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The African Union At Twenty: Advances, Challenges, And Future Opportunities



Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon

Toyin Falola
I am glad to be back in South Africa. The retreat of the COVID pandemic is renewing our established connections and cooperation. I am equally happy that the Thabo Mbeki Foundation has chosen, as its focus for 2022, the history and evaluation of the African Union which was officially launched twenty years ago in South Africa.

The African Union (AU), Africa’s foremost continental organisation, has come of age. Some twenty years ago, in July of 2002, this prestigious African institution came into being in continuance of the pan-African vision of an independent, united and prosperous Africa shared by the continent’s independent leadership for which they set up its parent institution, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This occasion of the commemoration of the African Union’s twentieth anniversary provides an opportunity for all of Africa to come together and listen to one another as a way of determining how well the continental organisation has fared in achieving the goals for which it was set up; what challenges have limited its success; how to surmount these challenges; and what opportunities there are in a fully operational continental organisation in today’s global geopolitics.

READ ALSO: The African Union At Twenty

The establishment of the OAU on May 25, 1963, marked the culmination of diverse and far-reaching political trends on and off the continent. Its ideological basis can be found in the late nineteenth century pan-Africanist movement, which had its origins amongst Black American Intellectuals—Martin Delany and Alexander Crummel—in the United States of America (USA). Canvassing for a Black nation independent of the USA as the only means to ensuring the prosperity of Black peoples, their ideas caught on and were further developed by W. E. B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, who urged a return to the continent. The pan-African idea was picked up and advanced on the continent by several prominent intellectuals and heads of state, including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and Sekou Toure of Guinea. These individuals provided practical expressions of pan-African ideals in Africa, applying them to the African reality of colonial subjugation and other forms of foreign oppression.

The African Union (AU) At Twenty: Advances, Challenges, And Future Opportunities

Prof. Toyin Falola

Therefore, when the Heads of Africa’s thirty-two independent states gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sign the OAU Charter in 1963, it was with a common belief that for Africa to achieve its potential and aspirations, it must be free from external control, and its peoples must rise above racial, ethnic, and national differences and work together cooperatively in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity. As a result, Article II of the OAU’s founding Charter included an agenda to promote African unity and solidarity; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for Africa’s people; protect their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence; obliterate all forms of colonialism in Africa; and encourage international cooperation, with due regard for the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Armed with a pledge of cooperation in all aspects of social endeavour, politics, economics, education, health, science, and defence by member states, the OAU immediately embarked upon what was then the foremost obstacle to its agenda of a united and prosperous Africa—the struggle for the independence of all African states under colonialism and other forms of foreign oppression (apartheid). In this regard, the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa swung into action, organising diplomatic, financial, and logistical support for liberation movements wherever they existed in Africa. The organisation was involved in the independence agitation of Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Namibia (former South West Africa) and the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. It was also active in defending its member nations’ integrity and sovereignty and resolving border disputes. This impact was especially observed in the Congo, where strategic raw materials have always been a source of unrest, in Nigeria during a civil war that threatened the unity of the Federal Republic, and in Egypt during the 1967 Israeli occupation.

READ ALSO: The World Our Home: A Meditation

Another landmark achievement of the OAU was the ambition to create an economically integrated Africa. In this instance, it was instrumental to the establishment of Regional Economic Communities (RECS), notably the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMMESA), the South African Development Coordinating Commission (SADCC), and the Arab Maghreb Union. In addition, it established the African Economic Community (AEC) in 1991, which was expected to expand into a common market, a customs union, and an African monetary union.

The African Union (AU) At Twenty: Advances, Challenges, And Future Opportunities

Thabo Mbeki

Notwithstanding the OAU’s commendable achievements, its membership identified a need to refocus the organisation’s attention away from its decolonisation agenda and more towards promoting peace and stability as a prerequisite to an eventual political and economic integration that will ensure African interests in an increasingly geopolitically quartered world. To that effect, the Heads of Government of the OAU came to a consensus and issued the Sirte Declaration of September 1999, calling for the establishment of an African Union that would accelerate the process of integration on the continent to enable her to compete favourably in a changing global economy and address any social and political challenges arising from globalisation. Thus, the African Union (AU) came into existence in 2002.

The AU was established with a vision to achieve “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” Hence, the birth of the AU marked a shift in the focus of Africa’s foremost pan-African institution away from mainly the support of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid (liberation) movements to the task of greater integration for expedited development. Among the AU’s stated goals are: achieving greater unity and solidarity among African countries and peoples; defending the territorial integrity and independence of its member states; accelerating the continent’s political and socio-economic integration; and promoting common positions on issues of concern to the continent and its peoples; promoting sustainable economic, political, and cultural development; fostering cooperation in all fields of human endeavour to raise African peoples’ living standards; protecting and promoting human and people’s rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; and promoting peace, security, and stability on the continent.

In pursuance of its mandate, the AU has recorded reasonable successes through direct contributions and international community collaborations. It has been active in minimising and settling conflicts in conflict-prone areas like Somalia and Sudan, successfully arbitrated post-election violent conflicts in Kenya, Comoros and Cote de’ Ivoire, and has intervened in coup situations by ensuring a return to civilian rule. Unrestricted by the OAU’s ‘non-interference’ concept, the AU has reserved the authority, through its Peace and Security Council, to intervene in the domestic affairs of member nations to promote peace and safeguard democracy, even employing military action in circumstances of genocide and crimes against humanity. Through its voluntary ‘Peer Review Mechanism’, whereby individual member states concede to be assessed by a group of experts collected from other member states, the AU has been able to encourage democracy and good governance on the continent. The AU has also established a practice of sending election monitoring teams (Observer Missions) to all member states to guarantee that the terms of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (2007) are followed.

READ ALSO: An Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari

The AU has demonstrated strategic leadership on the continent. Africa has presented a common front on several issues that have shaped global debates and decisions through its activities. It had some impact on the terms of engagement between the UN and regional organisations. By achieving an African consensus, it has been able to drum support for African candidates vying for positions in international organisations, such as Nigeria’s Okonjo Iweala as Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as Secretary-General of the World Health Organization, and Rwanda’s Louise Mushikiwabo as Secretary-General of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie. The AU has also demonstrated commendable leadership and served as an advisor to governments and intergovernmental agencies.

In pursuit of its agenda of African prosperity, the AU made necessary declarations and institutions that promote economic integration among its fifty-four member states. It has established development organisations such as the African Union Development Agency (NEPAD) and progressive frameworks such as the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and Agenda 2063. There have been proposals for an African Monetary Union and an African Central Bank, even though these have not seen a political will by member states to bring them to fruition. The AU also made considerable efforts to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines are available to its member states.

Financial dependence, poorly governed states and a constant push for reforms have been identified as some of the impediments to the AU’s progress. Other factors identified include the development of the ‘cult of personality, concentration of power in the office of the chairperson of the commission and the shrinking spaces for popular participation in decision making. The AU exhibited some flaws in its decision-making when it relocated its July 2012 bi-annual summit from Lilongwe, Malawi, to Addis Ababa for the former’s refusal to invite Omar al-Bashar because he had been charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court of Justices (ICC). Also reprehensible is its practice of appointing leaders with questionable democratic credentials as chairpersons. Other issues that cast aspersion on the AU’s image and performance include its inability to find a lasting solution to Africa’s teeming educated and unemployed youths, the recent resurgence of coups and violent conflicts, and its romance with China, which has seen the latter gain increasing and unbalanced concessions on the continent.

Many untapped opportunities can be gained from an objective, independent, and people-oriented continental union. Without some of the AU’s encumbrances—vested interests and constitutional limitations—the continental organisation can do much more to ensure good governance, peace, stability and economic prosperity through extensive collaborative networks that transcend any cultural, national, and regional divide. To achieve this, the AU must be seen to uphold the highest standards and be more people-oriented.

Let me close this conversation by thanking the former President Thabo Mbeki, the Mbeki Foundation, and The Thabo Mbeki School for the honour of inviting me to address various groups. I thank the students for listening to me.

Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.


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Abiodun Seeks US Partnership In Developing Critical Sectors



Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun

The Ogun State government has solicited for partnership with the United States of America in developing the critical sectors of the State’s economy.

The State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun who stated this when he received the American Consul General to Nigeria, Mr. Will Stevens, who led a 5-man delegation on a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan Abeokuta on Wednesday, noted that the State considers the United States as a progressive partner in the areas of economy, good governance, security, climate change and human capital development around the world.

Governor Abiodun posited that the State apart from the sophistication of its people and their cognitive political culture, is unanimously and popularly adjudged as the New Jersey of Nigeria and the leading industrial hub in the West Africa Sub-region, hence the need to tap from the American experience to further its developmental stride.

The governor said his administration at inception in 2019, assembled a team made up of highly resourceful technocrats and cerebral policy architects and conceptualized a transformational philosophy coined ISEYA, which is an acronym for Infrastructural Development, Social Welfare and Well-being, Education and Human Capital Development, Youth Empowerment and lastly, Agriculture and Food Security.

He said: “Through this concept, we have strategically transformed the state with modern infrastructure, deliberate policy steps to attract businesses and moving the economy from being federal allocation-focused to becoming the state with the third largest Internally Generated Revenue in the country.

“The State’s strategic location as the primary gateway to Lagos State – the largest market with the busiest ports in Nigeria has contributed to its status as the Industrial Hub of Nigeria.

“Our State is home to one of the largest industrial zones in Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the 8,000 hectares OPIC-owned Agbara Industrial Estate, which accommodates the Federal Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone (OGFTZ), with forty-four (44) operational companies, factory tenants from across the world, with over 6,000 Nigerian employees and an estimated 100,000 metric tons of freight moving in and out daily.”

Prince Abiodun noted that in its quest to make Ogun State the first destination for investors in Nigeria, his administration is currently constructing an Agro Cargo International Airport at Iperu-Ilishan road in Ikenne Local Government Area of the State, adding that the project is strategically designed to create the needed infrastructure to boost the exportation of agricultural and non-agricultural goods.

“By its structure and business plan, the Cargo Airport remains a game-changer in our import and export promotion efforts, as it was specifically constructed to be an aerotropolis (Airport City) equipped with components such as a special agro-processing zone to process raw agricultural materials for exports, an international testing centre to certify that agro-produce complies with international standards before it is exported, and facility for passenger operations as well as facilities to receive parcels coming into Nigeria that are to be redistributed to other parts of the country.

“In addition to that, it is an important component of Ogun State’s transportation master plan expected not only to connect rail, road and water transportation but also to decongest the Lagos Airport,” the governor added.

Governor Abiodun appreciated the American government for her firm stance on democratic governance, specifically on the sanctity of the electoral process as well as supporting different reforms in the electoral process and taking an uncompromising position on electoral offenders.

In an interview after a closed-door meeting with the governor, the Consul General said their discussions centred on security and health.

He noted that health remains the number one investment in Nigeria as the US government is in the health sector to help Nigeria to reach the 95 95 95 goals of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.

“It is my job to promote US trade and investment here in certain parts of Nigeria. I had a great conversation with the governor about the incredible investment the US companies are already making in the state as well as opportunities for more increased US trade and investment.

“We also talked about the tax sector, I think there are incredible opportunities right now to find jobs and opportunities for Nigerian youths to participate in the tax sector.

“We’ve seen the explosion of growth and investment in that sector throughout Nigeria, particularly in the South West,” the Consul General added.

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Toyin Falola And The October Harvest



Prof. Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti .Photo by ‘Gbile Oshadipe (2023) ©

By Ezekiel Oladele Adeoti

In the annals of academic and societal change, few luminaries shine as brightly as Professor Toyin Falola. As autumn leaves drifted in October, the literary world was astir from the changing seasons and the relentless enthusiasm of a septuagenarian scholar making waves across lecture halls and public platforms. In many cultures and traditions, October is a month of harvest – a time to reap the fruits of labour sown in prior months. Fittingly, for Professor Falola, this October truly lived up to that essence, bearing witness to an intellectual harvest that few could parallel.

Prof. Toyin Falola at the second  Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History & International Studies, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria on August 10, 2022. Photo by “Gbile Oshadipe (2022) ©

In many ways, the achievements of this month were a microcosm of Falola’s broader career: a testament to the confluence of hard work, passion, and a deep-seated commitment to societal advancement.

Within 31 days, Falola graced the podium for 3 public lectures, imparted wisdom in 2 university lectures, and was the beacon of 3 convocation lectures. Each of these engagements wasn’t just about sharing knowledge; they were conduits for sparking change, challenging established norms, and inspiring the next generation. However, to truly grasp the magnitude of Falola’s October endeavours, one must delve deeper into the essence of the man himself. At an age when many of his peers are retreating into the tranquillity of retirement, Falola’s spirit remains undiminished, if not encouraged. It’s not just the number of lectures or the honorary doctorates he received – which, in and of itself, is a remarkable feat – but the zeal with which he approaches each endeavour. His lectures, for instance, are not mere recitations of historical facts or academic theories. They are vibrant tapestries woven with threads of history, contemporary societal issues, and a vision for a brighter future. They challenge, they provoke, and most importantly, they inspire. But what drives a man of over 70 years to such relentless pursuit? To find the answer, one need not look further than his past works and the themes that permeate them. For Falola, academia isn’t a secluded ivory tower but a platform to engage with the real world. His research, extensive and varied as it is, always circles back to the core of societal problems. From the intricacies of Yoruba history to the broader strokes of African colonial and post-colonial narratives, Falola’s work sheds light on the issues that matter. These are issues that, in many ways, continue to shape societies today.

In this context, October wasn’t just another month in the calendar but a manifestation of Falola’s lifelong commitment to societal change. A promise that has seen him transcend the traditional confines of academia to engage with the broader public. His public lectures resonate with many audiences, often interspersed with anecdotes, real-life examples, and a touch of humour. From the eager university student to the curious layman, Falola’s words strike a chord, reminding everyone of the transformative power of knowledge and its role in sculpting a better future. In delving deeper into the man behind the October Harvest, one quickly realizes that Professor Falola’s achievements are not a product of overnight success but the culmination of decades of unwavering dedication. It’s a journey that’s seen him navigate the tumultuous waters of academia, societal challenges, and personal hurdles, emerging each time with a renewed sense of purpose. More than anything, this tenacity has been the cornerstone of his October endeavours and his broader career. One might wonder, what is the essence of these lectures and engagements? Why do they matter? The answer lies in the content and context of each meeting. Take, for instance, one of his public lectures from October. While the topic might have revolved around historical narratives, Falola deftly intertwined it with contemporary issues, drawing parallels and highlighting lessons. His ability to bridge the past with the present, to draw lessons from history and apply them to current challenges, is what sets him apart. In doing so, he educates and empowers his audience to view issues through a multifaceted lens, promoting critical thinking and proactive engagement.

Moreover, the venues of these lectures—from universities to public platforms—underscore his commitment to inclusive education. Universities, the traditional bastions of knowledge, are just one part of the equation for Falola. By stepping out and engaging with the broader public, he’s democratizing knowledge, making it accessible to all, irrespective of their academic or socio-economic backgrounds. It’s a move that challenges the status quo, emphasizing that learning shouldn’t be confined to ivory towers but should permeate every stratum of society. However, it’s not just the lectures that stood out in October. The two honorary doctorates he received are symbolic of his contributions to academia and society at large. Such accolades, while celebratory, are also reflective. They compel us to examine the body of work that merits such recognition. For Falola, it’s a vast tapestry of research, publications, mentorship, and public engagement. Each strand, be it a book, an article, or a lecture, is imbued with a purpose: to enlighten, challenge, and change. Yet, amidst all the accolades and achievements, what’s truly remarkable is Falola’s humility. Interact with him, and you’re not met with the airs of a celebrated academician but the warmth of a mentor, the curiosity of a lifelong learner, and the passion of a societal changemaker. This unique blend of excellence and humility makes his October Harvest not just an academic feat but a life lesson for many. It serves as a poignant reminder that success isn’t just about personal milestones but about the impact one leaves on society and the legacy one creates for future generations.

Reflecting on the October Harvest and the man at its epicentre, we must contextualize Professor Falola’s achievements within a broader societal framework. At a time when the world grapples with myriad challenges – from socio-political upheavals to environmental crises – the role of intellectuals and academicians becomes ever more crucial. And Falola, with his October engagements and lifelong commitment, epitomizes the potential of scholarly intervention in driving societal change. But why is this important? In an era dominated by bite-sized information and fleeting trends, the depth and breadth of academic research provide a counterbalance. Falola’s lectures, rich in historical context and analytical depth, offer a respite from the cacophony of superficial narratives. They remind us of the importance of understanding the past to navigate the present and shape the future. Every lecture and engagement is a clarion call for introspection, urging society to delve deeper, question more, and strive for a holistic understanding. This is not to say that academia is the sole bastion of truth or the only path to societal change. But scholars like Falola, who bridge the gap between the academic and public spheres, play a pivotal role in grounding discussions in research, evidence, and historical context. They serve as beacons, illuminating the path forward with the torch of knowledge.

Furthermore, Falola’s October engagements underscore the timeless essence of commitment and passion. His journey is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and lifelong learning in a world that often prioritizes instant gratification. It’s a narrative that resonates beyond the confines of academia, inspiring professionals, creatives, and changemakers across various fields. The underlying message? Age is but a number; passion and commitment are timeless. As we draw the curtains on the October Harvest, carrying forward the lessons it offers is essential. It’s a month that celebrates Professor Falola’s achievements, the ethos of scholarly engagement, and its potential impact on society. It’s a call to action for scholars, students, and the general public to engage, question, learn, and drive change.

In conclusion, Professor Toyin Falola’s October Harvest is more than a chronicle of a month’s achievements. It’s a celebration of a lifetime of dedication, a tribute to the transformative power of knowledge, and a reminder of the potential each one of us holds. As the leaves of October give way to the chill of November, the echoes of Falola’s lectures, the wisdom of his words, and the passion of his commitment continue to inspire, urging us all to sow the seeds of change, knowledge, and progress. For in every seed lies the promise of a harvest, and in every effort, the potential for impact.

Prof. Adeoti wrote from  the Department of History & International Studies at the Faculty of Arts, Lagos State University, Ojo-Lagos, Nigeria.


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Keep Witchcraft Accusations Out Of Politics In Sychelles



Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr. Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches urges the government of Sychelles to keep charges linked to witchcraft beliefs out of politics in the country because they make no legal and political sense. This call became necessary following a report that the country’s main opposition leader, Peter Herminie has been charged with witchcraft. Charged with witchcraft in this 21st century? He was accused along with seven other persons including a Tanzanian. According to the report, Herminie and other persons have been charged with “possessing items intended for use in witchcraft, conspiracy to perform witchcraft and procuring services related to witchcraft”. It was stated that the name of this key politician was allegedly mentioned in a whatsapp message between a local and the person from Tanzania, who was arrested at the main international airport on September 21, 2023. The report says that “Items related to witchcraft, including stones, black wooden artefacts, small bottles of brownish liquid, a collection of powders, and documents with strange language and “demonic and satanic” symbols” were found in the possession of this Tanzanian.

State prosecutors are of the notion that the documents might be some vandalised materials from the local churches. Mr. Herminie has denied the charges, and dismissed the allegation that items linked to witchcraft including bones, body parts, and objects associated with Christianity” were found in his office or in his possession.

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches is asking the government of Sychelles to drop these charges, because they are absurd and constitute a show of shame and embarrassment. The prosecution of Herminie and other co-accused is witch hunting in both literal and political sense. And witch hunting should has no place in 21st century politics in Sychelles.

Otherwise, how does the government define witchcraft or witchcraft items? How does the government distinguish witchcraft items, whatever that means, from traditional religious objects? How did the prosecutors know that the said items were intended for use in witchcraft? Are stones, black wooden artefacts, and small bottles of brownish liquid witchcraft materials? I mean how will state prosecutors establish that some symbols are demonic and satanic?

Has the government the facility or expertise to prove beyond reasonable doubt what is witchcraft and what is not witchcraft, what is demonic or satanic and what is not? How will the government prosecute this case without flagrantly violating the right of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief? At a time of growing cases of witch persecution in many parts of Africa, the government of Sychelles should discontinue this unfortunate and unwarranted instance of witch hunting.


Dr.Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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