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The African Union Flag
The African Union Flag

A Background on Africa Day

Leo Vaccaro |Photo Sourced from Wikimedia

Africa Day (also known as African Liberation Day) celebrates the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was established in 1963. It is also a day to acknowledge the progress of African states including their past and present challenges. In that time period the organisation consisted of 30, out of 32, independent African states. The OAU was the precursor to the African Union, which is now comprised of 53 state members. Historically, Africa Day can be linked to the global political shift which was to recognise human rights and independence that flowed from the end of World War II. Accordingly, between 1945 and 1965 many African states struggled for independence from their colonial regimes. In the spirit of this, the demarcation of Africa Day was, amongst other things, to serve to forge a common goal of fighting against colonial and rule.

This year, Africa Day will be hosted in Tshwane, South Africa by The Human Sciences Research Council with many partners (Tshwane University of Technology, National Research Foundation and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation just to name a few). Typically, Africa Day will have a particular theme – this year the theme is “2015 and Beyond: Engaging Agenda 2063”.  This theme will address the adoption of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by some African states in 2000. This day will be one to evaluate the progress that has been made since the adoption of the MDGs and set new targets for the years to come. Admittedly, the achievement of the MDGs has been set back by global economic and security issues as well as conflicts occurring in parts of Africa.  However, most notably, the key problem that constrains African states from achieving the MDGs is the way in which African governance and institutions are structured and upheld. In general, the Africa Day Expo will set out new goals, potential international and corporate partnerships and research-based scholarly reflection which is premised on the achievement of

1. The adoption of appropriate and effective principles and processes (human rights and good governance) in order to enable achievement of desired outcomes;

2. Addressing all aspects of economic, social and environmental sustainability; and

3. Ensuring that aggregate indicators are decentralized to the appropriate level, so that for instance urban areas can be distinguished from rural and peripheral areas.

While the 2015 Africa Day Expo in Tshwane will be the site for the main celebration of Africa Day, what about the other channels in which it is celebrated? Africa Day is not entirely comprised of a series of conferences and meetings that are exclusively for the realm of the upper echelons of governance. Africa Day is also widely known in African countries to be a celebration of African identity, culture, and life. Festivals from Cape to Cairo are held to commemorate this day and everything it is to be African and to live in Africa.

Unfortunately, while attempting to conduct interviews pertaining to Africa Day many students at Rhodes are unaware of this day. But there is no doubt that it gains popularity and recognition exponentially with each coming year. Perhaps next year Rhodes could also be a part of this continent-wide celebration by hosting a festival in honour of Africa Day. It is only a speculation, but it is not unlikely that soon Africa Day could become a national holiday that South Africa recognises.

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