Africa’s political development. The Case of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU)

Seminar Paper, 2005

8 Pages, Grade: 2



1. Review

2. Introduction

3. Contextual meaning of the United States of Africa (USA)

4. Historical context of African integration-Nkrumah’s vision

5. The road to African Unity-from Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU)

6. Setbacks to the process of African Unity

7. Conclusion

1. Review

The majority of post independence African leaders supported the idea of African Union, some of them disagreed on the form and composition of such a union while a minority were suspicious of the idea because of greed or fear to lose their countries sovereignty. The proponents for the formation of a closer cooperation in Africa argued that Africa should not only serve as a source of cheap raw materials to western countries but a vibrant power in global affairs. They argued that, this idea can only be achieved if all countries bring their human and material resources together to form a united front for the interest of Africans in particular and the world at large. This idea led to the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)[1] in 1963 which was later transformed to the African Union[2] (AU) in 2002.

This section however examined the historical context of the idea of African integration, the challenges it faces and the significance in global affairs.

2. Introduction

The call for the formation of a United States of Africa was echoed during the pre independence period by African leaders notably Nkwame Nkrumah[3] of Ghana, who at the eve of Ghana’s independence openly declared that the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of the African continent from colonial rule.

Nkrumah studies and experience in America helped him proclaimed that Africa can only be independent and competitive in global affairs if all countries could pull their forces together and form a single entity which he later referred to as the United States of Africa (USA).This view was supported by many African leaders and has been recently propagated by President Gadaffi of Libya whose ideas of a United States of Africa was one of the major agenda in the summit of African leaders (AU) held in Accra-Ghana in 2007.

3. Contextual meaning of the United States of Africa (USA)

According to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia[4], the United States of Africa is a concept given to one version of the possible future unification of Africa as a national and sovereign federation of states similar in the formation of the United States of America or the European Union. The term “United States of Africa” was first used by Marcus Garvey in his poem ’Hail United States of Africa’ in 1924. Garvey’s idea deeply influenced the birth of Pan-Africanism which culminated in 1945 with the fifth Pan African Congress in Manchester, UK, attended by Du Bois[5], Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Nkwame Nkrumah among others. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Nkrumah later took the idea forward with support from other African leaders to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) - the forerunner of today’s African union. The meeting of the AU, which took place in July 2007 in Accra-Ghana, was called to discuss the objective of Gaddafi’s vision of a federation of African States, an idea Nkrumah nurtured and fought for during beginning of Africa independence.

4. Historical context of African integration-Nkrumah’s vision

Nkwame Nkrumah is considered to be the main architect of pan-africanism, liberating Ghana from British rule in 1957, at a time when most African countries were under European leadership. He was a visionary, representing the view of Africa that others dare not dream about, espousing United States of Africa, a model which other African leaders have discussed with mixed feelings.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 9: Photo of Kwame Nkrumah[6]

Nkrumah’s vision was an African Union, where member states would not just be a source of the world’s raw material, but an economic power house with its own industrial bargaining power. As an American educated intellectual, Nkrumah believed from an early age that the African continent had its own economic legacy divorced from the vision of the colonialists, which during the early 20th century, tended to view Africa as a reservoir of mineral wealth as opposed to a distinct continent.

His US experience convinced him that a union of African countries similar to the United States of America would be the best way to build a powerful economic bloc, exploiting the natural wealth for the good of Africa and not the imperialist powers (former colonial masters). This idea formed the basis of his Pan-African concept of post independence Africa.

5. The road to African Unity-from Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU)

The organisation of African unity was founded on May 25, 1963 and was replaced by the African Union in July 9, 2002 by its last chairman, former South African President Thabo Mbeki. Its intended objectives were:

1. To promote the unity and solidarity of African States and
2. to act as a collective voice for the continent

It was also dedicated to the eradication of colonialism and established a liberation committee to aid independence movements.

Its headquarters were established in Addis Ababa, at the invitation of Emperor Haile Selassie. The charter of the organisation was signed by 32 independent African states. At the time of the replacement by the AU, 53 out of the 54 states in Africa were members. Morocco left on November 12, 1984 following the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as the government of Western Sahara in 1982, a province she considers as part of her national territory.

Although the OAU was widely described by political analysts as a bureaucratic “talking shop” with little power, the former Secretary General of United Nations Kofi Annan praised the OAU for bringing Africans together. However, in its 47 years of existence, critics argued that the OAU did little to protect the rights and liberties of Africans from their own political leaders, often calling it the Absolutist Kings and “Dictator’s club” or “Dictators trade union”.


[1] BBC.(2002).Farewell to the OAU. Acccesse on the 13.12.2010 at

[2] Official website of African Union.

[3] Kwame Nkrumah, Africa Must Unite (London: Heinemann, 1964)


[5] David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (New York: Norton, 1993).

[6] Biography of Kwame Nkrumah. Accessed on the 29th of October 2010 at:

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Africa’s political development. The Case of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU)
University of Kassel
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This text is a written report of a paper i presented at the University of Kassel as a researcher in international politics.
African union, OAU, African integration, African political history, Nkwame Nkrumah, African politics, African development
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Stephen Ekokobe Awung (Author), 2005, Africa’s political development. The Case of Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to African Union (AU), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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