History and Evolution of the OAU Flags

For many years, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was considered the voice of Africa in the international community. As an organization, it provided a platform for African countries to collaborate and address issues facing the continent. At the heart of the OAU’s identity were its flags, which boasted a unique history and evolution. From the green era to the golden era, these flags symbolized Africa’s progress and aspirations. In this article, we will explore the rich history and evolution of the OAU flags, from the early days of the organization to the present day African Union (AU). Join us as we delve into the significance and meaning of each of the OAU flags.

The Foundation and Purpose of the OAU Flags

The Foundation And Purpose Of The Oau Flags
The OAU (Organization of African Unity) Flags have been an integral symbol of African unity since the organization’s inception in 1963. The OAU Flags have undergone significant changes throughout its history. The flags were not only decorative emblems, but they also represented a deeper meaning and purpose. The flags symbolized the unity and diversity of the African continent. The flags also embodied the aspirations and struggles of African nations to achieve political freedom and equality. To better understand the foundation and purpose of the OAU Flags, it’s important to delve into its origin and significance. The following sections will discuss the background and purpose of the OAU Flags.

Background and Origin of the OAU Flags

The OAU flags have a rich history and origin. The Organisation of African Unity was established in 1963. It comprises 32 African nations, all of which share a common goal of political and economic cooperation. The flag design was the work of a committee headed by Mr. Mohammed Ahmed, a Sudanese artist. He designed a simple but significant flag that represented the aspirations of the African continent. The flag featured a green background and a gold emblem in the centre. The emblem was a depiction of Africa, with a lone stalk of millet on the bottom. This represented the continent’s agricultural and economic potential.

The colors of the flag had deep meaning, signifying African unity and hope for a brighter future. Green was chosen to represent Africa’s rich natural wealth, while gold symbolised the continent’s hopes for economic progress. The emblem’s shape and position on the flag were also significant. The map was positioned centrally, highlighting the importance of the continent to the member nations.

Unlike most national flags, the OAU flag did not have any official motto. This was due to the fact that all member states were already represented through their own national flags. The OAU flag was meant to unite all African nations, regardless of their varied cultures, religions, and languages. The flag’s adoption marked the beginning of a new era in African unity.

Despite the flag’s initial success, there were later criticisms about its design. Specifically, the critics felt that the flag appeared too simplistic, and was not an accurate representation of Africa’s cultural diversity. As a result, the OAU decided to revise the flag design in 1971.

The second OAU flag followed the same basic design of the first, but with minor changes. The shade of green was changed, and the emblem featured a ring of 15 stars. Each star represented the 15 member states of the OAU at the time. The gold emblem remained the same.

The background and origin of the OAU flags reflect the aspirations and struggles of the African continent towards unity and prosperity. The design and colors of the flag were meant to symbolise Africa’s potential, wealth, and diversity. With the founding of the AU in 2002, the OAU flags gave way to the new AU flag. Despite this transition, the original OAU flags will always hold a special place in the history of African unity and cooperation.

Purpose and Significance of the OAU Flags

The OAU Flags were not just a symbol of the organization, but they also held great significance in terms of representing the continent of Africa. The main purpose of the flags was to unite the African nations in their common goal of promoting economic, social and political development, and to achieve a total liberation of the African continent from colonialism and apartheid.

The green background of the OAU Flags represented the land and the rich vegetation of African countries, while the gold symbolized the mineral wealth that the continent possessed. The interlocking circles in the center of the flags represented African unity and solidarity, as well as the need for all African nations to come together to achieve their common goals.

The OAU Flags served as a powerful reminder of the struggle of African nations against colonialism and were flown at important events in African history, such as the independence ceremonies of newly formed African nations. They also served as a symbol of hope and a beacon of unity, inspiring people all over the continent to work towards the development and prosperity of Africa as a whole.

The purpose and significance of the OAU Flags cannot be overstated. They were an emblem of the struggle for African independence and unity, and remain a powerful symbol of the continent’s rich history and cultural heritage. To learn more about OAU Flags, visit /oau-flag-colors-symbols/.

The Green Era: 1963 – 1991

The Green Era of the OAU Flags lasted from 1963 to 1991. During this period, there were two different flag designs – the first one used between 1963 and 1971, and the second one from 1971 to 1991. The first flag featured a horizontal green band across the top half, while the bottom half was divided into two equal parts by a white line. The left half was colored blue and had 12 five-pointed stars, representing the 12 African countries that founded the OAU. The right half was colored gold and had an image of an open palm, symbolizing the solidarity and cooperation of African nations. The second flag design had a lighter shade of green and a vertical gold stripe on the left side. The gold stripe had 12 stars, but they were arranged in a circle instead of a line. The color green in both flags symbolized the agricultural wealth of Africa, and the gold represented the mineral wealth. The OAU flags were seen as a symbol of pan-Africanism and unity. Moments of raising and folding the flag were always important at OAU meetings.

The First OAU Flag (1963-1971)

The First OAU flag, used from 1963 to 1971, was a symbol of hope for African countries that had gained their independence from colonial rule. It featured a simple yet meaningful design of three horizontal stripes of red, gold, and green. The red stripe represents the bloodshed and struggle for independence, gold symbolizes the wealth and prosperity of the African continent, while green symbolizes the hope and aspirations of its people for a better future.

Interestingly, the design of the flag was inspired by the flag of Ethiopia, one of the few African countries that had managed to avoid colonization. The use of Ethiopia’s flag colors was a nod to the country’s role in the Pan-African movement and its significance as a symbol of African independence and unity.

The First OAU Flag was significant in that it was a unifying symbol for the newly independent African countries, who were seeking solidarity and support from one another. The flag was raised at many historic moments, including at the moment of Ghana’s independence in 1957, and at the OAU’s Headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Although the First OAU Flag was only used for eight years, it was an important symbol and inspiration for the African continent. Its legacy can be seen in the flags of many African countries which borrowed the red, gold, and green stripes in their own flag designs. If you want to see differences between this and other period flags, you should check this article.

The Second OAU Flag (1971-1991)

The Second OAU flag was used by the Organization of African Unity from 1971 until 1991. The flag featured horizontal stripes of red, green, and black colors, with a golden eagle in the center. The “eagle” was actually a representation of the head of an African continent, with the two eyes symbolizing the African collective spirit and the ability to see through obstacles and hardships.
The black stripes symbolized the people of Africa, while the green stripes represented the fertility of the African land. The red stripes represented the blood that was shed for African liberation while the golden eagle symbolized the African Renaissance. The flag design aimed to reflect the diversity and unity of African nations united under the umbrella of the OAU. During the period of the Second OAU Flag, African nations worked towards dispelling and opposing various threats to the African continent. These challenges ranged from Apartheid in South Africa to armed conflicts across the continent, as well as fights against colonialism and imperialism in various countries. Several African nations gained independence during this period.
It is interesting to note that the Second OAU Flag gave rise to the creation of several other flags that have gained significant importance in different African countries. It was a source of inspiration for several nations to create their flags that symbolized their historical past, present, and future goals. The OAU flag also had a motto that spoke of African Unity, which was “Africa Unite.” This motto inspired several people in Africa to come together and work towards the common goal of promoting peace and development.
The Second OAU Flag was a symbol of African unity, progress, and liberation, and it played an important role in the history of Africa. Today, it is remembered as one of the most significant flags in the history of the African continent, and its legacy continues to inspire individuals and nations to work towards a better future for Africa.

The Significance of the Green OAU Flags

The green OAU flags held great significance during their time as the official flag of the organization. The color green itself is symbolic of growth, renewal, and life, which accurately represented the mission and goals of the OAU. The choice of green was also a nod to the natural beauty and resources of the African continent, which was a central focus of the organization’s efforts.

The first OAU flag, used from 1963-1971, featured a bright green background with a gold emblem in the center. This emblem contained a crossed spear and staff, symbolizing the unity and cooperation between African nations. The second OAU flag, used from 1971-1991, featured a darker green background with a simplified emblem that still included the crossed spear and staff.

The green OAU flags were a visible symbol of African unity and progress. They were flown at important moments, such as when new members were admitted to the organization or when African leaders held important meetings or discussions. The flag-raising ceremony itself was a significant event, symbolizing the commitment of African nations to work together towards greater cooperation and development.

In addition to their symbolic significance, the green OAU flags were also well-designed and aesthetically pleasing. The bold use of green and gold made them instantly recognizable, and the simple emblem was easy to reproduce and display. The design process was carefully considered, with input from member nations to ensure that the flag accurately represented the goals and aspirations of the organization.

Despite being replaced by the AU flag in 2002, the green OAU flags remain an important part of African history and symbolism. They stand as a reminder of the great strides made by African nations towards cooperation, unity, and progress. To this day, they are still displayed and folded in a specific manner, as outlined in flag etiquette guidelines.

The Golden Era: 1991 – Present

The Golden Era of the OAU flags began in 1991, with the adoption of the third OAU flag. This flag was similar to the previous one, but with some notable changes. The green was replaced with a darker shade of blue, and a golden wide band was added to the bottom of the flag. Then in 2002, the OAU transformed into the African Union (AU), and a new flag was created. The AU flag incorporates the colors of the African continent – green, red, and yellow – as well as the color blue, which represents the African Union. The emblem in the center of the flag features a gold map of the African continent surrounded by a circle of 53 stars, representing the 53 countries that are part of the African Union. The meaning behind the colors and symbols of the AU flag is significant, and it reflects the unity and strength of the African continent.

The Third OAU Flag (1991-2002)

The Third OAU Flag was introduced in 1991 to replace the Second OAU Flag. This flag was very similar to the previous one as it maintained the green background. However, the flag had additional features, which included a depiction of Africa in gold in the center of the flag. According to the designer of the flag, Professor Nii Quarcoopome, the color gold symbolized Africa’s mineral wealth and potential for growth. Additionally, the map of Africa on the flag symbolized the unity of the continent and how it needed to come together to achieve progress.

The Third OAU Flag was short-lived as the OAU was disbanded in 2002. However, the flag played a significant role in the history of the organization as it represented the renewed hope and optimism for Africa that emerged in the 1990s. It symbolized Africa’s determination to unite and work together to create a better future for the continent.

It is important to note that the Third OAU Flag was not without its controversies. Some people criticized the flag’s design, arguing that it looked too much like the flags of other African countries. However, the designer defended his creation, explaining that the idea of using the map of Africa was inspired by the emblem of the Organisation of African Unity.

The Third OAU Flag was an important symbol of Africa’s aspirations for unity and development during a period of significant change on the continent. To learn more about the display and folding of the OAU Flag, click on this link.

The AU Flag (2002-Present)

The AU flag, adopted on July 9, 2002, is the current flag representing the African Union. It replaced the previous OAU flag, which had been used for over 30 years. The new flag features a combination of colors that are symbolic in African culture, including green, gold, red, and black.

The Meaning of the AU Flag Colors and Symbols

The color green represents hope and African agricultural wealth, while gold symbolizes African mineral wealth. The red color in the AU flag represents the bloodshed during the struggles for independence and the black color stands for the African people and their identity.

The AU emblem is made up of several different symbols, which are also representative of African culture and history. The circle of 53 stars represents unity and the original founding member states. The golden map of Africa relates to the origin of mankind, the birthplace of human civilization, and the African continent itself.

The emblem also includes the bird of peace, which stands for freedom and the desire for Africa to live in peace and harmony. The emblem features the interlocking spirals, which symbolize the strong relationships between African peoples, African countries, and with other nations of the world who share the same ambition of peace and progress.

The design of the AU flag was intended to achieve maximal representation of the whole African continent and its people. It signifies the union of African countries and their determination to move forward into a bright and united future that represents their interests, promotes peace and celebrates African cultures.

The golden map of Africa and the other symbols in the emblem, as well as the colors on the flag were carefully selected and significant to each African state. The choice of the colors and design reflected the long-term collaborative process and the unification of 53 African states under the principles of the African Union.

The Meaning of the AU Flag Colors and Symbols

The African Union (AU) flag is a symbol of unity and cooperation among African nations. It features a vibrant combination of green, gold, red, and black colors and a circle of 53 stars. Each of these elements holds a special meaning.

The green color represents Africa’s vast natural resources, while the gold color symbolizes the continent’s bright future. The red color stands for the blood shed for African independence, and black is a reminder of the skin color of the people of Africa. The circle of stars represents the unity of African states.

The design of the AU flag went through a rigorous process, beginning with the creation of a committee that was tasked with developing a new flag that would capture the essence of the continent. The committee considered various designs and colors before settling on the current design.

The AU flag is similar in design to the previous OAU flags, but with a more colorful and vibrant look. The green and gold elements of the OAU flags were retained, while the red and black elements were incorporated to symbolize the struggles of African nations during the colonial era.

The AU flag is a symbol of hope and unity for the continent. It serves as a reminder of the progress that has been made in Africa, as well as the challenges that remain. The raising of the flag during important moments such as official ceremonies and events is a source of pride for Africans everywhere, as it represents the unity and strength of the continent.

The colors and symbols of the AU flag hold deep meaning. They represent the rich history and diversity of the African continent, as well as the hope for a brighter future. The flag is a source of pride and unity for Africans everywhere, and it serves as a reminder of the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain. For more information about the meaning of the OAU and AU flags, you can read about the motto meaning and the relation between OAU and other flags.


In conclusion, the flags of the OAU and its successor, the AU, have undergone significant changes throughout their history. The flags played an essential role in representing the unity and purpose of African nations.

The Green Era of the OAU flags represented the hope of Africa for a change from colonialism and a bright new future. The golden era of the OAU and the current AU flag marked a significant turning point in African history. The flags boast of the significant progress, liberation and consolidation of African countries.

The OAU flags went through a comprehensive design process to represent the aspirations and objectives of African nations. Each flag’s colors and symbols reflect the characteristic features of Africa’s history, culture, and identity.

The flags have undergone numerous transitions throughout their history, including the OAU flag-raising moments which marked historical milestones for African nations. From the first OAU flag design in 1963 to the current AU flag, African unity, brotherhood and dignity of the continent are represented.

As African nations continue to strive for unity and independence, the story of the history and evolution of the OAU flags reminds us of the immense progress made to secure Africa’s future. We must not forget, however, that there is much work left to be done to cement African unity and bring lasting peace and development to our continent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the OAU?

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established on May 25, 1963, with the aim of promoting unity and solidarity among African countries.

When was the first OAU flag created?

The first OAU flag was created in 1963, when the organization was established.

What is the significance of the green color in the OAU flags?

The green color in the OAU flags symbolizes hope and prosperity. It represents the lush vegetation and natural resources of Africa.

Why did the OAU flags change in 1971?

The OAU flags changed in 1971 to accommodate the addition of new member countries. The previous flag design only had 32 stars, and more countries had joined the organization by that time.

What is the difference between the second OAU flag and the first one?

The second OAU flag had a larger number of stars representing the member countries, and the position of the emblem of the organization was also changed.

When did the OAU become the AU?

The OAU became the African Union (AU) in 2002, with the aim of promoting economic integration and development in Africa.

What is the meaning of the colors in the AU flag?

The gold color represents the rich natural resources of Africa, the green symbolizes hope and future, and the blue represents the African continent and the African people.

Why did the OAU change its name to the AU?

The OAU changed its name to the AU to reflect the new focus of the organization on economic integration and development in Africa.

What is the significance of the emblem in the AU flag?

The emblem in the AU flag represents Africa’s vision of unity, cooperation, and development. The circular shape of the emblem represents continuity and unity, while the interlocking rings symbolize interdependence and cooperation among the member countries.

How has the AU flag contributed to the promotion of African unity and identity?

The AU flag has become a symbol of African unity, identity, and progress. It has been used in various events and activities related to African development and integration, and it has helped to create a sense of common purpose and belonging among the African people.


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