Africa Day, May 25, is a day set aside by member states of the African Union to mark the birthday of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU).It presents an occasion to celebrate Africa’s collective unity as well as an opportunity for reflection on ways to advance the continent’s development strategies.
The occasion this year is vital because its theme, “Fighting Corruption in Africa”, is fitting for a people who have chosen to begin to change the negative narrative of Africa internationally. The continent is regarded by international bodies as one ravaged by internal crisis, disease, poverty and corruption. There have been indications as regards wastage of resources as a result of the scourge called corruption.
The African Union has estimated that it will take 600 billion United States Dollars to fund the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is just an estimated 50 to 100 billion dollars was lost this year, 2018, to corruption in Africa.
Another vital matter that cannot be ignored or trifled with is the renewed scramble for Africa by the foreign powers on the pretext of offering economic partnership to African countries. In our opinion, African governments must play down the frenzied urge to accept economic help from anywhere. Instead, they must see the renewed interest in the continent as an opportunity to make demands from those countries on the need to right the wrongs of the past and do the needful to avert a repeat. In doing this, we expect the leaders to lay down sound rules of engagement in terms of trade and political relations among other matters.
We appreciate the visits of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May to Africa, which to all intents are geared towards enhancing economic and trade relations. It is pertinent to draw attention of African foreign policy makers to the vital aims of the AU, which include but not limited to encouraging political and economic integration among member states, as well as eradicating colonialism and neo-colonialism.
We also recall that the First Congress of Independent African States took place in Accra, Ghana on 15 April 1958. It was convened by then Prime Minister of Ghana Dr Kwame Nkrumah and attended by representatives from Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, the Union of the Peoples Of Cameroon and Ghana.
The congress addressed advancement of liberation movements on the Africa continent and showcased the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign exploitation. It was noted as the first time such a meeting took place on African soil. The Congress then called for the founding of an African Freedom Day, to be commemorated annually, which would monitor the progress of the liberation movement among others. It also laid the foundation for meetings of African heads of state and government until the formation of the OAU in 1963.
This year’s celebration of Africa Day was postponed to September 14 as a result of other pressing global activities held in May among which included the observance of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
In Nigeria we commend the African Diplomatic Group, comprising of all African Diplomatic Missions accredited to Nigeria, and the Liberian embassy in Nigeria, for making it a special period, reflecting on the founding principles of the AU.
The AU initiated the African Trade Agreement which 44 countries have already signed. As a follow up, the continental body has plans to foster a single African passport and single currency, all geared towards unifying Africa. It is our considered opinion that the federal government should use this annual celebration to forge a united front to enhance inter regional trade relations within Africa, fostering self-reliance, fight corruption, under- development in several sectors such as health, education, infrastructure and preach peace in crisis torn areas among other matters.
Africa Day is a celebration not to be taken lightly by Africans, It ought to be a period to deliberate and implement new policies in unity that will actively produce a collective development. One that will erase stereotypes about the continent and place Africa on a prominent pedestal in world affairs.