The present day flag of the African Union was adopted to replace the previous flag that had been used for around seven years. The flag was designed by Yadesa Boija, an Ethiopian born artist who lives in the United States. The African Union had decided to hold a contest for new flag design, and Yadesa’s design stood out among the more than one hundred and twenty entries. Yadesa was one of two artists living in the diaspora who entered the competition. He learned of his victory in the contest on CNN, two years after he had submitted his design for consideration. The next day he again saw his design, this time on President Muammar Gaddafi’s clothing. On January 31, 2010, he was present for the flag’s inauguration ceremony in Addis Ababa together with his family. Apart from attending the ceremony Yadesa also got to spend time with African heads of state like Jacob Zuma who was at the time the president of South Africa, who complemented the flag.
Design of the Flag
The African Union had set out two requirements for the flag’s design: a green background and stars to represent the member states.The design incorporated all these aspects with a green Africa as the centrepiece of the design. The color green was chosen to represent the hope and belief in a bright future for the African continent and its people since it is traditionally associated with agricultural prosperity, Africa’s backbone. The map of the African continent rests on the sun’s rays which are in white showing Africa’s commitment to be part of the world and forge lasting friendships and peace with all the nations of the world. A ring of golden stars circles the map to represent the member countries. The stars are in gold which stands for each country’s wealth and prosperous future. At the time of the flag’s conception and acceptance, the African Union had 53 members. Eventually Morocco and South Sudan joined, raising the tally to 55.
The Previous Flag of the African Union
At the time of its formation in 2002 the African Union did not have a flag and in 2003 had a competition to select a new flag and emblem. A year later the submitted designs failed to live up to the expectations, and the gathered heads of states decided to adopt the Organisation of African Unity’s flag and emblem as their own. The flag had four colors: red, green, gold, and white. Red symbolized the unity of the African people and the blood they shed during their struggle to free the continent. The emblem had palm leaves on each side of the exterior circle to indicate peace. The African map drawn in the emblem had no borders a sign of the togetherness of the African people.
The Importance of a Flag
A flag is more than just a symbol to be paraded on special occasions. Flags are a source of pride for citizens of a country since they portray not only the country’s past but also the dreams and aspirations of its citizens. Flags also contribute to a sense of identity and belonging.