As African Union Turns 51: Celebration or...? Riddle me this

By Marian Mazi

 Are we there yet?                                                                                                                  Photo by Harrison Akoh

Are we there yet?                                                                                                                  Photo by Harrison Akoh

After 51 years of the existence of the Organisation of African Unity, and 12 years for African Union project, should we be dolling up and dressing to the nines or must we dial it down and prepare for the burial of an enormously ambitious project? In comparison to the European Union project, whose inception came 30 years after the AU, have we lagged too far behind? Do we remain in a warp of policies that are brilliant on paper? Are we stuck on a wheel of the perpetual planning stage? Solutions left to the political class who convene in plush hotels to address issues and yet no impact is felt on the ground where poverty is rife, unemployment is escalating and some argue to be the root cause of extreme poverty, piracy, terrorism and intrastate wars.

Anniversaries give us the opportunity to reflect on what has been, to find our bearings in order to discover where we are and where we are headed. As a Continent, do we have the suitable mechanisms in place to deter the intra and interstate conflicts that seem to cripple our continent on one extreme end, and the unrelenting onslaught by the West to keep us restricted in a neo-colonial web and the East to win our favours? Meanwhile Hollywood continues to make moving movies related to this dark and negative pictures painted over the years. Are we victims of abuse? Have the bleak pictures of Africa presented on screen and blasted everyday taken effect in our psyche? This of course would explain why as a Continent we have 63 as the average age for our illustrious leaders. 

 Or its a crash site of a big dream                                                                                   Photo by Harrison Akoh

Or its a crash site of a big dream                                                                                   Photo by Harrison Akoh

When examining the root causes of some of our worst short comings, there are those who are quick to point to the foundational principles which were centred on the eradication of the remaining vestiges of colonial power. At the time, the OAU allied with the socialist side of the cold war divide, however over time, these ideals had to exist in a capitalist world which had emerged victorious post the fall of the Berlin wall. With no other viable options presented all that was left was to submit to the dictates of erstwhile colonisers who came with solutions of economic development, aggressive democracy wrapped up in conditional funding and borrowing from Paul to pay Peter. On the other end of the spectrum you find celebrations of new found Asean allies which make some wary as it presents a whole new threat to the already fragile security environment which prevails on our Continent. However, does this justify what we have become?

Policies which exist on paper echo the sentiments of the Unions forebears, who envisioned a politically, socially and economically integrated continent with a common identity and yet on the ground we still have a distinctive split, defined along the lines of our Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which are at different stages of development. These being the:-


 It was a noble idea                                                                                                                 Photo by Harrison Akoh

It was a noble idea                                                                                                                 Photo by Harrison Akoh

  • Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS),
  • Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), 
  • East African Community (EAC) , 
  • Southern African Development Community (SADC) /Southern African Customs Union (SACU),
  • Arab Maghreb Union (UMA),
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA,)
  • Community of Sahel- Saharan States (CEN-SAD),
  • Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).


One can only hope that we remain on schedule for the achievement of the 2028 Establishment of the African Economic Community, which by then we have hopes of having established the African Economic Monetary Union.

As far as our universal struggle goes, yes, as Black people we do have common struggles that we can identify with, however as a union of African states, what is it that defines us? Yet and still concerns emanating from the colonially imposed borders will raise their head, with questions which emerge 100 years later on whether or not it was a good idea to lump some states together? As intra state conflicts continue, the question becomes whether or not secession is the most viable option. 

 What now?                                                                                                                           Photo by Harrison Akoh

What now?                                                                                                                           Photo by Harrison Akoh

As the perpetual optimists continue to dream of a United States of Africa, statistics show that compared to other blocs, intra- African trade stands at 12%, compared to 60% for the EU, 40% for North America and 30% for the Asean bloc. With the EU having opened their border and allowed for free movement of peoples, goods and service, how far are we from realising that ever illusive dream? Which legacy are we leaving behind for the survival of future generations? Whither thou the United States of Africa? Dulled into obscurity by the seeming propensity of leaders to cling on to power way past their sell by date? Or is it the civil wars which seem to be trending in the North, East and West? No it must be the stark margins which exist between the rich and the poor (or the aristocratic bourgeoisie or so called political class and the paupered proletariat). Or the permanent seemingly traumatising presence of what is now dubbed ‘Dead aid’.

 We have common struggles                                                                                                     Photo by Harrison Akoh

We have common struggles                                                                                                     Photo by Harrison Akoh

In terms of executing African solutions for African problems, we are still far from the dream, as we become more dependent on foreign funding to enforce the ideals of African peace and security. Most proponents for a more unified Africa were horrified when the three members of the AU ignored the decision taken by the Union on Libya and instead voted for UN Resolution 1973, declaring to the world that we are ill equipped to handle our own crises. With ever increasing security related problems, exemplified by the increasing rates of piracy and kidnappings along key trade routes, and the ever seemingly amazing evading tactics of the Boko Haram as their acts of terrorism only increase in magnitude, how secure are we as a Continent? Nigeria threatening to burst at the seams and the looming land question and stark inequality which continues to plague South Africa? Corruption is the order of the day and the best part is in Africa, whether you are a geriatric or a paraplegic you can be president! How’s that for democracy?


 Marian Mazi

Marian Mazi

Marian Mazi has read for an Honours in Political Science Degree and Masters in International Relations. She is passionate about the day to day lives of Wastakians. A lover of all things art and aspiration pedagogy!!!