Africa's Development in the Era of Barack Obama: The Role of the African Union

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Introduction

The African Union (AU), which officially came into existence in 2002 by replacing the Organization of African Unity (OAU), has a long term goal of becoming a fully fledged entity such as the United States of America (USA), or to a lesser extent, the European Union (EU). However, the current pace at which the organization is moving to that goal is so slow that, it might take over a hundred years for it to get to the stage at which the EU is now as an entity with limited federal powers, because members of the AU are not yet ready to give away some of their sovereignty to a federal union (also see Han, 2008; Murithi, 2005). The European Union actually serves as a good example for a federal African Union because as populous, wealthy and powerful countries like Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are right now in the international community, they still had the foresight to form a relatively powerful EU by giving away some of their sovereignty. For example, those five European nations listed above have a combined population of 306 million as of July 2008: 82,369,552 for Germany; 60,943,912 for the UK; 64,057,792 for France; 58,145,320 for Italy ;40,491,052 for Spain. They also have a combined estimated GDP of $10.173 trillion in 2007, with each of them accounting for no less than $1 trillion: $2.807 trillion for Germany; $2.13 trillion for the UK; $2.075 trillion for France; $1.8 trillion for Italy; $1.361 trillion for Spain. (i)

Today, the EU is playing a leading role in international relations and trade, representing the interests of all of its 25 member states. Despite serious concerns by their citizens, the member states of the EU recognized that as wealthy and powerful as many of them are as individual countries, they cannot compete effectively in the international arena. As result, they decided to be part of a larger and more powerful entity that represents the interests of all of its members (Gillingham, 2003; Hansch, 2007; Kofman, 2007; Kurylo and Maffei, 2007; Schiemann, 2007).

Writing about the EU and state sovereignty, Schiemann (2007) states that: "Sovereignty, as the word is now used, is historically a relative recent concept. It comprehends an alleged right of a state to organize affairs within its border as it pleases and an alleged right to be free from interference by other states" (p.475). According to Kurylo and Maffei (2007) the word: "'Sovereignty' has been defined as the supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which any independent state is governed..." (p.60). Pertaining specifically to territorial sovereignty, it is defined: "'as the attempt by an individual or group to affect, influence, or control people, phenomena, and relationships, by delimiting and asserting control over a geographic area'" (quoted in Kofman, 2007: 66).

African Union members need to seriously consider this issue of sovereignty and learn a lesson from all of the member states of the EU and consider giving up some of their sovereignty to be part of a more powerful federal African Union. No single African country can really compete out there in the international arena (Kaba, 2005; Wade, 2007). As far back as the late 1950s, Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah called for a united Africa and argued in favor of Pan Africanism. Nkrumah is quoted as saying that: "independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent" (Commander, 2007:425).

In the beginning of the 21st century, a new and positive relationship has developed between the people of Africa and the people of the United States (Adebajo, 2004; Ayam, 2008; Kaba, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008; Mazrui, 2004;). It is very rational to argue that a genuine support by the people of Africa and the people of the United States for a federal African Union in the next decade could contribute to making such goal a reality. This is especially the case with the son of a Black African serving as president of the United States, which creates the potential for a federal African Union more achievable. …