Organization of African Unity

Organization of African Unity (OAU), former international organization, established 1963 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by 37 independent African nations to promote unity and development; defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of members; eradicate all forms of colonialism; promote international cooperation; and coordinate members' economic, diplomatic, educational, health, welfare, scientific, and defense policies. The OAU was, at the time, the most significant result of Pan-Africanism. The organization mediated several border and internal disputes and was instrumental in bringing about majority rule and the end of apartheid in South Africa, which in 1994 became the 53d nation to be admitted to the organization.

In 1997, OAU members established the African Economic Community (AEC), envisioned as an African common market; the AEC signed an agreement with regional African economic groupings that was intended to lead to harmonization of policies of those common markets. A more radical expansion and transformation of the OAU was adopted at Lomé, Togo, in 2000, in the form of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which replaced the OAU in 2002. The African Union has with greater powers to promote African economic, social, and political integration, and a stronger commmitment to democratic principles.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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