Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point: Debates: African
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 4 June, 2001, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
African Union: Can it do better than the OAU?

A new pan-African body, the African Union, formally comes into existence this week, replacing the Organisation for African Unity.

After 38 years the OAU is being transformed into the African Union, loosely modelled on the European Union.

The Pan-African Movement says that the creation of the African Union brings the dream of a common African currency, foreign policy, defence structure and economic programme closer to reality.

When it is fully operational in a year's time, it should have a pan-African parliament, an economic community, a central bank and a court of justice.

For many, the OAU was a failure. Can the African Union do any better?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.

The Organisation for African Unity is an establishment that simply strives for African unity, as the name implies. African Union, however, implies an actual union is in place. Added to this, it immediately strikes a tone equating itself to the European Union. This is more than a simple name change. The name states its purpose and how it is established. An "organisation", that is the OAU, does not connote an economic, political, and defence union with strong legislative and executive authority. With the name change, however, comes several responsibilities. The new African Union must methodically and effectively work to bring a common African currency and economic programme, as well as a central government and defence. United Africa will rise, divided it will fall further behind.
Nitin Gadia, USA

I trust market forces more than politicians

Amoroso, Kenya
Judging by the e-mails here, many people don't hold out much hope and who can blame them? However, I trust market forces more than politicians and an African free trade area can thrive in spite of bad governance. Don't worry Africa, people in other countries have no more faith in politicians than you do.
Amoroso, Kenya

African Union like the OAU will remain a myth so long as Africans fail to come to their senses and to learn to co-exist in very fragmented and enormously diverse socio-ethnic religious communities.
John Ekaju, Uganda

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union are two faces of the same coin.
Eskinder, Ethiopia

The leaders and the other stakeholders must rather think about how to make things happen to the benefit of every African

Kwabena Otuo-Acheampong, Ghana
The leaders and the other stakeholders must rather think about how to make things happen to the benefit of every African. I have come to know that most African leaders are lacking implementation skills, just because they came to power through the back door.
Kwabena Otuo-Acheampong, Ghana

I don't think the so-called African Union goes much beyond being a club of rich and corrupt African leaders. I don't think it will go beyond giving Africa's leaders the opportunity to hold lavish and expensive conferences and shower luxurious vehicles upon themselves. The African Union will not make an iota of difference to the poor African ravaged by poverty, war and disease. It is not going to build schools for the poor African's children, nor provide hospitals for him to take them to when they fall ill.

My own view is that as long as democracy and accountability remain weak in Africa, so-called region groupings will remain nothing more than talking shops through which government officials can pilfer hefty allowances.
Jupiter Punungwe, Zimbabwe

History has shown us over and over that European models do not work in Africa

Njoki Mbogo, USA
History has shown us over and over that European models do not work in Africa. We need to model our structures by looking at what works for us the best. Why should we always model ourselves, our structures, governments, societies and cultures after Europeans?
Njoki Mbogo, USA

Isn't this all very typical of the "leaders" of my continent: Simply rename a pathetic and purposeless institution, and this equals economic development. Just what have these criminal gangs done in their respective countries to alleviate the untold suffering they have inflicted upon our helpless people?
UE, UK/Nigeria

While subscribing to the maxim that "two heads are better than one", I still retain a strong view that the "heads" must be clean. The proposed social, political and economic integration of African states could be a positive step towards achieving a self-contained region. However, as long as the evils of corruption, power hunger, violence and other vices continue to bedevil many an African state, the African Union will remain a pure theoretical concept.
Joojo Namuunda, Zambian in UK

Maybe I am just being hopeful, but Africa needs some extraordinary things to happen. Until someone comes up with a better idea, I strongly believe all African should give this endeavour their full support.
Geo, USA

Each country should first be swept clean before talking about an African Union

Nomsa, South Africa
Each country should first be swept clean before talking about an African Union. If these African leaders could meet to discuss ways of eradicating authoritarian and dictatorial rule, they would be doing themselves a lot good. But to meet and talk about African unity at this stage, to me, they are just enjoying a jolly ride to the host country of conferences, wasting the already fragile resources that Africa has.
Nomsa, South Africa

If we try to dissect every element of this effort, we won't have the opportunity to see if it will work for us as Africans. Even the US has had its failures but that did not stop it from progressing and trying other ways. For over 38 years it was the same old system with no real accomplishments. For God's sake let's gave them a try. No criticism!
Jimmy Reed, USA

What does the African Union hope to achieve that the OAU failed to do? The OAU has failed as an organisation and should have been dismantled years ago. Just look at the suffering of all the African people and countries. Coups, famine, starvation etc - the list is endless! What has the OAU done for them? Nothing. I wish the AU all the very best, although I can't really see it achieving anything!
James Anoom, England

How long did it take the EU? EU members are democratic countries and the people put their country's interest before their own personal interests. Do you think most African leaders will do the same? As many people have commented, the best way for Africa is to be fully democratised. There should be a parliament genuinely elected by the people. Presidents or PMs should only serve for a limited period. We have a lot to learn from developed democratic countries.
Taeme Gebre Egzaibher, Eritrean, US citizen

We Africans should stop dreaming and start to work together as one nation. As we all know, our continent is on the verge of devastation. We have no time to debate the Union, it is the only way forward and we need to get it started. I think the leaders in Africa finally came to their senses when they endorsed it. We should all stop the negation and help them build our nation.
Shakur Geressu, USA

It appears good in theory but it is hard to implement practically

Umuofia Kwenu, Canada
It appears good in theory but it is hard to implement practically because of political and economic differences from Cape Town to Cairo. However, it doesn't hurt to come up with something to keep those OAU bureaucrats in Addis Ababa in jobs. Probably, Nelson Mandela can rise to the occasion and be an honorary leader of Africa and challenge repressive regimes to reform their political views and steer Africa to sanity.
Umuofia Kwenu, Canada

This 'unity' is a mere foolishness. Our so-called 'leaders' ought to bring unity in their own countries first before trying to install it in the rest of the troubled continent. They should begin from their own homes by bringing in democratic changes and solving their internal tribal conflicts and power struggles. It would only be a repetition of past mistakes to try to unite Africa without a major overhaul of current dictatorships in almost all of the member countries.
Ibrahim Abubeker, Sweden

It is disappointing to read a majority of e-mails from Africans in the Diaspora with negative impressions about the newly coined African Union. Let us give Salim Ahmed Salim and progressive Africans a chance to embark on this new development - it might end being more successful than some of us think!
Hope, Canada

If all African nations were democratic, then the union would have made sense

Fikre Bizuneh, Ethiopia
If all African nations were democratic, then the union would have made sense. But as long as dictatorship and lawlessness are present in the African political arena, the UNION will just be a five-letter word with no real meaning.
Fikre Bizuneh, Ethiopia

One day in the mid seventies in Uganda, Amin decreed that the Uganda shilling should now be called the Uganda dollar. He thought that calling it a dollar would boost its value. Do you get the message?
Charles K. N., USA

The whole idea of the Pan-African Movement of the creation of an African Union brings the dream of a common African currency, foreign policy, defence structure and economic programme closer to reality and is superb. But we must remember that people like Yoweri Kaguta Museveni are hypocrites, and he can do anything to materialise his every wish of selfishness so that he can get credit from his masters.
Poul, Tanzanian, in the United States

Whatever name, be it OAU, African Union, United states of Africa or united in hunger, underdevelopment and disease cannot change the reality of our situation. Our real problems are: corruption, hunger and disease, underdevelopment, wars and rebellions, lack of education, lack of commitment, selfishness and greediness etc.

I am personally not against changing the name but will that help Africans leaders from overstaying their time in office, or will it prevent them from enriching their pockets at the expense of the poor masses?
Peter Emusa, Canada

A good idea that is guaranteed to go bad

Joe Woyee, USA
One only has to look at the current situation in Africa today to know that the idea of an African Union is a dream meant only to appeal to the kind of poor, clueless leadership that the continent has been left with since the deaths of the Nkrumah and Lumumba. How can you have an African Union with one currency and one defence force, when the continent has not been able, over 38 years of independence, to have regional trade and social integration and co-operation? In East Africa, for example, a person from Tanzania has to have a passport or visitor's pass to visit Kenya or Uganda.

What Africa needs right now, instead of this idea, whose time has certainly not come, is stable regional co-operation and new leaders who can see beyond their own bank accounts and look towards the dreams and hopes of their pitiful peoples. Maybe then, the talk of an African Union will be in order. Until regional co-operation and integration is achieved, the idea of a union will be, just like everything else in Africa, a good idea that is guaranteed to go bad.
Joe Woyee, USA

I think the union should be called African Robbers Union - robbing from the poor to feed the corrupt few tin pot dictators who are killing the African dream. In fact this union is a proxy for the so called free democratic society who has turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the ordinary Africans who have been put into the Dark Ages by their so-called leaders.
Mr W, ex-Zambia/UK

I would like to believe that it will work better than the OAU. We should not also forget that, without real change within member countries such as democratic reform, peace, justice, and freedom of expression, it will be very difficult to see any change to come to the new African Union. What they have done is simply change the name from OAU to African Union. Additionally, the people who did this are people who have been in power for over ten and twenty years. Some of those leaders are Mugabe, Moi, Ghadaff and Mubarak. African leader must work harder in their countries to bring change for their people.

We do not need an African union to be united

Lilian Kimeto, Kenya
The African Union is actually a new name for OAU. I'm not a pessimist but what does the African Union have that will make it perform better than the OAU? In any case, OAU has been a toothless dog and giving it a new name will not make it any strong.
The challenges facing the continent will not be solved by replacing OAU with the African Union but creating a forum where the problems affecting Africa are discussed and addressed. We do not need an African union to be united.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

The change of OAU to AU makes no difference to me as long as the executive remains the same. I have to wait and see what the same people will do in a different name. It is like the same king wearing a different royal garment.
Prisonier Enoka, Cameroonian in the UK

I wish Africa would integrate as the EU has done. However, I abhor to say this, I don't think so... because the most African leaders shouldn't qualify to lead the country. Their qualification is promoting animosity and anguish to the their own people.
Taha Roba, Canada

To change a name of the same organisation does not constitute its ability to work better

Onnoh, F, USA
To change a name of the same organisation does not constitute its ability to work better. Whether it is OAU or AU, African leaders need to follow through what they say or promise to the people.
Onnoh, F, USA

OAU was a well intended creation of its patriotic founding fathers but was dogged by the Western induced conflicts, poverty and disease now ravaging the African landscape.
Magnus Amajirionwu, Nigeria

Is there a single African leader who cares for his people? Look at them all. They dwell in the past by blaming colonisation for evils in Africa. The white evils have passed away, it is black evil that is tearing apart the peoples of Africa.
Frus Trated,

The African Union is not a bad idea, but, like its predecessor, it will certainly fail. Until we rid ourselves of tribalism, social injustice; until our corrupt leaders stop being stooges of their powerful masters, this is just another venture into futility. Khadaffi, of all people, who pushed so hard for this Union is a classic example of why this creation is doomed for failure. The man has held onto power for over thirty years crushing all forms of dissent giving credence to the fact that once in power, African Leaders cling on forever.
Seyneh Zoluseh, Liberia

It would be foolhardy for any forward-thinking individual to assume that a mere name change will transform a flagging organisation such as the OAU. Any sober person will tell you that OAU needs a fundamental change rather than what seems to be cosmetic makeover. Lets be realistic: exactly what will the AU accomplish that OAU couldn't in three decades? This, in my humble opinion, is an insult to Africa's collective intellect.
Tonny Onutsani, USA

I don't see much change here -- the African Union is just a new name the "toothless" Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Nathan Y. Mkamanga, Malawian in the United States

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

25 May 01 | Africa
The future of African unity
11 Jul 00 | Africa
United States of Africa?
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more African stories