The month of May is recognized as Africa month – a time when the continent of Africa commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Celebrated on the 25th May since its establishment in 1963 – Africa Day as it is now known, marks the beginning of a quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of its people as well as co-operation among them.
As part of the celebrations, Brand South Africa in collaboration with its stakeholders will host dialogues on Africa Day, Constitutional Awareness and the role of the creative arts in fostering democratic values throughout the country.
Follow the conversations on social media #SANationBrand for more information on the dialogues.
Some interesting facts about Africa Day;
Five years later on May 25, 1963, following the sentiments of the conference held in Ghana, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie. The OAU was formed in a meeting seating over thirty African nations with the aim to influence the decolonization of African countries including Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, and Southern Rhodesia. The organisation covenanted to support freedom fighters and remove military access to colonial nations, and a charter was established to improve the livelihood of member states across Africa, where Selassie pledged, “May this convention of union last 1,000 years.”
The first Conference of Independent African States convened on April 15, 1958, in Ghana and further encouraged and stamped a common African identity of unity and fighting against colonialism. The conference further called for the observance of African Freedom Day once a year to mark, “The onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolise the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.” April 15th was therein enacted as African Freedom Day or Africa Liberation Day, and countries all over the continent celebrate and mark the commemoration each year, with South Africa celebrating its Freedom Day on April 27th of each year.
From South Africa, the liberation party against Apartheid Rule, the African National Congress (ANC) could not formally attend the first Conference of Independent African States in Ghana as it was prevented by the ruling apartheid government. However, a memorandum was sent to the conference. On behalf of the party, was a member of the ANC in the Transvaal and a 1956 Treason Trialist, Alfred Hutchinson, who left the country after his acquittal, and attended the AAPC (All African People’s Conference), which was held a few months later.
South Africa only became part of the Organisation of the African Union (OAU) in 1994 following the end of Apartheid rule, where 21 more member states had joined the OAU since its foundation in 1963. Thirty-eight years after its formation, the OAU evolved into the African Union (AU) on May 25, 2001, where South Africa paved the way as a founding member. Although the organisation of the AU remains headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, its legislative arm, the Pan-African Parliament, is situated in Midrand, South Africa.
Upon welcoming the sitting of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the first woman chair of the UA Commission, many argued that the continent was not ready for a woman to take that position. However, Dlamini-Zuma managed leaps in her tenure and cracked the assumption that women are incapable of being involved in the continental organisation.
Opportunities for two more women out of five candidates, who are in the running for succeeding Dlamini-Zuma’s position as the AU Commission’s Chairperson. This indicates that she has laddered up on the advocacy of women’s involvement in the AU and in continuing the fundamental objectives of Africa Day.
During her tenure, Dlamini-Zuma made women’s rights the theme of two consecutive AU summits, where the continental body started a major campaign to end child marriage, which has seen notable results. While the success of the campaigns relies on the implementation by member states, she did manage to get political buy-in for the plan and popularise it.
Following up to the implementation plans, the President of the Republic of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, hosted a high-level breakfast on the Implementation of the Common African Position on Ending Child Marriage in Africa in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC).
January of 2017 marked the launch of Africa’s continent-wide public health agency, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), which was established to help African member states of the African Union to respond to public health emergencies. The African Union Assembly of Heads of State authorised an annual contribution from the overall African Union operating budget for 2016 to safeguard Africa’s health, seeing the importance of public as an impactful element on national, social and economic development.
The need for an Africa CDC is to safeguard the required support to African countries in their monitoring and response methodologies to public health threats as was recognised by the African Union in 2013 and formalised in 2015.
An Emergency Operations Center has also been set up at the Addis Ababa Headquarters, where 10 highly qualified epidemiologists are ready to monitor for disease threats across the continent. The epidemiologists will be responsible for disease surveillance, analysis, investigations, and reporting trends and anomalies from the continent, and all information on the surveyed public health threats will be shared with international networks.
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