The difference between the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development(IGAD)

Progress can’t be made without some sort of Organization, and mainly if it’s in a continent as complex as Africa, with the seriousness of the problems it faces. As a result and since 1963, Africa has fought for their own right for democracy, for their liberation from colonizers,for african unity, for an eradication of violence and tyrannical dictatorships and for many more causes. Without Organizations such as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, these long-term objectives would have been simply unimaginable.

The most obvious differences between these two African Organizations is their size. Whilst the IGAD has only 8 East-African countries which border themselves, the African Union is representative of the whole continent except for Morocco, that means, 54 nations in total or 850 million people if you prefer it.
Their objectives are definitely related but the IGAD is perhaps more specific,more in the flesh of development;hindering on droughts and food shortages primarily, with a latter preoccupation of the state’s high violence rates . The objectives of the African Union are vast in concepts, they cover nearly all the political synonyms of “advance”. Thus, the AU is a sort of ‘father’ for the IGAD, something that covers not only much broader geographical region, but also much broader objectives.The IGAD is simply one of the 8 RECs(Regional Economic Communities)that conform the AU. Despite this, in the declaration of objectives made by the AU, the term ‘Development’ cannot be left out.

Both Organizations belong to the same classification of regions that the British authors: R.C Ostergreen and J.G Rice once decided to segment officially, they are both undoubtedly instituted regions.They have well-defined limits, a clear hierarchical system and autonomous communities, or in this case; countries.

It could be said that the objectives of the AU are mainly naïve and too complex to attain all at once. They seem more realistic for a much more economically developed organization like the EU. Thus, I perceived that the AU is not much more than a representative, as it has too many interests to take into consideration and the objectives of ALL the nations can never coincide. The IGAD,part of the Land Policy Initiative(LPI) of the African Union,although specific in objectives and tasks, has faced many problems.

One would think that the problem of diversity would be almost fully diminished when reducing 54 countries to just 8(and more if they border themselves and belong to the “naïvely perceived” region of East Africa,and if they have vast amounts of natural resources).However, this seems more naïve than believing in Santa Claus. The IGAD countries are all down in the list of development due to violent usual conflicts and the incessant natural disasters. These violent conflicts arise from a number of differences. Firstly, there’s the problem concerning religion(Christianity prevailing in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda and Muslim faith in Somalia,Sudan and Djibouti. Eritrea being the only region with divided beliefs). The same thing happens with languages and ethnicities, regarding the last one; most violence is born from here as no chief ethnic group prevails in any country.

In terms of importance, However, I would say that most conflict arises from the differences in religion. Whilst the IGAD promotes cooperation between all countries, Ethiopia receives $800 million in aid to combat armed Muslim militants. This seems contradictory: as said before, half or more of the countries in the Union are of Muslim belief.

In the AU, these relatively ‘small’ conflicts do not appear as catastrophic. Despite this, the reason why I decided to firmly call the AU naïve is due to its motto and main objective: “Towards a peaceful,prosperous and integrated Africa”. The word ‘integrated’ appears constantly in the website of the African Union. This seems rather complex when you have such incalculable diversity amongst the former countries of the Union. From the 8 RECs this has been tried to achieve individually and not even then have they found easy to construct a sense of community;obviously due to utterly divergent notions of their own identity. It could also be said that, as some countries belong to more than one Regional Economic Community, it is hard to classify them under one generalized community. Not far from their case, as a Spaniard I do not have a sense of European nationality :possibly due to the evident cultural and linguistic clash with my fellow Northern or Eastern Europeans. To get things clear, the clash in Africa is even greater, their differences more considerable and thus their relations inevitably more violent. Here’s a Euler diagram showing how vast and complex the division of the African Continent can be:

Visual Support
The African Union serves as a mediator, as said before: a representative force. A representative force that,under international eyes,tries to hide the significant lack of democracy which they simultaneously so seekingly try to achieve. Since colonialism, Africa has been punched harshly by instability,corruption,violence and authoritarianism. The original intention of the AU(by then OAU) was to free Africa from its exploiting European colonizers, so it shifted from seeking “freedom”(from ‘liberation’) to spear-heading Africa’s development and integration( to ‘progression’). This ‘progression’ has been found to be more-than-complex to attain for numerous reasons. In regards to foreign relations, the African countries are represented by themselves on a state-to-state basis. At large, the AU represents the African peoples at intergovernmental organizations(IGOs) such as the General Assembly of the UN. Its fundamental aim nowadays is to conjure Africa into unity. It also has as an aim to boost democracy in its member states.

In the media, the term AU is far more popular than the term IGAD. It is far more commonly used in International Relations although it is not as usual to see it in the media as the EU for example. In fact, when Barack Obama first addressed it, Cate Gower had to explain what the AU was in ‘the telegraph’. Most people link IGAD to either UNICEF, economic aid, guerrillas or the recent conflicts with the Somali Pirates. In the media, this last has caused great revolt as it has interfered noticeably with our Occidental world-with severe cases of abduction in the middle of the Ocean.

In my humble opinion, the only problem with the African Union, although possibly linked to the magnitude of its dimension, is the risk of placing African Unity in front of what the IGAD prioritizes most: respect for living and for human rights. I decided to chose this word instead of the word ‘democracy’ as I believe that the latter has been given too much value. The African Union should leave cultural aspects a bit aside when having into consideration that they have the highest region of the world in terms of prevalence of hunger: Sub-Saharan Africa.

Borja Laraudogoitia




As a matter of fact, we are inhabitants of a world in permanent transformation, where time barriers have been erased in the information exchanges field, as a result of the new technological developments. Not a single thing is permanent and immovable, rather the contrary: notions, information, even regions are malleable and constantly mutating in this Globalized World of ours.

In this way, to find a proper way to classify the distinct types of regions that exist in the 21st century is far from being simple. There have been many scholars that have attempted to accomplish this task successfully, such as R. C. Ostergren and J. G. Rice, who in the work “The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment”, are capable to formulate a simple and coherent classification of the World Regions nowadays.

We can distinguish between:

-Denoted Regions: The regions included in this category are created for academic purposes, so it is not a region neither internally nor externally perceived population, but only on the academic area.

-Naively Perceived Regions: Those are regions that were not officially founded, and are usually perceived as a cultural common ground and as a territory that shares some specific values. There’s not a common organization that comprehends this territories.

-Instituted Regions: those are the regions that present an organization created by authorities, recognized as an existing entity once instituted and presents clearly demarcated boundaries. It also involves different levels of governance (hierarchical organization).

Once defined the different kinds of contemporary World Regions, and with a deeper connaissance on the subject, we can finally address ourselves to the issue of analyzing particular cases of regions properly and even dare to establish comparisons between them.

Therefore, we will focus ourselves on the African Union; a continental union consisted of 54 countries.  The African Union, established in 2001, can be best defined as an Instituted Region, since it presents the main features of this kind of regions: it is an organization created by authorities, recognized as an existing entity once instituted and presents clearly demarcated boundaries. It also presents a hierarchical organization, the entities that embody the organization, in this case all 54 African Union state members (all African countries except Morocco), are subordinated directly to the African Union.

As the purpose of this essay was to establish a fitting comparison with a distinct Region of the same geographical zone, it occurred to me that a magnificent example would be the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), another region that can clearly be defined as an Instituted Region.

ECOWAS was created in 1975 with the Treaty of Lagos, where 15 African states signed their agreement in some values in and duties, such as economic integration and promotion of peace and democracy.

There are quite a few differences between both organizations, but also similarities, considering that all of the countries that constitute the ECOWAS also pertain to the African Union:

Both countries are indeed in a strong compromise towards democracy, security and peace. However, it’s worth being mentioned that the originator of the AU, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), created in 1964, didn’t pursue any democratic objectives, and it was occasionally seen as “the dictators forum”, only by the creation of the AU,  that a firm defendant attitude towards democracy and human rights was adopted.

In economic terms, ECOWAS is one of the pillars of the African Economic Community (an African Union organization) and seek to create greater economic competitiveness, by creating a common market, harmonizing fiscal policies and by coordinating sectorial policies.

The African Union, as ECOWAS, also pursues the creation of a free trade area and a single market. In addition, the AU intends to be far more ambitious as it aspirates to institute a central bank and a common currency, thereby establishing economic and monetary union. The current plan is to establish an African Economic Community with a single currency by 2023.

Moreover, Justice is also a major concern both in the AU and the ECOWAS. ECOWAS members also agreed to establish a Community Court of Justice, which allows rulings on disputes between states over interpretations of the Revised Treaty (1993). It also provides the ECOWAS Council with advisory opinions on legal issues. Like the European Court of Human Rights, it has jurisdiction to rule on fundamental human rights breaches.

As the ECOWAS, the African Union also counts on a judicial institution, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. Created in 2004 by the fusion of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the African Court of Justice, it is the primary judicial agency of the African Union. The court has two main chambers: One for rulings on the human rights treaties and one for the general legal matters.  The court is based in the city of Arusha, Tanzania. Both organizations are determined to defend the human rights, still an unaccomplished mission in lots of African countries.

Due to the different dimensions that these organizations have, the frequency in with what the names appear in the media is not the same, as the African Union has much more importance in the international agenda than the ECOWAS. In this way, the African Union appears in the media for mostly issues like conflict mediation, like in Lybia, or for human rights violation affaires, such as the child slavery in milestones in Mauritania. So, having news about the AU-in European media- usually has a negative meaning.

News related to ECOWAS can also have a negative connotation, for example in the articles related to the Boko Haram terrorist group, which operates in the African West Coast. However, it deserves being mentioned that there’s a remarkable number of news referring to economic development issues, such as Liberia hosting the ECOWAS Annual Monetary Zone Forum, still a minority though.



Ostergren, Robert C. and Rice, John G. 2004 The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and the Environment. Chap 1

African Union Official Webpage (2016), Available in

ECOWAS Official Webpage (2016), Available in


Individual essay

World Regions

A region, can be defined as a bounded part of earth space. Regions, are segments of the world that have similar characteristics that make it different and unique in some way from other world areas. It is important to know that regions are products of the human mind. The African union, and Eastern Africa the two regions that will be discussed in this essay, do not exist without the agency of humankind.

Some authors, such as R.C Ostergreen and J.G Rice argue, that there are three different kind of regions in the world we live in: Instituted regions, naively perceived regions and denoted regions.

Before defining and classifying the African Union and Eastern Africa it’s important to understand the differences and the most important ideas of the three different kind of regions that R.C Ostergreen and J.G Rice explain and write about on their article ‘‘The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment’’. It is important to explain the main ideas and the differences between the three kind of regions in order to understand why the African Union it’s an instituted region and not a naively perceived region or a denoted region, and why Eastern Africa it’s a denoted region and sometimes also classified as a denoted region but not an instituted region.

The first kind, the instituted regions, also named administrative regions, are the most familiar for the public, these regions can be created by a great diversity of institutions: by the different levels of government: State, Regional or Local, by private organizations, and by religious organizations.

The instituted regions are characterized by their well-defined limits and by their hierarchical organization, that means that all the entities that form the organization, are subordinated to a single other identity.

The second kind, the Naively perceived regions, are the regions that have a popular recognition but not an official sanction. The naively perceived regions are created informally. People that live in its region have a sense of link to the notion of community. (Internally perceived) On the other hand, externally perceived means that people from outside the region recognizes the area as a region.

And the last one, the Denoted regions are those regions that are created and used for academic purposes.

The African Union, one of the regions discussed in this essay, is categorized and defined as an instituted region, the region presents the clear features of an instituted region. The African Union has well-defined limits, it’s a region that consists of 54 countries, and its boundaries and limits are well-defined, see the map of the African Union in our blog. African Union members are neighbor countries that share limits and boundaries.

The second characteristic of the instituted regions that the African Union has is that the region, was created by other institutions, the African Union, was created in 1963 by 32 African States that had achieved independence at that time and agreed to establish the Organization of African Unity (OAU) that later changed its name to African Union. The African Union was created with the vision of establishing a body that could accelerate the process of integration in Africa, support the empowerment of African States in the global economy and address the multifaceted social, economic and political problems facing the continent.

The African Union represents all African countries together, the region is a composite of smaller instituted regions, the nation states. The region has a hierarchical organization, the entities that form the organization, in this case all 54 African Union state members, are subordinated to the African Union. Another characteristic of the instituted regions.

In the African Union there is not a sense of link to the notion of community, the African Union it’s a region that was not created informally, it’s a region that was created by other institutions, in this case, by 32 African States. And in consequence, the African Union, that is formed by 54 state members, is full of diversity: Very different cultures, climates, lots of different languages, hundreds of different ethnic groups etc.…

On the other hand, Eastern Africa, is categorized and defined as a naively perceived region. The region presents the clear features of a naively perceived region. First of all, it has popular recognition, and in contrast with the African Union it’s region presents a sense of link to the notion of community (internally perceived), despite the diversity inside the region. Eastern Africa also has international recognition, so the region it’s also externally perceived. Eastern Africa can also be classified as a denoted region, when used for academic purposes. The limits and borders of the region are not very clear, when we refer to Eastern Africa we refer to the countries that are located on the east coast of Africa, and also we sometimes refer to Eastern Africa as the countries that constituted the Eastern Africa Protectorate of European countries on the 19th century. The limits and boundaries of Eastern Africa have not been officially set and are not clear.

Eastern Africa is a region composed by two traditionally recognized regions: East Africa, made up of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda; and the Horn of Africa, made up of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eastern Africa is used in the media when the media refers to the regions of East Africa and the Horn of Africa, for example when media refers to the landscapes and the tourism industry it uses the region of Eastern Africa, a clear example is the Kilimanjaro. The term Eastern Africa is also used in the media when referring to conflicts such as the oil conflict.



Ostergren, Robert C. and Rice, John G. 2004 The Europeans. A Geography of People, Culture, and the Environment. Chap 1 Introduction: Europe as a Culture Realm New York. The Gilford Press pp.1-32


State Members of the African Union

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 54 countries in Africa.

Here you can find the list of countries that form the African Union.

List of countries:

African Union State Members


History of the OAU and the AU


The Organization of African Unity and the African Union

On May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the 32 African states that had achieved independence at that time agreed to establish the Organization of African Unity (OAU). A further 21 members joined gradually, reaching a total of 53 by the time of the AU’s creation in 2002. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the 54th African Union (AU) member.

The OAU’s main objectives, as set out in the OAU Charter, were to promote the unity and solidarity of African states; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States; rid the continent of colonisation and apartheid; promote international cooperation within the United Nations framework; and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.

The OAU operated on the basis of its Charter and the 1991 Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (known as the Abuja Treaty). Its major organs were the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, Council of Ministers and the General Secretariat as well as the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration; Economic and Social Commission; Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Health Commission; and Defence Commission. The Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration was replaced by the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in 1993.

Transition to the African Union

Through the 1990s, leaders debated the need to amend the OAU’s structures to reflect the challenges of a changing world. In 1999, the OAU Heads of State and Government issued the Sirte Declaration calling for the establishment of a new African Union. The vision for the Union was to build on the OAU’s work by establishing a body that could accelerate the process of integration in Africa, support the empowerment of African states in the global economy and address the multifaceted social, economic and political problems facing the continent. In total, four summits were held in the lead up to the official launching of the African Union, the:

  • Sirte Summit (1999), which adopted the Sirte Declaration calling for the establishment of the AU
  • Lomé Summit (2000), which adopted the AU Constitutive Act
  • Lusaka Summit (2001), which drew the road map for implementation of the AU
  • Durban Summit (2002), which launched the AU and convened its first Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

A significant number of OAU structures were carried forward into the AU. Similarly, many of the OAU’s core commitments, decisions and strategy frameworks continue to frame AU policies. However, while the footprint of the OAU is still strong, the AU Constitutive Act and protocols established a significant number of new structures, both at the level of major organs and through a range of new technical and subsidiary committees. Many of these have evolved since 2002 and some are still under development.

Population, GDP, and Land

In this section you can find the population, GDP and land of the African Union, as well as  the percentage of the World population,  World GDP, and World Land that the African Union represents. Data is presented in parallel so that comparisons and proportions are made easier.


African Union population:850 000 000

World Population:7 400 000 000

The African Union represents the 11,49% of the world population.



African Union GDP: $500 Billion 500: 0,04651163 %

World GDP:$107.5 Trillion 107,5000: 100%

The African Union’s GDP represents the….of the world GDP.


African Union Land Area:29 750 900 km

World Land Area: 148 940 000 km

African Union Percentage Land Area:19.98%




International Recognition

FAQs and Interesting articles

Should Africa have its own passport? By the ‘BBC’.

Click here

Has the AU been successful? What isn’t working? Does it have a future as a leader on the world stage? By ‘The Daily Telegraph’.

Click here

In Somalia, the US escalates a Shadow War. By ‘The NY Times’.

Click here

The right of intervention under the African Union’s Constitutive Act. By ‘The International Committee of the Red Cross’.

Click here


A Throwback to its Origins


Pre-colonial Africa

Pre-colonial Africa possessed perhaps as many as 10,000 different states and polities characterized by many different sorts of political organization and rule. By the ninth century AD, these included small family groups of hunter-gatherers, more structured clan groups and also powerfull  states like Ghana,Gao, and the Kanem-Bornu Empire. Ghana declined in the eleventh century, but was succeeded by the Mali Empire which consolidated much of western Sudan in the thirteenth century.

 In the forested regions of the West African coast, independent kingdoms grew with little influence from the Muslim north, a region that would experience a fusion between Almoravids (berber from the Sahara) and Arab ( migrated from the Arabian Peninsula), resulting in Arabized locals, under the unifying framework of Islam.

Height of slave trade

Between the 15th and the 19th centuries (500 years), the Atlantic slave trade took an estimated 7–12 million slaves to the New World, which over the following centuries would debilitate the region’s population and economy.

In West Africa, the decline of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1820s caused dramatic economic shifts in local polities. The gradual decline of slave-trading, prompted by a lack of demand for slaves in the New World, increasing anti-slavery legislation in Europe and America, and the British Royal Navy’s increasing presence off the West African coast, obliged African states to adopt new economies.



In the late 19th century, the European imperial powers engaged in a major territorial scramble and occupied most of the continent, creating many colonial territories, and leaving only two fully independent states: Ethiopia (known to Europeans as “Abyssinia”), and Liberia. Egypt and Sudan were never formally incorporated into any European colonial empire; however, after the British occupation of 1882, Egypt was effectively under British administration until 1922.

Independence Struggles

Imperial rule by Europeans would continue until after the conclusion of World War II, when almost all remaining colonial territories gradually obtained formal Independence. Independence movements in Africa gained momentum following World War II, which left the major European powers weakened.


Post-colonial Africa

Today, Africa contains 54 sovereign countries, most of which have borders that were drawn during the era of European colonialism. Since colonialism, African states have frequently been hampered by instability, corruption, violence, and authoritarianism. The vast majority of African states are republics that operate under some form of the presidential system of rule. However, few of them have been able to sustain democratic governments on a permanent basis, and many have instead cycled through a series of coups, producing military dictatorships.




A Union full of diversity


The climate of Africa ranges from tropical to subartic on its highest peaks. Its northern half is primarily desert, or arid, while its central and southern areas contain both savanna plains and dense jungle (rainforest) regions. In between, there is a convergence, where vegetation patterns such as sahel and stepped dominate. Africa is the hottest continent on earth and 60% of the entire land surface consists of drylands and deserts. The record for the highest-ever recorded temperature, in Lybia in 1922 (58 °C (136 °F)), was discredited in 2013.


By most estimates, well over a thousand languages  are spoken in Africa. Most are of African origin, though some are of European or Asian origin. Africa is the most multilingual continent in the world, and it is not rare for individuals to fluently speak not only multiple African languages, but one or more European ones as well. There are four major language families indigenous to Africa:

  • The Afroasiatic languages are a language family widespread throughout the Horn of Africa, North Africa, the Sahel, and South West Africa.
  • The Nilo-Saharan language family  is spoken by ethnic groups in Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and northern Tanzania.
  • The Niger-Congo language family covers much of Sub-Saharan Africa and is probably the largest language family in the world in terms of different languages.
  • The Khoisan languages are spoken in Southern Africa by approximately 120,000 people. Many of the Khoisan languages are endangered. The Khoi and San peoples are considered the original inhabitants of this part of Africa.

In numerous countries, English and French are used for communication in the public sphere such as government, commerce, education and the media. Arabic, Portuguese, Africaans  and Spanish are examples of languages that trace their origin to outside of Africa, and that are used by millions of Africans today, both in the public and private spheres. Italian and German is spoken by some in former Italian and German colonies.