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African Union

Last modified: 2009-02-21 by rob raeside
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by Marc Pasquin

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African Union

The African Union (AU) was launched in Durban, South Africa, 9 July 2002.  It is the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).  The AU has not yet adopted any new symbols although there is a special logo for the inaugural meeting tomorrow which is being attended by Heads of States.  This was featured on a stamp issued by the South African Post Office last week. The AU is expected to formally adopt new symbols (including a flag) in due course. Today is the final session of the OAU, following which its flag will be lowered.
Bruce Berry
, 8 July 2002

African Union 2003 Flag Design Contest

The advertisement below about a competition to design symbols (including a flag) for the newly formed African Union was published in the Sunday Times (Johannesburg) on 13 April 2003.

The African Union (AU) is in a process to design its new symbols: An anthem, flag and logo. The Public is invited to enter for the AU Symbols design competition.

The brief: The Anthem. An anthem shall be composed in a way that the first stanzas or a refrain and two verses sung or executed with musical instruments during official ceremonies do not exceed one minute. Each dossier submitted in one or several of the working languages of the African Union (English, Arabic, French, and Portuguese) shall include: The lyrics of the Anthem; The music written in scores; the lyric and music written in scores; A good sound recording of the instrumental and/or sung music; A clear and concise explanatory note. The Flag: Each work, executed in colours, shall be submitted in three copies, accompanied by a clear and concise explanatory note written in one or several working languages of the African Union. The note shall indicate among other things, the proposed meanings of the colours, designs, figures, or symbols, if there are any on the flag, as well as their respective sizes. The Logo: Each work, executed in colour and in black and white shall be submitted in three copies, accompanied by a clear and concise explanatory note written in one or several working languages of the African Union. The note shall indicate, among other things, the proposed meanings of the colours, designs, figures or symbols, if there are any, on the flag, as well as their respective sizes. Proposals for a motto are also welcome. However, these proposals will not be subjected to a competitive process. The first ten mottoes shall be submitted to the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government slated for Maputo, Mozambique, in July 2003. Each work shall be a new creation or a modification of the OAU symbol. In composing the symbols, candidates shall draw inspiration from, the following values (list indicative): Struggle, defence, courage, sacrifice, victory, glory, peace; Freedom, liberation, independence, sovereignty; Work, effort, prosperity, wealth, industriousness. Union, unity, solidarity, fraternity; Sanctity of life, sacred, nature of the African continent, purity, respect, dignity, justice, durability, universality, eternity; Hope, faith, future). These values may be drawn from African History, culture, civilization, spirituality, inspiration, geography. Similarly reference may be made to Africa as one of the cradles of mankind.

Competition Rules. All three competitions shall be open to nationals of all Member States. It is possible for a candidate to submit entries for on or more of the three competitions. No entry submitted shall be returned to its owner. The entry submitted shall be returned to its owner. The entries received together with a clear and concise representation shall be submitted to a jury set up by the Commission. The three best entries shall be presented to the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Union Scheduled to take place in Maputo, Mozambique in July 2003, which shall choose the AU official symbols (anthem, flag and logo).

Please Note: The Jury or the Assembly of Heads of State and Government may decide to modify an entry without prejudice to the award meant for the laureate; The three pre-selected entries’ copyright as well as commercial and non-commercial right shall be the property of the African Union; The commission reserves the right to use all or any part of all the entries submitted in whatever way it deems fit. The Commission shall take the necessary steps to ensure that the words of Anthem that is finally chosen are translated and adapted by lyric writers, so that it can be sung in each of the other working languages of the Union. Participation in the competition implies acceptance of the provisions of these rule. No recourse shall be entertained about the outcome of the pre-selection, deliberations and the final choice. The authors of the three best entries (anthems, flags, logos) who will be presented to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, shall
receive awards as follows:

Prizes to be won:
First award: US$ 7.000.00
Second award: US$ 5.000.00
Third award: US$ 3.000.00
The entries should be submitted to: The Chief Directorate: Africa Multilateral
Closing date: 25 April 2003

Bruce Berry, 17 April 2003

It seems, however, that no proposal was selected at all. A wire from the Chinese agency Xinhua, dated from 9 July 2004, says (my translation into English from the French text of the wire given on the Africatime website):

Addis Ababa -- The member states of the African Union have decided on Thursday in Addis Ababa to retain the emblem and the flag of the former Organization of African Unity. The African heads of states and government made this decision during the third summit of the African Union, which took place from 6 to 8 July in the Ethiopian capital city.

The image of the flag illustrated on this page shows the emblem with the map of Africa in brown, which seems to be incorrect. The emblem should be of the same colour as the two thin stripes, that is dark yellow.
Ivan Sache, 14 July 2004

The image shown here with brown bands is based on a flag seen for the African Union's Ceasefire commission in the Darfur region of Sudan. The CFC's role is similar to the UN peacekeepers in other conflicts. The flag used is simply the union's flag defaced with the commission's initials.
Marc Pasquin, 9 November 2004

It appears the competition for a flag of the African Union has been reinvigorated: all the details are contained in the following texts:

Decision#151 and the Competition Announcement


The Assembly,

TAKES NOTE of the report of the Committee of Seven Heads of State and Government on the Union Government relating to the Flag of the African Union;

RECALLS its Decision Assembly/AU/Dec. 129 (VII) taken at its 7th Ordinary Session in Banjul;

DECIDES to launch a competition for the selection of a new flag for the African Union;

REQUESTS the Commission to take all the necessary measures to organize the competition with the following agreed orientations:

- the background of the Flag should be of green colour to symbolize Africa’s hope;
- Member States should be represented by stars on the flag;

DECIDES that the design proposed by the Leader of the Great Libyan Arab Jamahiriya should be taken as one of the entries for the competition;

REQUESTS the Commission to submit the outcome of the selection to the 9th Ordinary Session of the Assembly in July 2007.

In implementation of Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.151(VIII) adopted at the 8th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union held in Addis Ababa from 29 to 30 January 2007, the African Union Commission launches a competition for the selection of a new flag for the Union.

The conditions for participation in this competition are set by these Terms of Reference.

The objective of the competition is to select a new flag for the African Union from proposals submitted by candidates participating in the competition.

The new flag of the African Union should imperatively have the following orientations:
a) The background of the flag should be of green colour to symbolize Africa’s hope;
b) Member States, numbering 53, if represented, should be depicted by one or more stars on the flag.

The competition is open to all African citizens wishing to take part as well as those of the Diaspora.

1. An original version on paper of the project with 21/27 dimensions and in colour;
2. An electronic version of the same project sent by e-mail;
3. a separate, detailed description of the colours used (percentages) as well as the symbols used;
4. An undertaking duly signed by the candidate, according to the model attached hereto.

Proposals received will be short-listed by a Special Committee established for that purpose.

The deadline for the submission of the paper and electronic versions of proposals is Monday, 30 April 2007.

Proposals should be submitted to the following addresses:
(a) For the paper version:
The proposal should be sent by registered mail. It should be received at the indicated address below latest 30 April 2007. The stamp of the African Union Registry Office will serve as proof of date of reception. Send your submission to:
African Union Commission,
P.O.Box 3243
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The external envelope should bear the indication «New AU Flag Competition».

(b) For the electronic version:
The e-mail including the proposal as an attachment should be sent to the following address: webmaster@..., by latest 30 April 2007, the date the email is sent serving as proof.

A prize in cash or kind to be awarded to the winner.

Santiago Tazón, 6 March 2007

African Union 2009 New Flag

African Union is getting a new flag as reported by APA (African Press Agency):

"APA-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) The African Union (AU) will soon have a new flag; APA learns Friday in Addis-Ababa during the in-camera meeting of the Executive Board's meeting as part of the preparatory sessions of the 12th Summit of the Organisation. The decision to have a new flag surfaced over a year ago, but the process was speeded-up under the aegis of the current Chairperson of the Commission, Mr. Jean Ping, who referred his detailed report on the period from July to December 2008 to the approval of the Executive Board.

According to the report that APA skimmed through, the Commission received 116 proposals, five of which were eventually selected with an eye to redesigning the colours of the pan-African flag. The report of Mr. Ping who took the leadership of the Commission in April 2008 reflected the main activities of the institution during the six past months. The Executive Board, the activities of which were still going on Friday in the Ethiopian capital city host town to the AU headquarters, is looking into all the reports referred to them before an agenda is tabled before the Heads of State and government during the 12th ordinary session billed for February 1 – 3 2009 in Addis-Ababa.

Chrystian Kretowicz, 31 January 2009

Variant Flags

Probably erroneous variant of the AU/OAU flag

[OAU Flag] by Ivan Sarajcic

The Organization of African Unity recently changed into the African Union (  The logo seems to be unchanged, but today I saw the flag of African Union hoisted along with Libyan plain green flag in front of Libyan Embassy, here in Belgrade. The proportions are changed from the old OAU flag, with the stripes having the ratio 3:1:8:1:3 and the emblem proportionately larger. I don't now if this is official change, but the flag is in use, at least here, in the Libyan embassy in Belgrade.
Ivan Sarajcic, 22 July 2002

 I am inclined to classify this "new" flag as an erroneous version of the old OAU flag in use in this particular place.
Željko Heimer, 23 July 2002

The African Union website reports:

Broad green horizontal stripe at the top followed by a narrow band of gold. Broad white stripe bearing the Emblem at its centre followed by a narrow gold band and broad green stripe at the bottom.
  1. The colour green symbolizes African hopes and aspiration to unity.
  2. The gold colour stands for African wealth and bright future.
  3. The colour white represents the purity of Africa's desire to have genuine friends throughout the world.
The emblem is described as:

  1. The palm leaves shooting up on either side of the outer circle stand for peace.
  2. the gold circle again symbolizes Africa's wealth and bright future.
  3. The green circle again stands for African hopes and aspirations.
  4. the plain map of Africa without boundaries in the inner circle signifies African unity.
  5. The small interlocking red rings at base of the Emblem stand for African solidarity and the blood shed for Liberation of Africa.
Bruce Berry, 29 June 2006

[OAU Flag] by Ivan Sarajcic and Eugene Ipavec, 18 February 2007

Another variant of the flag of the African Union was seen on January 29, 2007 on the BBC news website ( It displays a flag very similar in colors to that above but the ratio of the coat of arms resembles the OAU flag (below). This seems to be a variant with
1. a darker shade of green
2. almost equally-wide green and gold stripes - proportions are approx. 3-2-7-2-3.
3. a relatively tiny emblem

I think the flag is not all that standardized; the ones I see being used by AU peacekeepers in the news vary a fair bit.
Eugene Ipavec, 18 February 2007

OAU (Organisation of African Unity)

[OAU Flag] 2:3 by Stuart Notholt, 22 Mar 1996

Members (as of 1997-12-01): Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo (Dem. Rep.), Congo (Rep.), Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé & Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, the Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (West Sahara)

Morocco — not a member since 1984.11, because of the West Sahara question (ed.)

The OAU was founded on 25 May 1963 but it was only in 1970 that the flag was adopted. The multi-nation committee which designed the flag ignored personal, political and national jealousy and worked on the symbolism of the flag regardless of the color or patterns prevalent within the individual states.

The flag is a horizontal triband of green, white and green, with the bands separated by narrow gold stripes. In the center is a map of Africa in gold, within a green and gold wreath. There are seven interlocking red rings at the base.

The green is for the vegetation of sub-Saharan Africa and the gold is for the deserts of the north. The white stands for peace and unity. It may be surprising that black is not included, but the reason is that not all Africans are black and it was intended that the flag should avoid even the smallest suggestion of racism.

Following the election of a democratic government in South Africa in 1994, all countries on the continent are now members of the Organisation (except Morocco).

Bruce Berry 16 April 1998

The idea of the African Union is at least 40 years old, and Kwame Nkrumah was its main proponent. At the OAU summit in 2000, Ghadaffi proposed the name United States of Africa (also not his idea), but the delegates rejected it in favour of 'African Union'. Ghadaffi's association with the Union derives from his publicising and hosting the OAU Sirte Summit in Libya at which the Union Act was ratified.
Dan Kashagama (General Secretary, African Unification Front), 14 Nov 2001