The Design Process of the OAU Flag

When people think about flags, they often admire their colors and patterns without realizing the deep significance behind each design element. The flag of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) is no exception. This emblem is rich in symbolism, culture, and history, and it is a testament to African unity and pride. In this article, we’ll explore the intricate design process of the OAU flag, taking a close look at the specific choices of colors, icons, and patterns. From its beginnings to its present-day significance, this article aims to provide an insightful and educational analysis of one of Africa’s most cherished symbols.

The Background

The Background
The OAU flag was designed to symbolize the unity and solidarity of Africa. It was adopted on October 26th, 1970, at the eighth summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The organization had been created in 1963 with the goal of promoting cooperation and development among African nations. The flag was meant to represent this vision while also being a reflection of the cultural and historical values of Africa. The OAU leaders chose green, gold, and red as the flag’s primary colors, with an emblem in the center. The design of the flag went through several iterations before the final design was agreed upon. The emblem features a silhouette of Africa in gold, with 32 gold rays representing the member countries of the OAU. The flag has been an important symbol of African unity for more than 50 years, and it continues to be raised at significant moments in African history.

History of the OAU

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in 1963 with the purpose of promoting unity and solidarity among African states and supporting their struggle for independence. The OAU was born as a response to the colonial legacy which had left the African continent divided and exploited. One of the main objectives of the OAU was to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of African countries.

Many significant events took place during the OAU’s existence, such as the establishment of the African Development Bank (ADB) in 1964 and the adoption of the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980, which aimed at making Africa more self-reliant by promoting the development of its own industries. The OAU also played a role in mediating conflicts between African countries, such as during the Ethiopia-Somalia war in the late 1970s.

Throughout its decades-long history, the OAU went through various changes and challenges, including criticisms of its effectiveness in addressing Africa’s problems and criticisms of some of its member states’ records on democracy and human rights. These issues eventually led to the reform of the OAU and its transformation into the African Union (AU) in 2002.

If you want to learn more about the history of the OAU flag and how it evolved over time, you can check out our article on the history of the OAU flag.

Symbolism of the OAU

The OAU’s flag is not just an aesthetic representation of the African continent, but it also carries a deep symbolic meaning. The emblem of the OAU, which is a representation of an eagle in flight, is believed to embody the will and strength of the African people. The eagle is a symbol of nobility, power and freedom. The colors of the flag also carry significant meaning. The green represents the land and hope of the African people, while the gold represents the abundance and the riches of the continent. The black represents the people of Africa, who are the foundation of the continent’s existence.

The emblem is surrounded by 13 rays of the sun, which represent the desire of African people for progress. Together, the emblem and the rays of the sun signify the bright future of the African continent. The OAU’s flag is therefore not just a simple banner, but a source of inspiration and a symbol of African pride. The flag inspires African people to hold true to their rich heritage and continue working towards a brighter future.

It is noteworthy to mention that the flag has undergone some slight modifications over the years. The old flag had additional circular rings encompassing the emblem and the sun’s rays, but these were in later years removed in favor of a more simplified design. Despite the modifications, the flag has remained a powerful symbol of the African continent, and even after the creation of the African Union, the flag still maintains its relevance.

The OAU’s flag is a potent symbol that inspires African people to aspire towards a better future. Its emblem, colors, and sunrays all hold deep symbolic meaning that resonates with people of African origin. The flag is a reminder that even in the midst of adversity, the African people are still strong and have the resilience to overcome. It serves as a testament to African unity and a source of inspiration for generations to come.

The Flag Design

The OAU flag design is a representation of African unity, capturing the essence of the organization’s goal to bring together African countries to form a united front. The designers of the flag were chosen through a contest, which saw submissions from all over Africa. The initial concepts submitted ranged from simplistic to complex, and after much deliberation, the final design was chosen. The green background and gold emblem in the center have significant meanings, as they represent the continent’s natural wealth and prosperity. The emblem’s design was carefully thought of to capture the essence of African culture while maintaining a universal appeal. The flag’s design has become an iconic symbol of the OAU and African unity, and it is often displayed in significant moments, such as during the organization’s meetings and events.

Designers of the Flag

The designers of the OAU flag were a team of artists and designers led by Professor Ephraim Amu, a highly respected Ghanaian composer, scholar, and musician. Other members of the team included Anita Addy, a textile designer, and Theodosia Okoh, a painter and designer. The team was tasked with creating a flag that would accurately represent the goals and ideals of the OAU.

It was important to the designers that the flag be deeply symbolic and meaningful. They drew inspiration from other African flags and symbols, as well as traditional African art and culture. The team worked tirelessly, consulting with experts in various fields to create a design that would stand the test of time.

Their initial ideas varied greatly, but they eventually settled on a design that featured a circle of 12 stars and a background of green, gold, and red stripes. The circle of stars symbolized unity and cooperation among the member states of the OAU, while the stripes represented Africa’s rich natural resources and the struggle for independence.

The designers also made sure to incorporate the OAU motto, “Unity and Strength,” into the design. They chose a font that was bold and easy to read, ensuring that the motto would be visible from a distance.

The work of the designers has stood the test of time, with the flag becoming a symbol of African unity and perseverance. Today, the OAU flag is still proudly displayed at events and meetings of African leaders, and it continues to inspire people around the world. To see the flag and learn more about its colors and symbols, old and new designs, historical moments, motto meaning, representation of African continent and unity, and its display and folding, check out our other articles.

Initial Ideas

During the initial stages of designing the OAU flag, several ideas were proposed. The designers considered several factors, including the historical background of the OAU and the symbolism it represented. The first idea that was proposed was a combination of the colors of the flags of the first member states of the OAU. This was meant to represent the unity of Africa, as the OAU aimed to bring all African nations together.

Another idea that was proposed was a map of Africa with all member states highlighted. This was meant to show the geographical extent of the OAU and its mission to unify the continent. However, this idea was ultimately rejected, as it was felt that it didn’t capture the true essence of the organization.

A third idea was to include a prominent African symbol such as the Ashanti stool or an African mask on the flag. This was meant to represent Africa’s rich cultural heritage and the unity of African peoples. However, this idea was also rejected, as it was felt that it would be difficult to choose a single symbol to represent the entire continent.

Finally, a compromise was reached with the current design, which features a gold emblem on a green background. The emblem consists of a stylized eagle in the center, flanked by two overlapping circles in green and blue. This design was chosen to represent the values of freedom, peace, and hope, which were central to the OAU’s mission.

The initial ideas phase of the OAU flag design demonstrates the complexity and thoughtfulness that went into the creation of the flag. The designers were tasked with creating a visual representation of a diverse continent and an ambitious organization, and they succeeded in creating a symbol that still resonates today. To learn more about the OAU flag and other flags of African nations, check out this page.

Final Design Choices

After considering multiple innovation possibilities, the designers eventually settled on the current design of the OAU flag. The flag features a nice combination of green, gold, and red stripes with an interlocking circle in the middle. The circle displays the continent of Africa, colored green, overlaid with a sturdy brown representation of the African lands.

The green stripe represents the landscape and vegetation of Africa, while the gold stripe symbolizes the sunshine and natural wealth that African nations are blessed with. The red stripe, on the other hand, symbolizes the bloodshed from political strife and wars across the continent. The color combination is bright and visually striking, representing the dynamic nature of the African continent.

The emblem or the interlocking circles represents African unity and solidarity. The inner circle is gold, which represents the sun, while the outer circle displays the continent of Africa in a rugged brown. The emblem showcases the solidarity of African countries as a whole and unites the nations under one banner to promote regional peace, prosperity, and development.

The designers were intentional in their quest to create something that would represent the diversity of African cultures and the struggles of the African nations. The final design was chosen based on the excellent combination of colors and the perfect emblem symbolizing the hopes and aspirations of every African. The designers succeeded in creating a bold and powerful flag that represents the African continent in all its glory and struggles.

The Flag Elements

One of the most important aspects of the OAU flag is its elements. The flag’s colors, emblem, and symbolism all contribute to its powerful message of unity and solidarity among African nations. The flag’s colors are **green**, **gold**, and **red**. Green represents the land and the beauty of Africa’s natural resources, while gold represents Africa’s wealth. Red stands for both the struggle for African independence and the blood shed during the struggle. The emblem features a large circle with two interlocking hands, symbolizing the idea of unity. The circle is surrounded by 12 five-pointed stars, which represent the 12 original member nations of the OAU. The OAU flag is a powerful symbol of African unity, reminding us of the rich history and cultural heritage of the continent.

Colors of the Flag

The OAU flag features three main colors and a symbol in the center. The colors of the flag are green, gold, and red.

Green: This color represents the agriculture and natural resources found in Africa. It symbolizes hope and the continent’s potential growth and development. Green also represents the future of the continent and the prosperity that can be achieved through hard work.

Gold: The color gold represents the wealth and sunlight of Africa. It also stands for the worth of human beings as individuals with inherent value and dignity. This color is a nod to the great African empires of the past, such as Ghana and Mali, which were rich in gold.

Red: The color red symbolizes the bloodshed that many Africans faced during colonization and independence struggles. It also represents the passion and determination of African people to fight for their freedom and rights.

These three colors are arranged in horizontal bands, with green at the top, gold in the center, and red at the bottom. The colors are separated by thin white stripes. The emblem in the center of the flag features a flaming torch that symbolizes African unity and progress. The colors of the emblem are also green, gold, and red, tying it to the rest of the design. The use of these colors in the OAU flag represents the ideals of African unity, hope, determination, and progress.

Meaning Behind the Emblem

The emblem on the OAU flag is a richly symbolic representation of the goals and aspirations of the member countries. At the center of the emblem is a circle made up of 10 green stripes that represent the ten original member nations. Surrounding the circle are rings of gold and white, symbolizing the wealth and purity of the African continent.

The emblem also features a staff with two intertwined serpents, which was inspired by an ancient Egyptian symbol of wisdom and healing. This staff is held aloft by a pair of hands, symbolizing the unity and strength of the member nations.

Together, these elements represent the OAU’s commitment to working together as a united and responsible body to promote peace, stability, and economic progress across the continent. The emblem reflects the pride and self-determination of the African people and their belief in the transformative power of unity. By working together and supporting each other, the member countries of the OAU have made great strides in advancing their shared goals and building a brighter future for themselves and their people.

Representation of African Unity

The OAU flag was specifically designed to represent the unity of the African continent. The emblem of the flag is an interconnected orb with crossed spearheads at the center. The emblem symbolizes the African continent’s united effort towards progress and the protection of its people.

Additionally, the emblem depicts a bird in full flight. The bird is said to represent Africa’s “indomitable spirit and the quest for freedom and liberty” (source). The bird’s open wings and forward motion give an impression of progress, which is the primary objective of the OAU.

In addition to the emblem, the flag’s colors themselves also represent the African continent’s unity. The colors used in the flag are green, gold, and red. The green represents Africa’s agricultural wealth and lush vegetation. The gold represents the richness of the continent’s minerals and natural resources. The red, often regarded as the most important color in the flag, embodies the spirit of African struggle and unity.

The colors and emblem of the flag represent the ideal of African unity and progress. They serve as a reminder of the responsibility of African leaders to work together towards the common goal of peace, development, and prosperity. As Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, once said: “If the African Union could be founded on principles of unity, togetherness and integration, Africa will prosper”.


In conclusion, the design process of the OAU flag reveals the importance of symbolism and collaboration in creating a meaningful representation of African unity. The combination of colors, emblem, and design elements all work together to embody the core values of the OAU.

Through the design process, the flag designers were able to create a unique emblem that encapsulated the spirit of the OAU. The emblem includes a stylized depiction of an African continent surrounded by an olive branch, which symbolizes peace. The colors of the flag — green, gold, and red — represent the earth, wealth, and bloodshed respectively.

Overall, the design process of the OAU flag exemplifies the power of artwork in communicating complex emotions and ideals. By working together and utilizing powerful symbolism, the OAU flag designers were able to create a memorable and inspiring emblem that continues to represent African unity to this day.

Key Takeaways:
Collaboration is important in creating meaningful artwork that represents a larger group or organization.
Color choices and the emblem are important elements in creating an impactful symbol.
Symbolism is crucial in communicating complex ideals and emotions through artwork.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the OAU Flag?

The OAU Flag is the official flag of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was established in 1963 to promote unity and solidarity among African countries.

Who Designed the OAU Flag?

The OAU Flag was designed by a team of designers led by the Ghanaian artist and designer Joaquim Alberto Chissano.

What was the Inspiration Behind the OAU Flag Design?

The inspiration behind the OAU Flag design was the need to represent the unity and solidarity of African countries. The designers drew inspiration from African culture, history, and symbolism.

What Do the Colors of the OAU Flag Represent?

The colors of the OAU Flag – green, gold, and red – represent the hope, wealth, and bloodshed of Africans, respectively. They also symbolize the African continent’s natural resources and the fight for independence.

What Does the Emblem on the OAU Flag Represent?

The emblem on the OAU Flag is a graphical representation of African unity and solidarity. It showcases an African continent surrounded by circles of countries, symbolizing the interdependence and cooperation among African nations.

What is the Meaning Behind the Two Olive Branches on the OAU Flag?

The two olive branches on the OAU Flag represent peace and the hope for a united and prosperous Africa. They symbolize the OAU’s efforts to bring an end to conflicts and promote harmony among African countries.

What was the OAU’s Role in African History and Politics?

The OAU played a significant role in African history and politics by promoting unity and solidarity among African countries, providing a platform for cooperation and dialogue, and championing the cause of African independence and sovereignty.

Why Was the OAU Dissolved?

The OAU was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU) to better address the political, social, and economic challenges facing the African continent in the 21st century. The AU introduced a new vision for African unity, integration, and development.

What Is the Connection Between the OAU and Pan-Africanism?

The OAU was closely linked to the Pan-African movement, a philosophy that advocated for the liberation and unity of African people worldwide. The OAU promoted the principles of Pan-Africanism and played a vital role in establishing and strengthening ties among African countries and between Africa and its diaspora.

What Is the OAU Flag’s Legacy?

The OAU Flag remains an important symbol of African unity, solidarity, and progress. It represents the struggles and triumphs of African nations and their people and reminds us of the importance of working together towards a brighter future for Africa and its people.


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