|BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE AFRICAN UNION
The African Union (AU or Africa), by area is the largest country in the world, covering one-fifth of the total land surface of the earth. The AU was formed, with Addis Ababa as its capital, on June 26, 2001, as a consequence of the ascendency of the Pan Africanist Movement, following the overthrow of the colonial occupation and apartheid.
The African Union is, in extent, 11,699,000 square miles (30,330,000 sq km). The distance from north to south (Cape Blanc, Tunisia to Cape Agulhas, South Africa) is 4970 mi (8050 km); from east to west (Cape Verde, Senegal to Ras Hafun, Somalia), it stretches 4700 mi (7560 km).
The AU has a diverse community consisting of 3000 distinct national communities (and about 1000 languages) living within its borders. The coastline of the African Union mainland is 18,950 miles (30, 490 km) long - shorter than that of Europe, or Russia, or Canada, because there are few bays or gulfs (See AU Islands). The AU working languages are all the African languages, as well as all the international languages.
Although the African Union is the largest country in the world, making up 22% of the Earth's land surface, it contains only 10.5% of the world's population [690 million people], and has less people than either China or India. The capital city of the African Union is Addis Ababa, other cities serve as administrative centers for various union institutions, and all cities have branches of one or more of the African Union's administrative institutions.
The largest cities in the African Union are Cairo, Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Algiers, all of which are major regional political and business centers for the African Union. Dakar city in Senegal is the African Union's second most important administrative headquarters after Addis Ababa. Other leading cities with administrative significance for the African Union include Abidjan, Abuja, Lusaka, Pretoria, Sirte, and Kinshasa.
The AU consists of several large regional jurisdictions (including ECOWAS, SADC, COMESA, UDEAC), several special multi-jurisdictional territories such as transfrontier wildlife sanctuaries, 53 constitutive states (excluding Morocco), hundreds of kingdoms, as well as a variety of smaller administrative units.
In March 2004 the African Union's legislature, known as the Pan African Parliament, held its inaugural session. The PAP consists of 265 legislators, five from each constituent state of the African Union. Over 21% of the members of the PAP are female. The PAP elected Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella President, and leader of the African Union. In March 2009 the Pan African Parliament will cease to be a consultative body and exercise its full legislative powers. The delegates to the Pan African Parliament are to function independently and shall enjoy the immunities extended to diplomats in accordance with international law.
The AU Secretariat(renamed the AU Commission) initiated incremental reorganization of African society by absorbing the institutions of the African Economic Community and the Organization of African Unity, and augmenting institutions mandated to facilitate the provisions of the Union Act and the structures of the African Union through which Africans are able to control aspects of their political, economic and cultural life.
Even though the African Union is the world's 10th largest economy (US$ 350 billion annual NNP, and US$ 750 billion GDP), its share of world trade is miniscule, less than 2%. Intra-African trade is less than 10% of Africa's total trade. The African Union has great potential for healthy environment-friendly growth and community-friendly productivity. In spite of massive catastrophic political disasters and displacement, the age structure of Africa is relatively young in comparison with the other regions of the world, and Africa's fragile natural environment is not as damaged as the rest of the world. The world's largest varieties of wildlife, and the widest variety of vegetation are found in Africa.
It is important to note that the African Union is the world's largest supplier of raw materials and strategic minerals necessary for the operations of the world economic system. The AU has the worlds largest mineral reserves of any kind...including petroleum and natural gas, gold, as well as agricultural products such as palm oil, plantains, cereals, and beverages.
Right now Africa's resources are exploited in a disorderly and exploitative way that is disadvantageous to Africans. The record of conduct of foreign companies in Africa is horrendous and full of human rights atrocities against Africans, in addition to the failure to include Africans in the management of their own resorces, and the failure to reinvest profits in Africa. Such conduct causes ill-will between Africans and the rest of the world. Moreover, Africans resent the fact that the EU, the US and Asian countries continue to discriminate against African business, and use subsidies and protective tarrifs, unions and cartels and to close their markets against fair competition by Africans.
Through a multi-year plan to achieve a balanced and stable economy, the AU is taking advantage of raw material, fuel, mineral resources and communications technology. This restructuring is required by several key treaties, including the Abuja Treaty, in order to satisfy movement towards the full integration of regional economic blocs. Consequently, in coming years the AU will carry out a general and systematic tax reform with provisions for fair and orderly transition to an integrated, low-cost taxation/transferance, and coherent African economic regime.
A series of reforms are directed towards reducing ineficiency and incoherence in the political, military and economic bureacracy. The integration efforts aimed at conflict resolution and military coherence are directed by the Peace and Security Committee of the Commission of the AU. The AU Commission is also undergoing restructuring. The Chair of the AU Commission is Oumar Konare.