African Union (AU) [UPSC Notes GS-II]

African Union is a continental body that consists of 55 states belonging to the African continent. The African Union was launched as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 2002.

African Union is an important topic for the IAS Exam and is included under the GS-II section. This article will discuss the origin of the African Union (AU) and its controlling bodies.

Latest Context on African Union –

34th African Union Summit was held virtually from February 6th to 7th 2021 organized by the African Union Commission (AUC). The theme of the 2021 AU Summit was “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa We Want”.

Key Highlights of the AU Summit 2021

  • Objectives –
    • Report on the Institutional Reform of the AU
    • Report on the progress on the African Union response on COVID-19 pandemic in Africa;
    • Elections and appointments of the Leadership of the AU Commission.
  • Six new Board Members of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption have been appointed by the African Union Executive Council ministerial meeting on the 4th of February 2021.

The AU Summit 2020 was marked by the historical African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

What is AfCFTA?

  • AfCFTA seeks to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African customs union. It establishes the largest free trade area in the world since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.
  • The preliminary work of AfCFTA is on steps such as incremental tariff reduction, elimination of non-tariff barriers, supply chains and dispute settlement.
  • In a world, becoming increasingly dependent on African markets and commodities, AfCFTA will have a global impact.

IAS exam aspirants can refer to the detailed topic-wise UPSC Syllabus at the linked article, and also complement their preparation with the links given below:

Interesting Facts About Africa East African Community (EAC)
European Unions (EU) Horn Of Africa
Economic Community of West African States African Asian Rural Development Organization (AARDO)

Origin of African Union

OAU was established on 25th May 1963, when 32 heads of independent African States signed the OUA Charter in Addis Ababa Ethiopia on May 1963 for the establishment of Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This initiative was taken as a pan-Asian vision for a united and free Africa with a major focus on the freedom, justice, equality and dignity of the African people. The main objective of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was to eradicate the African states from colonisation and to promote unity and solidarity.

On 9th September 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) called for the establishment of an African Union through the Sirte Declaration to enable the role of Africa in the global economy. Therefore, the African Union (AU) was officially launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.

Four summits that led to the formation African Union were:

  • The Sirte Extraordinary Session (1999) decided to establish an African Union
  • The Lome Summit (2000) adopted the Constitutive Act of the Union.
  • The Lusaka Summit (2001) drew the road map for the implementation of the AU
  • The Durban Summit (2002) launched the AU and convened the 1st Assembly of the Heads of States of the African Union.

To know more about India-Africa relations visit the linked article.

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Visions of African Union (AU)

Re-launching of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as the African Union was done to realise the potential of Africa to fight against colonisation with a major focus towards increased cooperation and integration of African states for economic development.

AU is guided by its vision of a peaceful, prosperous and an integrated Africa representing a dynamic force in the global economy and is driven by its own citizens.

Objectives of African Union (AU)

The objectives of AU were laid by the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

  1. Achieving greater unity and solidarity among the African countries and the people.
  2. Defending the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of the 55 Member States.
  3. Accelerating the political as well as the socio-economic integrity of the African continent.
  4. Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
  5. Encouraging international cooperation and promoting peace, security, and stability of the continent
  6. Promoting the popular participation and governance of the continent including democratic principles and institutions
  7. Development and promotion of common policies related to trade, defence and foreign relations strengthening its negotiating positions.
  8. Invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union.
  9. Protect human rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  10. To provide sustainable development of the continent at the social, economic and cultural levels.
  11. Development of the continent through the advancement in the field of science and technology

UPSC 2022

African Union- Controlling Bodies

Working of the African Union is implemented by several controlling bodies that are responsible for handling legal and judicial matters, principal decision making and human rights-related issues. To know more, refer to the table below:

Controlling Bodies of African Union (AU)



African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Handling issues related to Human Rights.
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR)
African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
AU Commission on International Law (AUCIL) Handling the legal and judicial matters of the 55 member states
AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC)
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government It is the governing body of AU having decision-making powers.
Executive Council Handling foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and communications of the continent.
Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) Manages the executive council.
Peace and Security Council Facilitating a timely and effective response to any conflict and crisis in Africa.
African Union Commission Responsible for the administration of AU.

The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Peer Review Mechanism are also key bodies that constitute the structure of the African Union.

African Union (AU)- UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions on African Union (AU)


Q 1. How many countries make up African Union?

Ans. The AU is made up of 55 Member States which represent all the countries on the African continent. The AU Member States are divided into five geographic regions.

Q 2. What is African Union’s Agenda 2063?

Ans. AGENDA 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.It is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development and is a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity.

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