The article examines the objectives and institutional structure of the African Union (AU) in the light of the experiences of its predecessor the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as well as the African Economic Community (AEC). The OAU largely exercised a political function. The African Union has a much broader mandate, which includes economic integration. Among the new features of the AU are its efforts to be more people-centered through the establishment of a Pan-African Parliament, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) and an emphasis on gender issues. Human rights is included in the mandate, as is conflict management and resolution, including humanitarian intervention. A development blueprint, New Partnershop for Africa's Developemnt (NEPAD), has been established with peer review as its main implementing mechanism. The Constitutive Act of the AU creates a number of new institutions, many of them not yet operational. Attention is drawn to the dangers inherent in the proliferation of institutions.
On 26 May 2001 the Constitutive Act of the African Union entered into force. This paved the way for the establishment of the AU. The new organization, with 53 States as Members, was founded with the twin goals of furthering the economic integration and political unity of Africa. This ushered in a new phase in Africa's continental cooperation, a process which had started almost 40 years earlier.