Following the intense rebellion of most African countries against the harsh colonial rule, the resistance came to climax in the early 1960s when most of the countries started gaining independence. However, to ensure that Africans were able to govern themselves effectively, there was a need to create a united Africa, whereby the leaders of various countries that had attained independence could ensure that good governance was applied. There was also a need to create an even stronger Africa and enable other countries who had not yet gained independence to enjoy the self-rule too. The answer to such issues was the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The organisation was created in 1963 by the member states who had already gained independence, and the main agenda then was to eliminate colonialism in Africa completely. The organisation was a success for over three decades when it was disbanded to form the African Union (AU) in 2002. The AU has more mandate of promoting unity, cohesion and internal cooperation of the member states. The Headquarters for AU is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Gower, 2015).
The African Union is essential for African member states as it ensures that they can support each other in times of need and issues such as wars, economic, social and communication issues. The African Union, unlike the Organization of African Union, was made to spearhead issues to do with the economy, like the European Union. This is because all the countries had gained independence. Therefore, there was a need to focus on developing their economies for the benefit of citizens. With this, therefore, the AU is a significant body that has enhanced growth and development in most countries as it ensures that no country is left behind to sink on issues to do with conflicts, drought and low economies.
Despite the success of the organisation, there are challenges that it still faces, that hinder the spearheading of its mandates. At the same time, there are strengths that member countries can boast of in ensuring success and development. Some opportunities are yet to be tapped that can unleash the potential of the member states to achieve even higher goals (AU, 2017). However, some threats hinder implementation and exploitation of the opportunities. This drags the progress of the critical issues in the continent. In this study, therefore, the focus will be on investigating the SWOT analysis of the AU. This helps to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
The strengths of the AU are mainly some of the achievements it has made since its incorporation. One of the strengths is its effectiveness in enhancing cooperation and unity in all member states, through the prevention of conflict and the promotion of democracy. With this, Africa has been in continuous progress in areas such as culture, education, peace and security and increased trade activities.
Most importantly is the issue of conflict prevention, management, and also enhancing peacebuilding initiatives and agreements. This has boosted stability in most countries, whereby people can move freely and conduct their businesses without fear. With this also, there has been a success in solving inter-boundary conflicts in most countries and enhanced peace and cooperation. This dramatically encourages trade with and outside the borders where people can interact freely and live together without feuds. A vision of conflict-free Africa has been spearheaded by various leaders from different countries in their annual meetings, whose primary focus is to make peace agreements. The organisation also has put tremendous efforts in assisting member countries to fight terrorism, such as Somalia, which has been a hotbed of al Shabaab militants (Gower, 2015). It has developed the African Mission in Somalia, whereby member countries have contributed military personnel to help fight terrorism in the region.
Apart from success in conflict prevention, the AU has succeeded in ensuring political technical and planning support for countries that have been struggling with political instability. In most AU member states, there have been political unrests, especially in the electioneering periods that have in many cases, lead to many deaths and unnecessary displacement of people. However, with proper management and planning provided by the organisation, there has been a success in solving such issues, where it has sensitised in promoting democracy in elections and good governance.
The other strength is the promotion of pursuance of economic prosperity and integration through advocating for sustainable development. The AU has played a significant role in integrating all the 54 member countries economically at both regional and at international levels. For instance, it has enabled the creation of regional economic zones in the continent that includes the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States, and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). These economic blocs are essential to member states they help in ensuring that the budget of individual member states is harmonised, including the monetary and fiscal policies (African_Union_Commision, 2013). The blocs also help in minimising protocols used when the member states are trading and hence leading to harmonious trading activities. The AU also plays a vital role in integrating African countries to other international economic blocs such as the EU, especially in benchmarking how it operates through the removal of trade barriers buy easing movement of people and goods across the borders.
The African Union has also made a significant improvement in addressing issues of corruption, and it aims at ultimately reducing corruption in its member states. The move has been agreed upon unanimously by all the African leaders, whereby they have created the peer review mechanisms to ensure that member states make bold steps in dealing with corruption issues. One of the activities of the peer review mechanism is to ensure that individual states form independent public scrutiny bodies that ensure accountability of the usage of public funds.
One of the weaknesses is that the AU has not been able to respond to issues of high-level poverty and joblessness among a significant portion of youth. Youth in most of the African states make up to three-quarters of the labour force, but ironically, most of them end up being unemployed despite having the necessary knowledge gained in learning institutions. This makes most of them to lack necessary skills necessary since only a few of them are absorbed in the job market. This has led to most of the youths seeking alternatives by exporting their expertise to other countries, especially in Europe and America, where they are paid better and assured of better pay and improved living conditions. The African Union has spent many resources in advocating for improvements in economic growth but has not identified ways in which to create jobs to ensure economic activities are accelerated (Adejumobi & Olukoshi, 2016).
Another weakness is that the AU budget relies on the support of external donors such as the UN and World Bank. This is a significant challenge as it indicates that Africa is not prosperous enough to serve for its financial needs. With this, therefore, various leaders have raised eyebrows on this and demand that it is time that African problems are solved Africans themselves. This has weakened its mandate, especially in the ownership of critical areas, and also making it focus on externally financed activities. This serious issue needs attention and solution to achieve self-dependence. Therefore, the AU struggle to find ways to ensure that they can develop self-sustainability (AU, 2017). This is a significant challenge, and it indicates that Africa is not doing enough to achieve self-sustainability, which can be achieved through improved economic activities and innovation.
The African Union has also not succeeded in ensuring full post-conflict reconstruction in most countries that have experience conflicts. Peacebuilding and is needed a lot and has proved to be a significant challenge in building a strong Africa that respects human rights. Although the African Union is making tremendous efforts to address the issue of internal conflicts in most countries, it has become hard to reach the recovery level as some cultural conflicts are taken as normal despite being significant hindrances of peace in Africa.
An outstanding opportunity that the African Union needs to focus on is ensuring international cooperation and development through international partners is ensured. Through this, the organisation can encourage investments in Africa, whereby untapped wealth can be exploited and be utilised here in Africa for sustainable development. A good example is the increased cooperation with China, which has seen increased investment and numerous project developments from the Far East country. While this is a good move, AU should also look into other markets such as the European and American cooperation to create strong bonds (Lisk, 2012). However, it should not only advocate for external investment where most of the manual works are done in Africa, and the main processing is done overseas. In this case, however, it should ensure that Africa sells finished products to gain maximum rewards, and this can be reflected as a positive impact in the future.
Another opportunity that Africa Union needs to address is to ensure that member countries give the youth priority in employment opportunities. This is because African youth are learned and highly knowledgeable, and therefore, giving them opportunities to work in their countries and not outside of Africa will ensure that Africa benefits from its fruits. One of the ways to address this is advocating for better rewards and healthful working conditions (African_Union_Commision, 2013). For instance, many African doctors work overseas as medical professionals, making the local African hospitals to lack young and experienced medical practitioners who are equipped with modern technologies. By encouraging ‘made in Africa’ products and services, there is an assurance of a promising and a brighter Africa in the long run.
Although there are already established economic blocs, it would be better if the AU can establish free-market throughout Africa so that goods and services can be moved across the borders without much restriction and trade barriers. This can boost trade in the member countries and also increase value for African goods, and also increase employment opportunities. This can boost African dependency on themselves instead of relying on grants and support from other developed countries (Adejumobi & Olukoshi, 2016).
Corruption is a major threat to the development of agendas of the African Union. This is because while the Union discusses ways of making Africa independent and producing and selling its products and services, there are some member countries through few individuals that allow unscrupulous traders to continue to operate in illegal activities. This greatly drags countries behind and therefore, not being able to meet the set target to ensure dependency is stated by individual countries (Lisk, 2012).
There is also the threat of terrorism and internal conflicts in most member countries. The African Union’s primary mandate is to bring peace and cohesion of the member states. However, terrorism has been the primary challenge in halting development, as many investors cannot invest in war-torn countries. Africa is a rich continent with natural resources, but with terrorisms and internal conflict, it is impossible to reap the maximum from the resources that they have. For instance, in Somalia, there is a vital port Mogadishu that can be used as a gateway for trading. However dues to terrorism, the port cannot be optimised to produce the best. Internal conflicts in South Sudan has resulted to the natural resources not to be exploited to maximum, thus leading to lack of development I the country, but draining funds from the African Union for peacekeeping that could have been otherwise used for developments (Gower, 2015).
threat is an encroachment of other
countries, who in the name of providing aid to Africa lead to neocolonialism as
Africa cannot make critical decisions without inquiring them. For instance, as
stated earlier, Africa Union is not able to fund itself fully, and therefore it
has to rely on funds and grants from other nations such as the EU, China, and the US (Lisk, 2012). With this, therefore, there is much interference from
other developed countries that make it hard for Africa to fully take control of
itself, which can lead to severe challenges in the future if Africa cannot take
care of its own needs.
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African_Union_Commision. (2013). DRAFT STRATEGIC PLAN 2014 – 2017 FOR THE AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION. Addis Ababa: The African Union Commission.
AU. (2017, Jan 27). Main successes of the AU in Peace and Security, challenges and mitigation measures in place. Retrieved from African Union press releases: https://au.int/fr/pressreleases/20170127/main-successes-au-peace-and-security-challenges-and-mitigation-measures-place
Gower, C. (2015, July 28). What is the African Union and has it proven to be successful? Retrieved from Telegraph Uk: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/11766227/What-is-the-African-Union-and-has-it-proven-to-be-successful.html
Lisk, F. (2012, July 9). The African Union after ten years: Successes and Challenges.