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Africa Day this Year Marks 60 Years since the Founding of the Organisation of African Unity

The anniversary begs the question: How much of the vision of the OAU’s founding fathers has been realised 60 years on? What would not be there but for the efforts of the organisation and its successor the African Union? There were two competing visions lobbying at the founding. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s president, in his Africa must Unite speech, argued the pan-African case for continental federalism, for a Union of African States, with one continental diplomatic corps, one department of defence, and a common market. He was hugely outvoted by other presidents refusing to give up their sovereignty. So, the OAU, formed on 25 May 1963, was instead modelled on the Organisation of American States. One success of the AU is its growing prestige. After its founding in 2002, Wikipedia did not consider it merited an entry until 2011. But today 50 non-African states accredit ambassadors to the AU. The diaspora demanded inclusion during South African president Thabo Mbeki’s leadership and is now formally recognised as the “sixth region” of the AU since 2003. Caribbean nations, members of CARRICOM, recently started formal links with the AU: these are African-descendant nations, abducted out of Africa during centuries of slave trade.