By Petronella Sibeene
Close to 500 people on Sunday night converged at a local hotel for the annual observance of Africa Day – a day that offers an opportunity to reflect on the continent’s prospects and plight.
The event marked the 45th year of the historic establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) formed in 1963.
Diplomats, Africans residing in Namibia, politicians, prominent figures in different sectors and captains of industries, attended the event organised by the African Group of Heads of Mission accredited to Namibia.
“This is a day to take stock of our achievements and assessment of where we are and where we should be to bring about a strongly united and prosperous Africa,” Acting Dean of the African Group and also Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia, Norman Moleboge, said.
The Africa night was held under the banner, “Towards the realisation of the African Agenda: Meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water and Sanitation”.
Guest of honour at the Africa night and Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Hage Geingob, urged Africans to be positive about Africa.
He said the continent’s history is eloquent and achievements have been made at different levels.
Africa has an abundance of resources and its strength for development lies in the unity of purpose among Africans, Geingob said.
“We cannot sit everywhere and cry about how bad Africa is. The entire humanity of Africa was enslaved without a marshal plan by Europeans to help Africa out of the traumatic situation,” he added.
Geingob said Africa is the richest continent in terms of resources but Africans are the poorest. Time has therefore come for Africa to revisit the issue of redistribution of resources, he added.
“It does not make sense to be poor when you have so much,” he reiterated.
Moleboge said this year’s theme is significant as it portrays African governments’ determination to step up efforts in solving problems related to water and sanitation – vital ingredients of healthy living on the continent.
Africa is faced with many challenges, among them the increasing disease burden attributed to environmental deterioration, extreme poverty and inadequate personal and community hygiene.
Moleboge confirmed that despite being endowed with numerous natural resources that would enable Africa to compete fairly well at international level, Africa is still lagging behind in terms of development.
“We are still beset with enormous challenges of poverty, diseases, HIV/AIDS prevalence, ethnic and religious intolerance and political tensions which are self-inflicted but sometimes come from outside our borders,” he said.
Under such conditions, the current crop of African leaders decided to create the African Union and adopted the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a paradigm shift for development.
However, Director of the Forum for the Future of Africa, Saunders Jumah, said in a statement that 45 years after the formation of the OAU now the African Union, the forum sits with worry on the future of the continent.
“Instead of rejoicing Africa, today we are weeping, bleeding and dying from rampant problems that emanate from both social economical as well as political and governance issues,” said Jumah.
With skyrocketing commodity prices, high interest rates and generally the high cost of living on the continent, Jumah says the 833 million Africans risk halving their population and see a multiplication of poverty by 2015.
The forum lamented that there have been a number of resolutions and charters passed and signed since the 1960s with less action on the ground.
“Half a century (later) Africa is yet to fulfil true democracy,” he commented.
He added, “Perhaps time has come to advise and appeal to policymakers at all levels to adopt a new policy “the chamber of mindset change and potential development”.
Jumah further cautioned, if Africans could change their mindset of vengeance, retribution, hatred, revenge, personality cult, etc, there would be no wars, divisions, discrimination and separation among Africans.
“We cannot let our continent fall in ruins of bloodshed because of the legacy of the Europeans which was planted in the continent … when they were dividing the continent for their benefit, we know and believe that ever since that time Africans have internalised the differences these Europeans foisted on us,” he said.
Also the Pan Africa Centre of Namibia (PACON) reminded Africans that the struggle for the continent’s liberation is far from over.
The centre in a statement said no African country should call itself free and independent if it has not attained economic freedom for the entire masses of its people.
PACON urged the Namibian Government to speedily address issues of poverty in the country, adding that Namibians fought the struggle never to live in poverty but plenty.
The centre added that no person on the continent should die from curable diseases.
“Each African country plays a practical and meaningful role in ensuring that Africa moves towards continental integration,” the statement read.
This will promote inter-Africa trade, sharing resources and promoting food security in Africa.
However, social commentator, Paul Helmut, feels the continent cannot at present merge as a United States of Africa.
Among the many factors he pointed out, Uncle Paul, as he is commonly known, says African leaders have not come to their senses on what it means to be independent.
“There are wars all over the continent and unity as suggested by Nkwame Nkrumah is not there. Many leaders have opted for financial independence, which they have mismanaged,” he added.
Until such a time when leaders stop being glued to their seats and allow others to govern, there will be no unity, he reiterated.
“No one can present a model for Africa. We have to come up with our own ideas but time is not yet right (for the United States of Africa),” Uncle Paul said.