Celebrating Africa Day in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

AU Union

Africa Day

Purpose

Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) founded on the 25th May 1963. Currently known as the African Union (AU). Africa Day was formerly referred to as African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day. It is celebrated in various African countries on the continent and also around the world.

Celebrating Africa Day

Africa Day is marked to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of the OAU in the fight against colonialism and apartheid, as well as the progress that Africa has made, while reflecting upon the common challenges that the continent face in modern politics, health, economic and culture.

Africa Day was observed for the first time in April 1958 following Ghana’s independence in 1957, when Ghana’s Nkwame Nkrumah called for a meeting of all independent African States. At the time only eight countries had gained freedom from colonialism: Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Liberia. The Day is now a public holiday in nine African countries commemorating the foundation of the OAU- 25 May.

At first, Africa Liberation Day was celebrated on 15 April and gained traction throughout Africa and around the world. Four years later-1963, 32 African countries gathered in Addis Ababa. Emperor Halie Selassie of Addis Ababa famously told the delegates that: “May this convention of union last 1000 years “. Following the formation of the OAU it was agreed 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.

Making Way for the African Union

The African Union (AU) was proposed when majority of the OAU signed the Constitutive Act in July 2001. The AU was officially launched in Durban South Africa on July 2002, replacing the OAU.

Key differences between the OAU and the new AU is that the AU was proposed as a union of peoples rather than of leaders of Africa. Women were virtually absent from the former OAU, holding no position of influence within the OAU during its 39 years of existence. The AU also came with the inclusion of the principles of democracy, gender equality, good governance, and the rule of law in the its Constitutive Act.

Each year Africa Day is celebrated with a theme, the 2019 theme was: “Healthy Lifestyle Prolong Life” selected to show a link between an unhealthy lifestyle and premature mortality. During this month South African citizens are encouraged to create awareness for the public at large. To go out and create African Unity through activities such as community projects and event to showcase African cultural diversity.

Africa Month also seeks to increase the appreciation and demand for arts and culture goods and services, and to stimulate competitive markets for trade among African countries.

"Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!"- Thabo Mbeki