Chairperson of the African Union

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Chairperson of the
African Union
Félix Tshisekedi - 2019 (cropped).jpg
Félix Tshisekedi

since 6 February 2021
Appointerthe Assembly
Term lengthOne year
Inaugural holderThabo Mbeki
Formation9 July 2002

The Chairperson of the African Union is the ceremonial head of the African Union elected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government for a one-year term.[1] It rotates among the continent's five regions.

A candidate must be supported by at least two-thirds of the member states or by consensus. The chairperson is expected to complete the term without interruption; hence eligible countries with impending elections may be ineligible.[2]


In 2002, South African President Thabo Mbeki served as the inaugural chairman of the union. The post rotates annually amongst the five geographic regions of Africa; and over the years it has assumed the following order: East, North, Southern, Central and West Africa.

In January 2007, the assembly elected Ghanaian President John Kufuor over Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir due to the ongoing Conflict in Darfur.[3][unreliable source?] The government of Chad threatened to withdraw its membership if Sudan assumed the chair. Some had suggested Tanzania as a compromise candidate from the East African region. By consensus, Ghana was elected instead as it was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary that year.[4]

In January 2010, Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi unsuccessfully tried to extend his tenure by an additional year,[5] saying more time was needed in order to implement his vision for a United States of Africa - of which he was a strong proponent. Libya was at the time one of the largest financial supporters of the AU.[6] The election of Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in January 2011 was criticized by human rights activists as it undermined the AU's commitment to democracy.[7]

Congolese Republic President Denis Sassou Nguesso and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe have both led the AU and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity during the terms 1986–88 and 2006–07, and 1997–98 and 2015–16 respectively.[8][9]

In February 2019, South Africa was elected as the incoming chair and took over in 2020.[10]


The incumbent is the ceremonial head of the AU and in this capacity, chairs the biannual summits and represents the continent in various international fora such as TICAD, FOCAC, G8 and G20 summits.

List of Chairpersons[edit]

No. Portrait Chairperson Took Office Left Office Country Region
1 SthAfrica.ThaboMbeki.01 (cropped).jpg Thabo Mbeki[11] 9 July 2002 10 July 2003  South Africa Southern Africa
2 Joaquim Chissano 2004-08-31.jpg Joaquim Chissano[12] 10 July 2003 11 July 2004  Mozambique Southern Africa
3 Olusegun Obasanjo 1-2.jpg Olusegun Obasanjo[13] 11 July 2004 24 January 2006  Nigeria West Africa
4 Sassou-Nguesso.jpg Denis Sassou Nguesso[14] 24 January 2006 24 January 2007  Republic of Congo Central Africa
5 John Kufuor 1-1.jpg John Kufuor[2] 30 January 2007 31 January 2008  Ghana West Africa
6 Jakaya Kikwete 2011 crop.jpg Jakaya Kikwete[15] 31 January 2008 2 February 2009  Tanzania East Africa
7 Muammar al-Gaddafi-30112006.jpg Muammar Gaddafi[16] 2 February 2009 31 January 2010 Libya North Africa
8 Bingu wa Mutharika 2009-09-23.jpg Bingu wa Mutharika[17] 31 January 2010 31 January 2011  Malawi Southern Africa
9 Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo at the White House in 2014.jpg Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo[18] 31 January 2011 29 January 2012  Equatorial Guinea Central Africa
10 Yayi Boni.jpg Yayi Boni[19] 29 January 2012 27 January 2013  Benin West Africa
11 Hailemariam Desalegn 2014.jpg Hailemariam Desalegn[20] 27 January 2013 30 January 2014  Ethiopia East Africa
12 Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz August 2014 (cropped).jpg Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz[21] 30 January 2014 30 January 2015  Mauritania North Africa
13 Robert Mugabe, 12th AU Summit, 090202-N-0506A-417.jpg Robert Mugabe[22] 30 January 2015 30 January 2016  Zimbabwe Southern Africa
14 Idriss Deby Itno IMG 3617.jpg Idriss Déby[23] 30 January 2016 30 January 2017  Chad Central Africa
15 Alpha Conde - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.jpg Alpha Condé[24] 30 January 2017 28 January 2018  Guinea West Africa
16 Paul Kagame 2014.jpg Paul Kagame[25] 28 January 2018 10 February 2019  Rwanda East Africa
17 AbdelFattah Elsisi (cropped).jpg Abdel Fattah el-Sisi[10] 10 February 2019 10 February 2020  Egypt North Africa
18 Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General with H. E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President, South Africa (cropped) (cropped).jpg Cyril Ramaphosa[26] 10 February 2020 06 February 2021  South Africa Southern Africa
19 Félix Tshisekedi - 2019 (cropped).jpg Félix Tshisekedi[26] 06 February 2021 Incumbent  Democratic Republic of Congo Central Africa


The Chairperson is assisted by a bureau of four vice chairpersons including a rapporteur.[27]

Portrait Incumbent Country Region Title
Macky Sall with Obamas 2014 (cropped).jpg Macky Sall  Senegal West Africa First Vice Chairperson
President Azali Assoumani.jpg Azali Assoumani  Comoros East Africa Second Vice Chairperson
AbdelFattah Elsisi (cropped).jpg Abdel Fattah el-Sisi  Egypt North Africa Third Vice Chairperson
Mr. Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General with H. E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President, South Africa (cropped) (cropped).jpg Cyril Ramaphosa  South Africa Southern Africa Fourth Vice Chairperson (Rapporteur)


  1. ^ "African Union Handbook" (PDF). African Union. 2014. p. 15.
  2. ^ a b "President Kufuor elected Chairman of AU". Accra: Ghana News Agency. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  3. ^ "African Union Chooses Kufuor Over Bashir for Chairman". Yahoo! Voices. 29 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  4. ^ "Sudan loses AU chair over Darfur". Mail and Guardian. South Africa. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  5. ^ "Gaddafi fails in bid to remain African Union chair". Addis Ababa: Reuters. 31 January 2010. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  6. ^ "African Union row over Muammar Gaddafi's role". BBC News. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Equatorial Guinea President Named African Union Head; Rights Groups Object". Bloomberg News. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  8. ^ "President voted AU deputy chair". The Herald. Zimbabwe. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Mugabe Scores A Feat, Set To Head AU at 91". 31 January 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  10. ^ a b "The 32ND African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit Kicks Off". African Union. 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  11. ^ Babarinde, Olufemi (April 2007). "The EU as a Model for the African Union: the Limits of Imitation" (PDF).
  12. ^ "High hopes for AU Maputo Assembly". ANC Today. 4–10 July 2003. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Obasanjo Elected AU Chairman". Addis Ababa: Vanguard. 12 July 2004. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  14. ^ "CONGO: Profile of Denis Sassou-Nguesso, new AU head". Brazzaville: IRIN. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  15. ^ Appel, Michael (2 February 2008). "Kikwete takes over AU Chair". Pambazuka News. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  16. ^ "Gaddafi vows to push Africa unity". BBC News. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  17. ^ "Malawi president takes over as AU president". AFP. 31 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  18. ^ Hennig, Rainer Chr. (1 February 2011). "New AU leader Obiang calls criticism un-African". Afrol News. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  19. ^ "President Thomas Yayi Boni elected as Chairperson of the African Union for 2012" (PDF) (Press release). Addis Ababa: Directorate of Information and Communication, African Union Commission. 29 January 2012.
  20. ^ Stainburn, Samantha (28 January 2013). "Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia's PM, is new African Union Assembly chairman". GlobalPost. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  21. ^ "President Abdel Aziz of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania elected African Union Chairperson". Addis Ababa: African Union. 30 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Zimbabwe's Mugabe, 90, becomes African Union chairman". Reuters. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  23. ^ African Union [@_AfricanUnion] (30 January 2016). "Prez Idriss Itno Déby of #Chad takes over as #AU Chairperson" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 January 2016 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ "President Alpha Conde of Guinea Has Been Elected New Chairperson of the African Union (AU)". African Union. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  25. ^ "President Paul Kagame, Elected as New Chairperson of the African Union for the year 2018". African Union. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  26. ^ a b Simon (February 10, 2020). "South African President Cyril Ramaphosa elected African Union Chairperson as continent vows to "silence the guns," boost trade and close gender gap". Today News Africa. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  27. ^ "Egypt chosen as AU Summit Bureau member for 3rd consecutive year". Daily News Egypt. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 7 February 2021.

External links[edit]