Chairperson of the African Union

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

Chairperson of the
African Union
Macky Sall
since 5 February 2022
Appointerthe Assembly
Term lengthOne year
Constituting instrumentConstitutive Act of the AU (article 6)
PrecursorChairperson of the OAU
Formation9 July 2002
First holderThabo Mbeki

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

Senegal's Macky Sall became the current Chairperson of the African Union on February 5, 2022.[3][4] The next chairperson will be elected from the East Africa region in early 2023. Both Kenya and Comoros are vying for the position.[5]


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.[2][6] Amnesty International said it would undermine African Union's credibility and Chad threatened to withdraw its membership. Western governments also lobbied against Sudan and 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.[7]

Gaddafi holding the ceremonial baton after taking over as Chair from Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete.

In January 2010, Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi unsuccessfully tried to extend his tenure by an additional year,[8] 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. Malawi was chosen instead.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11][12]


The incumbent chairs the biannual summit meetings of the assembly and represents the continent in various international fora such as G7, TICAD, FOCAC and G20 summits.[1]

They also assist in resolving crises on the continent as an elder statesman. It has been suggested that liaison offices be established to prevent friction between the incumbent and the Commission Chairperson at the headquarters in Addis Ababa.[13]

Elder Statesman

In 2008, following Kenya's post-election crisis, AU Chairman Jakaya Kikwete was instrumental in facilitating the opposing sides to agree to a Government of National Unity.[14] Kikwete also backed the invasion of Anjouan by sending an AU Force to assist the Comoros federal government to remove renegade leader Mohamed Bacar.

List of Chairpersons

No. Portrait Name
Term of office Country Region Ref.
Took office Left office
1Thabo Mbeki9 July 200210 July 2003 South AfricaSouthern Africa[15]
2Joaquim Chissano10 July 200311 July 2004 MozambiqueSouthern Africa[16]
3Olusegun Obasanjo11 July 200424 January 2006 NigeriaWest Africa[17]
4Denis Sassou Nguesso24 January 200624 January 2007 Republic of CongoCentral Africa[18]
5John Kufuor30 January 200731 January 2008 GhanaWest Africa[2]
6Jakaya Kikwete31 January 20082 February 2009 TanzaniaEast Africa[19]
7Muammar Gaddafi2 February 200931 January 2010 LibyaNorth Africa[20]
8Bingu wa Mutharika31 January 201031 January 2011 MalawiSouthern Africa[21]
9Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo31 January 201129 January 2012 Equatorial GuineaCentral Africa[22]
10Yayi Boni29 January 201227 January 2013 BeninWest Africa[23]
11Hailemariam Desalegn27 January 201330 January 2014 EthiopiaEast Africa[24]
12Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz30 January 201430 January 2015 MauritaniaNorth Africa[25]
13Robert Mugabe30 January 201530 January 2016 ZimbabweSouthern Africa[26]
14Idriss Déby30 January 201630 January 2017 ChadCentral Africa[27]
15Alpha Condé30 January 201728 January 2018 GuineaWest Africa[28]
16Paul Kagame28 January 201810 February 2019 RwandaEast Africa[29]
17Abdel Fattah el-Sisi10 February 201910 February 2020 EgyptNorth Africa[30]
18Cyril Ramaphosa10 February 20206 February 2021 South AfricaSouthern Africa[31]
19Félix Tshisekedi6 February 20215 February 2022 Democratic Republic of CongoCentral Africa[32]
20Macky Sall5 February 2022Incumbent SenegalWest Africa


The Chairperson is assisted by a bureau of four vice chairpersons including a rapporteur.[33]

First Vice Chairperson
Mohamed al-Menfi LibyaNorth AfricaSecond Vice Chairperson
João Lourenço AngolaSouthern AfricaThird Vice Chairperson
Félix Tshisekedi Democratic Republic of CongoCentral AfricaFourth Vice Chairperson (Rapporteur)


  1. "African Union Handbook" (PDF). African Union. 2014. p. 15.
  2. "President Kufuor elected Chairman of AU". Accra: Ghana News Agency. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  3. "Macky Sall: Senegal President take over as Africa Union chairperson". BBC News. 5 February 2022.
  4. "ECOWAS holds 34th summit, Sall nominated as union chairman". The Guardian (Nigeria). 5 February 2021.
  5. "Kenyatta and Azali vie for AU vice chairmanship". Africa Intelligence. Indigo Publications. 11 February 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  6. "African Union Chooses Kufuor Over Bashir for Chairman". Yahoo! Voices. 29 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  7. "Sudan loses AU chair over Darfur". Mail and Guardian. South Africa. 29 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  8. "Gaddafi fails in bid to remain African Union chair". Addis Ababa: Reuters. 31 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  9. "African Union row over Muammar Gaddafi's role". BBC News. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  10. "Equatorial Guinea President Named African Union Head; Rights Groups Object". Bloomberg News. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  11. "President voted AU deputy chair". The Herald. Zimbabwe. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  12. "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.
  13. Blunt, Elizabeth (27 March 2009). "African Union's eventful year with Gaddafi". BBC. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  14. MUFUAYIA ACHERO DAVID (June 2015). "The role of Jakaya Kikwete in the mediation of the Kenyan Post-election conflict, 2008".
  15. Babarinde, Olufemi (April 2007). "The EU as a Model for the African Union: the Limits of Imitation" (PDF).
  16. "High hopes for AU Maputo Assembly". ANC Today. 4–10 July 2003. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  17. "Obasanjo Elected AU Chairman". Addis Ababa: Vanguard. 12 July 2004. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  18. "CONGO: Profile of Denis Sassou-Nguesso, new AU head". Brazzaville: IRIN. 24 January 2006. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  19. Appel, Michael (2 February 2008). "Kikwete takes over AU Chair". Pambazuka News. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  20. "Gaddafi vows to push Africa unity". BBC News. 2 February 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  21. "Malawi president takes over as AU president". AFP. 31 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  22. Hennig, Rainer Chr. (1 February 2011). "New AU leader Obiang calls criticism un-African". Afrol News. Retrieved 2014-01-31.
  23. "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.
  24. Stainburn, Samantha (28 January 2013). "Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopia's PM, is new African Union Assembly chairman". GlobalPost. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  25. "President Abdel Aziz of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania elected African Union Chairperson". Addis Ababa: African Union. 30 January 2014. Archived from the original on 21 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  26. "Zimbabwe's Mugabe, 90, becomes African Union chairman". Reuters. 30 January 2015. Archived from the original on 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  27. African Union [@_AfricanUnion] (30 January 2016). "Prez Idriss Itno Déby of #Chad takes over as #AU Chairperson" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 January 2016 via Twitter.
  28. "President Alpha Conde of Guinea Has Been Elected New Chairperson of the African Union (AU)". African Union. 30 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  29. "President Paul Kagame, Elected as New Chairperson of the African Union for the year 2018". African Union. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  30. "The 32ND African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government Summit Kicks Off". African Union. 10 February 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  31. 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.
  32. "President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo Elected Chair Of The AU For The Year 2021". African Union. 22 February 2021.
  33. "PRESS RELEASES President Macky Sall of Senegal, Takes Over as the New Chairperson of the African Union (AU) for 2022". African Union. February 5, 2022. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
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