The African Union is one of the world"s most important intergovernmental organizations. It is composed of 53 countries in Africa and is loosely based on the European Union. These African countries work diplomatically with each other despite differences in geography, history, race, language, and religion to try to improve the political, economic, and social situations for the approximately one billion people that live on the African continent.
The African Union promises to protect Africa"s rich cultures, some of which have existed for thousands of years.
The African Union, or AU, includes every independent African country except Morocco. Additionally, the African Union recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is a portion of Western Sahara; this recognition by the AU caused Morocco to resign. South Sudan is the newest member of the African Union, joining on July 28, 2011, less than three weeks after it became an independent country.
The African Union was formed after the dissolution of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 2002. The OAU was formed in 1963 when many African leaders wanted to accelerate the process of European decolonization and gain independence for a number of new nations. It also wanted to promote peaceful solutions to conflicts, ensure sovereignty forever, and raise living standards.
However, the OAU was largely criticized from the beginning. Some countries still had deep ties to its colonial masters. Many countries associated themselves with the ideologies of either the United States or the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War.
Although the OAU gave weapons to rebels and was successful in eliminating colonization, it could not eliminate the massive poverty problem.
Its leaders were seen as corrupt and unconcerned for the welfare of the common people. Many civil wars occurred and the OAU could not intervene. In 1984, Morocco left the OAU because it opposed the membership of Western Sahara. In 1994, South Africa joined the OAU after the fall of apartheid.