26 May 2014
South Africa joined the rest of the continent in commemorating Africa Day on Sunday.
Africa Day, held on 25 May each year, marks the anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU), by 32 governments in 1963.
Twenty other nations gradually joined the founder states over time. South Africa became the 53rd member of the AU on 23 May 1994.
Since its inception, the African Union has advocated for enhanced cooperation and unity of the continent.
“This has manifested in a shared commitment towards inclusive economic growth for Africans in the continent,” the South African government said in a statement on Sunday
“The AU has also been at the forefront in finding solutions to poverty and famine. It has stood firm in the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states, while striving to promote international cooperation and eradication of any form of colonisation and terrorism.”
Many African countries, including South Africa, owe their independence from colonialism in large part to the efforts and solidarity of the OAU. Through its efforts, apartheid South Africa was expelled from the United Nations and remained isolated internationally until 1994, when the first democratically elected government came into power.
“All Africans should be rightly proud of the strides that have been made since the formation of the Organisation of African Unity 51 years ago,” Phumla Williams, the Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), said on Sunday.
“The continent’s focus has changed from liberation to development, integration and socio-economic growth. Africa’s economic growth is on track and has in many cases surpassed the global average.”
Despite these strides, however, the continent faces huge challenges in ensuring food security and finding ways to combat climate change.
“South Africa congratulates our African counterparts for rising up to the challenges of the 21st century with vigour and determination so that a better life can be created for all the people of the continent,” Williams said.
She added that South Africa joined the rest of the continent and the world in condemning the recent “cowardly acts of terrorism in Nigeria … We call for the immediate release of the 276 girl children who were abducted by Boko Haram, and join the world in the call to bring back our girls.”