How does AU Work?


Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) has been described as Africa’s Marshall Plan and is a long-term strategy to lift the continent out of poverty. The five OAU member countries Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa were commissioned to compile the plan adopted by the OAU in July 2001. At a meeting in June 2002 with the rich G8 countries, Nepad received their recognition, and the G8 then adopted a action plan for Africa to support the project. Nepad is now run within AU’s framework and the project is responsible to AU’s parish.

The basic idea behind Nepad is that the African countries themselves should lift themselves out of poverty by giving the rich donor countries an attractive proposal. By strengthening democracy, fighting corruption and managing its economy, Africa will attract developed countries to cooperation. In this way, the willingness of foreign aid to increase (foreign aid to African countries was halved in the 1990’s), foreign investment in Africa will increase and donor countries will agree to debt write-offs.

The improvements will be made by the African countries monitoring and examining each other. The reviews, which can last for several months, are voluntary and consist of discussions with the government of the country under review, the opposition, trade union movements and more. The final reports are not necessarily published. The first to be examined in 2002 were Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Rwanda. Criticism must be leveled when a country goes in the wrong direction.

However, Nepad’s control system was heavily questioned from the outset, when criticism of Zimbabwe failed to materialize since Robert Mugabe won the 2002 presidential election following a violent election campaign. Other critics say that Nepad is too much in the interest of donor countries. There is also criticism that Nepad takes too little account of the threat that HIV / AIDS poses to Africa’s development. In general, the criticism from voluntary organizations, women’s and youth unions, researchers, religious organizations and a number of other interest groups has been so harsh that Nepad has never really gained any real influence. Examinations of the individual countries’ economies have come to a halt and information about Nepad’s activities is scarce. Even from political leaders who initially supported the idea, there has been criticism of waste of money.

Nepad aims to achieve an average economic growth in Africa of 7 percent annually, which is one of the preconditions for the UN’s so-called millennium goal, to halve poverty by 2015, to be realized. During the 2000’s, growth in Africa has increased steadily and in 2011 was just over 5 percent, but they were unevenly distributed across the continent. The economy is growing most in countries with large supplies of oil and other demanded raw materials, which makes them vulnerable to the international economy. However, the African economies have been helped by major emerging markets such as China and India, whose investments in infrastructure have created jobs and contributed to the development of a relatively affluent African middle class. The possible influence of Nepad over better managed public finances is difficult to measure.

Nepad’s secretariat is located in South Africa.

Political and social issues

In 1981, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights was adopted by the OAU, and five years later enough countries had signed it to enter into force. An eleven-strong commission was set up in Banjul, Gambia, to work on this issue. In 1998, the OAU decided to establish an African Court of Human Rights, but it did not become a reality until 2006. The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) was first located in Addis Ababa but moved in 2007 to Arusha in Tanzania, in the same facility as the UN -supported Rwanda war crimes tribunal. However, even half of the AU member states have not yet ratified the agreement on which the court is based. As far as 2012, only five countries had adopted a declaration recognizing the right of individuals and independent organizations to lodge complaints with the Court. By all accounts, for ACHPR a rather dwindling existence.

Many African leaders are critical of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for seemingly only prosecuting Africans. AU members Malawi, Chad, Kenya and Djibouti have reported to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC for genocide in the Darfur region, when he visited them. At the same time, they have done nothing to make ACHPR a functioning, efficient court.

In July 2003, the AU adopted a protocol on women’s freedoms and rights, the so-called Maputo Protocol. It establishes women’s social and political equality with men. guarantees women’s right to take responsibility for their own sexual and reproductive health and calls for an end to female genital mutilation. However, the protocol has met with strong opposition from both Christian and Muslim groups across the continent and its practical significance is difficult to assess.

According to thesciencetutor, the AU has set guidelines for how general elections are to be conducted in the member states in order for them to be regarded as free and fair, and for how the Union’s election observation in the member states is to be conducted. AU must be able to send election observers both before and during an election. In March 2002, the OAU was severely criticized after the organization approved the presidential election in Zimbabwe. A large part of the outside world, including the United States, the EU and the Commonwealth, condemned the election, which was fraught with accusations of state-sponsored violence against opposition politicians and the media. AU election observers generally tend to be less critical of shortcomings in the arrangements than delegations from, for example, the EU and the US.

Africa has often been hit by large flows of refugees, mostly as a result of war. When dealing with refugees, AU must work together with the UN refugee agency UNHCR. AU has established a special fund which, among other things, will contribute with emergency aid and with education for those who are to be readjusted to society.

An AU program is in place to improve health in Africa. Among other things, the union will help fight serious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, and ensure that more people have access to good and cheap medicines as well as basic health care.

AU has been criticized for passivity in the face of the AIDS epidemic that has hit Africa hard. In 2005, about 25 million Africans were infected with the HIV virus that causes the deadly infectious disease AIDS. In some of the member states of southern Africa, more than 30 percent of the population was living with HIV. The UN estimates that close to 90 million Africans, or ten percent of the population, are at risk of contracting HIV over the next 20 years unless action against the epidemic increases. Some countries seem to have succeeded in reducing the ravages of the disease through increased use of antiretroviral drugs and successful propaganda for changing sexual habits, but especially in southern Africa the situation is steadily deteriorating.

How does AU Work

Trade and economic cooperation

The AU is working to remove obstacles, such as tariffs and import duties, to increase trade between African states and to reduce their dependence on trade with the former colonial powers.

In 2001, the OAU decided that an African Economic Union (AEC) would be formed gradually until 2028. Until then, the countries’ trade policies and economic policies will be coordinated so that the AEC replaces the 14 African trade blocs that existed in the early 2000’s.. The largest regional trading blocs were Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), CEEAC (Economic Community of Central African States), Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States), SADC (Southern African Development Community) and the Arab Maghreb Union.


An important task for the AU is to increase the African countries’ contacts with the outside world. Not least, cooperation with Arab countries is emphasized.

The UN supports the AU’s development financially and the two organizations cooperate in several areas, above all conflict management and poverty reduction. The UN wants to strengthen the AU’s Peace and Security Council and, among other things, helps to train both military and civilian AU personnel for humanitarian operations. The UN also supports the development of the AU’s task force.

The United States and the European Union are also significant contributors.

A first summit between the EU and African countries was held in Cairo in 2000. A joint action plan was adopted for, among other things, economic integration, increased trade, more investment and the development of private business in Africa. A second EU-Africa summit was scheduled for 2003, but it was canceled after disagreement over whether Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would be allowed to attend. The EU imposed economic sanctions on the Mugabe regime after the 2002 presidential election. The second summit was not held until 2007, in Lisbon, and was followed by a meeting in Tripoli, Libya in 2010.