What started on the 25th of May 1963 in Ethiopia has struggled to find its way into the hearts of many Africans, yet with every year that passes more countries and people recognise the significance of celebrating everything African.
Africa Day began in conjunction with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) - what is now known as the African Union (AU). It is aimed at celebrating the continent’s diverse cultures and rich history, while trying to carve a unified identity among all inhabitants. This year’s theme is in line with the AU’s goals of ‘Putting African Unity First Means Putting Humanity First’.
Africa - A world of bewildering contradictions
‘The motherland’ as it’s most often referred to, is home to a wealth of minerals. Its soil possesses much of the planet’s chrome resources, platinum, cobalt, gold and gas reserves, yet it remains the poorest continent marred by a long history of colonial rule, civil wars, human rights violations and extreme poverty.
Amidst all of that, there’s something magical about the spirit of Africa’s inhabitants and rejuvenated approach towards it. The African renaissance sparked a love for all things African and a curiosity as to what makes its people tick. It has been identified as the continent of the 21st Century, with its international counterparts looking for African perspective on rising global issues.
The African Union
Now in its tenth year, the intergovernmental organisation represents 54 African states and some of its goals include building greater unity and solidarity between African countries, defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states, advancing the continent’s economy and working towards eradicating poverty and preventable diseases. Lots of criticism has been leveled against this organisation over the past decade, more recently for the way it handled Libya’s civil war.
Some critics have said Africa behaved like a headless chicken as her leaders squabbled over which position to take. But the continent’s recent history hasn’t been all bad as countries have managed to promote trade among member states, while helping struggling countries bring peace to their citizens. The AU still has a long way to go before it gains favour with the rest of the continent but they are making some strides towards that.
Thabo Mbeki - the African Renaissance
Former president Thabo Mbeki is building a legacy of dialogue, where Africans come together to discuss what it means to be African, ways of rewriting the continent’s legacy and encouraging a thriving economic culture. The annual address which took place the 24th of May at the University of South Africa is fast becoming a favourite event in a lot of people’s diaries and even though Mbeki did not deliver a key note address he took part in a panel discussion along with four other former heads of state. Some of the talking points from those leaders included the following:
Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Alberto Chissano says he wants Africa’s youth to be confident enough to try new ideas and solutions. “A lack of confidence will make Africans commit to other people’s mistakes,” he said.
Pedro Pires, Cape Verde’s former Prime Minister believes that for Africans to achieve true liberation, they need to overcome what he calls their dependency syndrome. He says Africa also needs to deal with her technological deficiencies, the continent’s shortage in knowledge and lack of productivity.
Nigeria’s former head Olusegun Ọbasanjọ says Africa needs to realise that she doesn’t need to look to countries outside of the continent, in order to grow.
Thabo Mbeki says it’s important to distinguish between liberation and independence. He says the AU changed from the OAU in order to focus on liberation. Mbeki says it’s also vital for the youth to use their elders’ knowledge for the betterment of the continent. “We can’t afford to lose the experience and commitment of the continent’s liberators. How do we keep them engaged in a continued struggle for liberation to bring about genuine independence of the continent?” he says.
Let the people speak
South Africans are still divided as to whether this day is worth celebrating, as seen on Twitter and Facebook:
• @LuckiemK @ewnupdates Countries holding democratic elections. This should be celebrated
• @SouthAfrica_SOS @ewnupdates: #EWNChat: Tomorrow is Africa Day. What do you think is worth celebrating about the continent?" Corruption, Murder, Fraud etc???
• @RevaBar @ewnupdates #EWNChat the beauty on our continent. The people not so much at this stage.
• @kleinbrian_1 Freedom of art!!!hahahaRT @ewnupdates: #EWNChat: Tomorrow is Africa Day. What do you think is worth celebrating about the continent?
• @LanceBiego Table mountain.. RT @ewnupdates: #EWNChat: Tomorrow is Africa Day. What do you think is worth celebrating about the continent?
• @jozi117 Biltong & boerewors. @ewnupdates: #EWNChat: Tomorrow is Africa Day. What do you think is worth celebrating about the continent?"
• Kim Rudman we dont get a public holiday and Zimbabwe does... thats unfair!!
• Nkululeko Bernard Moime Everything, A=Amazingly F=Fabulous R=ravishingly I=Incredible C=Culturally A=Astounding
• Nkosinathi Jopi The fact that more kids are being educated n more countries are slowly bt surely understanding the value of a democratic nation that will see cultures being respected n ppl having a say in the managerial of the state.....more education...more education
To listen to Thabo Mbeki’s I am an African speech click here: