Why the African Union is failing – and how to fix it

In The African Union at 50: Missed opportunities and lessons for the future (from Pambazuka), Yves Niyiragira discusses 5 ways to improve the African Union :

1. The African Union has be be financed by African countries.

It is an illusion to say that we are independent countries while the institution that is supposed to foster our integration is still financed by our former colonisers and their allies. […] It is hard to comprehend how a continent that will soon have a population of one billion people is unable to finance its integration process. Political independence is incomplete without financial independence.

2. The African Union must deal with land and resource issues.

It will be impossible for Africa to unite if there are still conflicts over land and other natural resources in many AU members.

3. The African Union has to act tougher on human rights.

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights was established in June 1998 as a continental mechanism to ensure protection of human and people’s rights in Africa. Lack of funding and political will from AU member states further prevent the continent from ending the bad culture of impunity.

4. The charters and commemorations will not bring progress, real action will.

A fourth step towards the realisation of the aspirations and hopes of the African people is to stop adopting more charters and conventions and instead recommit to concentrating on genuine implementation processes.

5. The institution must encourage free movement of people and goods.

Millions and millions of Africans wonder why an African cannot freely move from one corner of the continent to another one while some non-Africans have the freedom to do so. Ordinary Africans will not understand the real meaning of a union of African states if there are still these unsubstantiated restrictions to movement of people and goods.


I tend to agree with the general idea behind the statements: the African Union has to do a better job dealing with governance, human rights and economic progress. However, I quite disagree with the solutions provided. 

Because the real force behind the African Union comes from the country leaders, I do not believe the institution can be anything more than a leader’s club unless its operating is fundamentally modified to give more power to the people. 

In order to bring real changes for Africa, the Institution has to supercede individual leaders policies, and even national sovereignty. With its current modus operendi, the African Union does not have the legal, financial or even political power to really go against the leader’s will.

Unless the institution gives a voice to the African People and manages to get sustainable financial support from the member countries, we will all be expressing the same regrets in 2063.

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