European Union. Although al-Qaddafi’s assassination in 2001 changed the course of the AU’s mission, his vision continues through the initiatives of the AU.

(Muammar al-Qaddafi speaks at a conference in 2016. Image by Agencia Brazil, )

The AU Agenda 2063 Project, launched in May 2013, is a 50-year development plan that aims to propel Africa’s position in the global market, so the continent can have competitive leverage through unifying resources. This agenda focuses on structural areas that are critical to Africa’s development, including social and economic progress, youth equality and gender empowerment, centralized development, eradication of conflict, the elevation of African commodities, and more.

(Speakers engage audiences at a 2018 AfCTFA Business Forum in Rwanda. Image by Paul Kagame, )

With continent-wide initiatives set by the AU, Africa’s future looks bright, and the rich natural resources of the continent come into focus as nation-building tools. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched this year, was developed under Agenda 2063 and seeks to boost intra-African trade. AfCTFA operates to develop a unified continent-wide market for services and goods, encourage intra-African partnerships and collaborations, and build a foundation for a Customs Union.

As the AU has included a ‘Visa-Free Africa’ through unified African passport in Agenda 2063, the post-colonial borders on the continent are set to become more flexible between countries and ripen for intensified collaboration. The AU has also declared the African Diaspora to have an important role to play in the progress of Africa, and connects with the diaspora through its initiative ‘The Diaspora Division’.

This year, in honor of Africa Day, the AU is hosting the virtual event ‘Continental Launch of the Entry into Force of the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance and Africa Day Celebrations. Register here.



 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ( ).

Read more from Nana Ama Addo:

Ghana’s Fatal Floods: The Rainy Season, Effects of Inadequate Gutters and Improper Waste Management, and Ways Forward

Throwing Bananas: Lack of Progress in Racism Towards African & African Diasporan Soccer Players, and Redirection of Focus

Possibilities of Progress: Integrating Crisis Care Infrastructure into the Philadelphia Police Force and the United States