African Union, formerly the Organization of African Unity (OAU) is an organization of African nations created to promote continental peace, unity, and cooperation. The organization works to resolve conflicts between nations and to coordinate political, economic, cultural, scientific, medical, and defense policies.
The African Union has 53 member nations. Its headquarters is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organization was founded in Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963, as the Organization of African Unity. It retained that name until 2002 when it formally became the African Union (AU).
At the time of the OAU’s founding, African leaders disagreed about what kind of organization it should be. Some leaders pushed for the creation of a central government that would unite all of Africa under one authority. However, many of the nations had just recently gained independence from colonial rule and their leaders opposed the idea. The leaders eventually reached a compromise but in so doing created an organization that is controlled by its member nations, leaving it with little power to act on its own. Nonetheless, the organization has helped strengthen ties among African nations and settle disputes. But it has also faced many problems that have undermined its ability to achieve its goals. In the 1990s new leadership helped the OAU gain increased influence until its name was changed in 2001.