Africa Day Celebration: A continent half full, half empty
London, May 25, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Today as Africa Day is a fitting reflection on Kwame Nkrumah’s prescient remark “I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me”. Ghana’s first president, and a founding father of the African Union, was accurate in foretelling the strength of Pan-Africanism today.
Africa Day – a public holiday in nine African countries – is observed annually on 25 May to commemorate the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Since the AU’s establishment on May 25 1963 – then called the Organisation of African Unity – Africa Day has been celebrated on the continent and internationally. It is a tribute to the achievements made by African leaders over 50 years ago to decolonize the continent and pave the way for a greater Africa on the global stage.
Our forefathers achieved their goal in collapsing the colonial burden on Africa and its people. By the 1990s, all African countries were sovereign states. Since then the baton has been handed over to the next African generation. Today’s burden is, perhaps, even more fierce: poverty and inequality.
Several challenges face Africa as it struggles to free itself from poverty, including weak healthcare and education systems. However, it is chronic unemployment that makes the task our continent faces more challenging. Today, lack of employment opportunities remains one of the major drivers of poverty and inequality on the continent.
The number of unemployed people in Africa is equivalent to the entire population of Canada. Since 2008, unemployment rates have been rising in Nigeria and South Africa – the two biggest economies in Africa. TIME Magazine’s recent report has shown Africa’s second-biggest economy, South Africa, as the world’s most unequal country. One of the factors driving the poverty and inequality is the lack of employment opportunities.
Statistics South Africa has published a report showing that the number of unemployed people has increased in the first three months in 2019, taking the country’s unemployment rate from 27.1% in the last quarter of 2018 to 27.6% in quarter one of 2019. Youth unemployment is far worse.
To resolve Africa’s unemployment nightmare, our leaders must develop and effectively implement reforms that foster sustainable inclusive economic growth. This requires policies that better match the supply and demand of skilled labour. Attention must also be given to the underemployed youth in fragile and conflict prone areas to help them get more reliable jobs.
To achieve this, leaders must invest in sectors that have high multiplier effects on employment, giving employment to youths in agribusiness, tradable services and public works programs.
In fragile zones, they can create a more effective eco-system for helping the transition from vulnerable mixed-livelihoods employment situations towards more stable work. By stimulating opportunities in micro, small and medium business development through improved access to finance, improved business development services and providing tech enabled access to broader opportunities beyond the conflict affected zones.
By 2050, Africa’s youth population is projected to reach 460 million people, six times the size of the youth population of Europe. This demographic shift will be Africa’s biggest challenge, but it also provides its most significant opportunity.
Demographic changes are placing the continent on the brink of what could bring a ‘demographic dividend’ – but only if the right action is taken at the right time. That time is now.
Its not all about gloom and doom alone, African continent has come of age
Africa’s economic pulse has quickened, infusing the continent with a new commercial vibrancy. Real GDP rose by 4.9 percent a year from 2000 through 2008, more than twice its pace in the 1980s and ’90s. Telecommunications, banking, and retailing are flourishing. Construction is booming. Private-investment inflows are surging.
To be sure, many of Africa’s 50-plus individual economies face serious challenges, including poverty, disease, and high infant mortality. Yet Africa’s collective GDP, at $1.6 trillion in 2008, is now roughly equal to Brazil’s or Russia’s, and the continent is among the world’s most rapidly growing economic regions. This acceleration is a sign of hard-earned progress and promise.
While Africa’s increased economic momentum is widely recognized, its sources and likely staying power are less understood. Soaring prices for oil, minerals, and other commodities have helped lift GDP since 2000.
Research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that resources accounted for only about a third of the newfound growth.1 The rest resulted from internal structural changes that have spurred the broader domestic economy.
Wars, natural disasters, or poor government policies could halt or even reverse these gains in any individual country. But in the long term, internal and external trends indicate that Africa’s economic prospects are strong.
Numerous examples abound of African innovators using new communication technologies to support networks of small businesses and micro-enterprises
Mobile connections are widespread across Africa. This means that there is an unprecedented opportunity to improve coordination between producers and consumers, cutting middlemen and the dominance of big retailers.
On top of this, developments in new technologies, from 3D printing to energy production through small-grids powered by renewable resources, are making SMMEs ever more competitive. From farming to manufacturing,
Yet we are at a crossroads, as we celebrate Africa Day. However, the generation that is the continent’s best hope is already being born. For Africa to rid itself from the shackles of poverty, our leaders need to make the right investment, build the right partnerships and implement the right policies.
Africa Day will only be genuinely celebrated when we eradicate poverty. If that happens, the future will be Africa’s, and the benefits will extend far beyond the continent.
This modified article was written by Rudo Kwaramba-Kayombo, the Africa Director for the ONE Campaign and first published by Mail&Guardian
Africa Day origins
Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1958. Africa Day was observed for the first time the following year when Nkwame Nkrumah called for a meeting of all independent African States.
At the time, only eight countries had gained their freedom from colonialism – Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Liberia. While Algeria and Cameroon were not free at the time, they were represented at the meeting of independent African States.
Topics on the agenda included wanting liberation and the acknowledgement of human rights after centuries of oppression. That was the start of Africa Day, at the time known as Africa Liberation Day.
African Liberation Day was celebrated on 15 April and gained traction throughout Africa and the rest of the world. Four years later, representatives from 32 African countries gathered in Abbis Ababa.
The then-71-year-old emperor Halie Selassie, who spent more than a year preparing Addis Ababa for the summit of African nations, famously said:
“May this convention of union last 1 000 years.”
The OAU was formed on 25 May 1963. It was agreed that Africa Day celebrations be moved from April to May. The OAU decided to have an annual assembly of heads of state, a council of ministers, and a commission of mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
In addition, the OAU supported the struggle for liberation in Southern Africa. The ANC and PAC received support from the OAU during the struggle. South Africa joined the OAU in 1994 after the fall of Apartheid.
On 25 May 2001, 38 years to the day after it was founded, the OAU was dissolved to be replaced by the African Union, also based in Addis Ababa.
Africa Day Theme for 2019
The Africa Day theme for 2019 is “Healthy Lifestyle Prolongs Life”. It was selected to show the link between an unhealthy lifestyle and premature mortality.
African citizens are encouraged to create awareness for the public at large. Go out and create African Unity through activities such as community projects and event to showcase African cultural diversity.