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Africa Day: Past, Present and Future

By Filipe Marçal and Nelma Andrade (from NEEA)
Translated by Sara Fernandes

This article was written in collaboration with the Núcleo de Estudos e Estudantes Africanos (NEEA)

Today Africa Day is celebrated for the 60th time. This day is commemorated annually, celebrating the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OUA). Nowadays, it is known as the African Union. The OUA was funded on May 25th, 1963, in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Although it was only funded in 1963, the idea for a project like this had existed for decades, and the First Congress of Independent African States, held in April of 1958, in Acra, capital of Ghana, can be considered as an important moment for the start of the project. This congress was summoned by Kwamw Nkrumah, Ghana’s Prime Minister and one of the founders of Pan-Africanism.

The Organization of African Unity aimed mainly to help other countries that remained under European colonial yoke in the fight for independence. Additionally, it also defended pan-African values – social and political principles that pleaded for the unification of African countries and their diaspora for the creation of an equal Africa –, fight Apartheid and promote peace, solidarity, and cooperation between African states. The goals aimed to promote the unity and solidarity of these countries, as well as the defence from the sovereignty and territorial integrity of African states. In addition, the OUA assumed an economic aspect since it also aimed to coordinate economic cooperation and development.

Later, on the 9th of July of 2002, the OUA was replaced by the African Union (AU). This replacement meant only a change in the nomenclature since the AU aimed to continue a set of propositions previously initiated by its predecessor, as well as amplify them, as to meet Africa’s current needs and challenges.

As a continental organisation made of 55 state-members that, together, encompass the whole African continent, the AU looks to promote unity, solidarity, and Africa’s development. The African Union’s vision refers to the idea of African prosperity, integration, and pacification, taken into action through goals such as economy consolidation and the guarantee of civil societies effective participation, but also by means of encouragement to the participation of the African diaspora to the construction of the unity of several ‘Africa’s’ that make up the continent.

Although it already exists in the African Continental Free Trade Area, the AU has as one of its goals to establish an economic and monetary union, including a customs unit, a common market, and a central bank. Despite looking like an almost impossible goal or, at least, extremely difficult to accomplish, both due to the differences of the economic systems and the inadequate infrastructures, and because of, of course, political issues, this is one of the AU’s main concerns. The clear manifestation of the capacity and intention to rebuild the continent is noticed through the 2063 Agenda. This agenda is an ambitious process that presents Africa’s repositioning to transform itself into a dominant factor in an international context.

The celebration of this day is extremely important, not just for African countries, but also for all the African diaspora around the world. May 25th symbolises an historical mark. This celebration takes us to a reflection and awareness of the challenges Africa faced through the course of History. Every day it becomes more important to not only value this History and this continent’s conquests, but also its diversity.

One cannot let this day go by without appealing to the importance of looking at Africa without the Eurocentric filter to which we are subjected to since kids and since having the first contact with this continent. It is essential to deconstruct every wrong perception and manipulations of history that were built with the simple purpose of perpetuating the dominance, not just ideological, but also of one over the other. A lot of these misrepresentations remain until our days and it is more and more imperative to pay attention and question ourselves about how much we know about Africa and the veracity of the facts reported.

It is important to see Africa as it really is. A continent extremely rich both in culture and in resources. Africa has every potential to assume a big role in the future of different kinds of matters. With all its richness in resources, natural and energetic, it has been seen, in a generalised way, a positive economic growth and an improvement of life quality, although not homogenic. In addition, the young and growing population, as well as the significant increase in the investment in the technological sector, further confirms this potential.

However, in the same way it is important to talk about these aspects, other less positive questions that are present in the continent cannot be ignored. Africa faces challenges such as poverty and inequality, which form a bigger concern. Plus, the conflicts and political instability that several countries face also cannot be ignored. Among other challenges that the continent is facing, climate changes take a bigger role each day, because Africa is particularly vulnerable in this aspect. Although when looking at these challenges, we should not see the continent as a ‘victim’ or as being dependent on external help for its self-sufficiency. Through its resources and talents, the continent has all the potential to overcome them, for it is also essential that there is political will. In this area, the 2063 Agenda of the African Union presents itself as the trail for a new path and the creation of a new African narrative.

The transition from the OAU to the AU represents the capacity of adaptation of the African continent to the new demands and political, social, and economic scenarios. The wishes of transformation of the African continent have been big since the consecration of the Organization of African Union. After 60 years, the African states demonstrate more and more their commitment with the improvement of the continent in various areas. To celebrate Africa Day is to reinforce the feeling of union between the continent and its diaspora, the big contributor to the change of mindset and the creation of a new Africa.

Africa is all this and, because of that, it is beautiful!

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