One key feature that distinguishes the African Union from its predecessor, the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) is its vision of “an integrated, prosperous, equitable and well governed and peaceful United States of Africa, effectively managed by its own citizens and representing a creative and dynamic force in the international arena”. The last component of this vision establishes the need to cooperate strategically with other regional groupings, international organizations and states to market Africa’s position, acquire support to enable the attainment of her objectives, increase Africa’s international standing and obtain the global leverage that would enable the continent to maximize its impact on the world scene. Hence, the First Strategic Plan of Action Horizon 2007 specifically included under Axis IV on Shared Vision, the objective of strengthening Africa’s position in the world and assigns priority to the development of strategic alliances with regional groupings and particularly, emerging powers of the South in order to accomplish this goal.
Consequently, in the period between 2004-2008, a series of ground breaking partnerships were initiated and launched. These included the Africa-South America, Africa-India and Africa-Turkey. At the same time, associations that were already in existence between Africa and its traditional partners and which were being regulated by cooperation frameworks were re-defined, invigorated and strengthened. These include Africa-Europe Partnership, Franco-African Summit, Africa-United States relationship under AGOA, the Africa-Japan (TICAD), the Africa-China Forum (FOCAC), and Africa-Asia Sub-regional Organisations Conference (AASROC). The various partnerships were themselves growing evidence of Africa’s increasing prominence in the international arena. Thus there arose demands for new partnerships by other interested parties such as Iran as well as request for the revitalization of Afro-Arab partnership, amongst others.
FRAMEWORK OF AFRICA’S STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS
The framework of Africa’s strategic partnership has taken four distinct forms. One is continent to continent partnerships with emphasis on Africa-Europe, Africa-South America and Africa-Asia. Second is continent to country partnerships such as Africa-India, Africa-Turkey, Africa-China, Africa-Japan, Africa-US through AGOA and Africa-France. A third tier of partnerships is partnerships in demand as new states or regions request additional partnerships. This category can be subdivided into two components, namely, partnership in gestation such as Afro-Arab partnership and Afro-Caribbean partnership whose basis have previously been laid and are simply in the process of reconceptualization, as well as partnership in prospect such as Iran-Africa partnership that requires virtual integration within the framework of existing relationships as a rationale for its eventual establishment. The fourth form of partnership is the one the African Union has with other institutions such as the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) the Commonwealth and La Francophonie.