Why do we still celebrate Africa Day?

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Sophia Shaningwa

We celebrate the rich and diverse history of our continent and its people as we remember the launch of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963 in Ethiopia. For many years, this day has always represented a celebration of African unity.

On this day we must raise political awareness and consciousness about the state of affairs in Africa and the self-determination of its people to be liberated economically.

As we are celebrating Africa, we must be reminded of what the founding fathers of the OAU and later the African Union (AU) had envisaged when they formed these bodies. Among other things, the AU has the following purposes:

To promote the unity and solidarity of African states; to eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; and accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent.
We must all work together to pursue these objectives and build a better Africa. One can therefore say without any fear of contradiction that Africa Day derives its value from the message of unity it carries.

The fundamental question that I would like to ask this day is: Why do we continue to celebrate Africa Day? Three distinct reasons can be provided. Firstly, we celebrate the launch in Addis Ababa 54 years ago by the Heads of State and Government of independent African states, and witnessed by leaders of African liberation movements, including SWAPO. While on this point, let me remind you that our Founding President His Excellency Dr Sam Nujoma, attended the launch of the OAU in Ethiopia, in 1963 in his capacity as then-President of SWAPO. Hence, although Namibia was a colony then, we are indeed a part of that illustrious history.

Secondly, Africa Day allows us to celebrate significant political, social and economic achievements since the establishment of the OAU.

Last but not least, Africa Day allows us to pay tribute to the heroes and heroines of our continent who sacrificed their precious lives to defeat colonialism and apartheid in the protection of sovereignty and human dignity. Moreover, Africa Day presents us an opportunity to reflect on the state of the continent, and the individual as well as collective roles each of us has to play for the realisation of Africa’s integration.

Over the many years that the African people were struggling for the total independence of Africa from colonialism and apartheid, our focus on Africa Day was the desire for liberation. Our mood was sombre, but now that we have achieved our main goal, our mood is jubilant as we celebrate our achievements.

However, the fact that today all 54 African countries fly their own flags and sing their own national anthems should not blind us to the challenges we are still faced with and the need to continue pulling together in a bid to rid our continent of the legacy of colonisation once and for all.

In January 2015, the African Heads of State and Government adopted Agenda 2063, which is the development blueprint for Africa and outlines our commitment to eradicate poverty on the continent. Agenda 2063 is “… both a Vision and an Action Plan. It is a call for action to all segments of African society to work together to build a prosperous and united Africa based on shared values and a common destiny.”

The AU Assembly in January also adopted the first Ten Year Plan which implements and makes practical the Agenda 2063. It is my wish that as we implement the programmes of the Fourth National Development Plan and the Ten Year Plan, we will continue to reduce poverty on our continent. Therefore, it is of utmost significance that we inform ourselves about Agenda 2063 and the Ten Year Plan. While preparing ourselves towards the Agenda 2063, we must make sure that our youth are groomed academically, economically, socially as well as politically both at home and Africa at large to enable them to take over from us.

Furthermore, in order to sustain our peace and stability, it is imperative that we pull together and protect our most precious asset, that is our peace and stability here at home and Africa at large. It is against this background that I really appreciate the presence of all of you.

Long live the continent of Africa, long live the Republic of Namibia. May the good Lord bless Africa abundantly. In a nutshell, let us build a united and prosperous greater Africa by 2063.
*This was the address by the Minister of Urban and Rural Development, Sophia Shaningwa, on the occasion of the celebration of Africa Day on 25 May at Eenhana in Ohangwena region.

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