Haiti 1st Non-African Member of African Union

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May 14, 2016

Haiti will soon join the African Union, becoming the 54-member group’s first nation not geographically in Africa.

Haiti has been independent since 1804 (thanks largely to the efforts of a Benin native named Toussaint L’Overture) and has long spoken out in favor of decolonization of Africa.

After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, African nations sent millions of dollars in aid to the Caribbean country. Senegal offered free land for displaced Haitians and offered to waive fees for Haitian students who wanted to attend university in Senegal; that was a a bit of a turnabout in that Haitian professors have taught in Senegal for many years.

Haiti still relies heavily on foreign aid. One possible action for the country going forward is to petition to join the African Union’s debt cancellation scheme. Another way to boost the economy would be for Haiti to take advantage of free trade between AU nations.

Haiti’s joining the African Union is a work long in progress. Discussions have been under way between officials of the country and the AU for many years. The AU granted Haiti observer status in 2012. Haiti first applied to join the AU fully in 2013.

The African Union comprises all nations on the African continent except Morocco. Organizers set up the AU in 2001 to replace in the Organisation of African Unity. The first meeting of the AU was on July 9, 2002, in South Africa. The secretariat of the AU is based in Addis Ababa, Libya. All heads of state in the AU are also members of the Assembly of the African Union, the AU’s highest decision-making body. Also in the AU hierarchy is the Pan African Parliament, which has 265 elected members, including a president.

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