inter alia, to accelerate the process of integration in the continent, [and] to enable it play its rightful role in the global economy, while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they are by certain negative aspects of globalisation.
Its stated objectives are:
- rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonization and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States
- coordinate and intensify cooperation for development
- safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States
- promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.
In situations such as the Darfur Conflict, an AU-led peace operations force, supported but not commanded by the United Nations, has been far more acceptable to the existing power structure than something that might be seen as deriving from the past colonial structures. It supports sub-regional organizations in the Horn of Africa, West Africa, the Sahel, and other areas.
"African countries, in their quest for unity, economic and social development under the banner of the OAU, have taken various initiatives and made substantial progress in many areas which paved the way for the establishment of the AU. Noteworthy among these are:
- Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) and the Final Act of Lagos (1980): incorporating programmes and strategies for self reliant development and cooperation among African countries.
- The African Charter on Human and People's Rights (Nairobi 1981) and the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human rights: two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote Human and People's Rights in the Continent. The Human Rights Charter led to the establishment of the African Human Rights Commission located in Banjul, The Gambia.
- Africa's Priority Programme for Economic recovery (APPER) of1985: an emergency programme designed to address the development crisis of the 1980s, in the wake of protracted drought and famine that had engulfed the continent and the crippling effect of Africa's external indebtedness.
- OAU Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World: (1990) which underscored Africa's resolve to seize the imitative, to determine its destiny and to address the challenges to peace, democracy and security.
- The Charter on Popular Participation, adopted in 1990: a testimony to the renewed determination of the OAU to endeavour to place the African citizen at the center of development and decision-making.
- The Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) of 1991: commonly known as the Abuja Treaty, it seeks to create the AEC through six stages culminating in an African Common Market using the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as building blocks. The Treaty has been in operation since 1994.
- The Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution: As of 1993, a practical expression of the determination of the African leadership to find solutions to conflicts, promote peace, security and stability in Africa.
- Cairo Agenda for Action (1995):, a programme for relaunching Africa's political, economic and social development.
- African Common Position on Africa's External Debt Crisis: a 1997 strategy for addressing the Continent's External Debt Crisis.
- The Algiers decision on Unconstitutional Changes of Government (1999) and the Lome Declaration on the framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes (2000).
- The 2000 Solemn Declaration on the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation: establishes the fundamental principles for the promotion of Democracy and Good Governance in the Continent.
- Responses to other challenges: Africa has initiated collective action through the OAU in the protection of environment, in fighting international terrorism, in combating the scourge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, malaria and tuberculosis or dealing with humanitarian issues such as refugees and displaced persons, landmines, small and light weapons among others.
- The Constitutive Act of the African Union: adopted in 2000 at the Lome Summit (Togo), entered into force in 2001.
- The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) adopted as a Programme of the AU at the Lusaka Summit (2001).
Cooperating sub-continental organizations
- Economic Community of West African States
- [[East African Community (EAC)
- Nile Basin Initiative
- Economic Community for the Great Lake Countries (CEPGL)
- Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
- African Union