Focus on the inherent value of Africa Day

Africa Day is dedicated to the celebration of the rich cultural diversity.

Africa Day is dedicated to the celebration of the rich cultural diversity.

Published May 19, 2024



Saturday, May 25, marks the 61st annual Africa Day.

The day celebrates the founding of the historical Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor to the AU, back in 1963.

May is also hailed as African Month across our beautiful continent, in honour of the founding fathers, and mothers, of the OAU.

Africa Day, at its essence, is dedicated to the celebration of the rich cultural diversity, the expansive economic potential and the tremendous triumphs achieved by the nations of Africa.

It is not only celebrated in various African countries, but also across the diaspora.

At its onset, it was a celebration and commemoration of the boundless strides made by the OAU in the fight against colonialism and apartheid.

One of its key objectives is to acknowledge the progress that has been made in Africa since, while reflecting upon the common challenges faced by the continent in the broader global context of today.

The theme for this year’s Africa Day, presented by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, alongside the pre-launch of the AU, is to “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality and relevant learning in Africa”.

In the 1960s, at the time of the initiation of the OAU, only 17 African countries had achieved independence. The OAU was instilled through the collaborative efforts of many prominent intellectual heads of state who were also leading pan-Africanists, among them Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Sékou Touré of Guinea and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia.

They collectively took up the cause of advancing the pan-Africanist movement, whose agenda was to collaborate as they fought for the liberation of Africa from colonial domination.

Today, Africa Day is dedicated to the founding members of the OAU, whose dream was to strive for the attainment of a united Africa at peace with itself.

They sought to build a new Africa that would represent a dynamic force in the global arena and, more especially, fight against all forms of imperialism.

During Africa month, numerous events are held all over the world in order to showcase the victories of the African liberation movements, and to immortalise the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign exploitation and subjugation.

They also inspire countless pan-African revolutionary movements such as Robert Sobukwe’s PAC, Steve Biko’s Black Consciousness Movement, and the Africa Women Conference, the activism of globally regarded “founding mother of Pan-Africanism” Alice Kinloch, as well as the work of Jeanne Cissé in Guinea.

Pan-Africanism has, and continues to have, a significant impact inside Africa and in the African diaspora. It is the promotion of a shared identity, a sense of community and a shared brotherhood that bolsters collaboration and overall development among African people all over the world.

In the modern era, pan-Africanism largely takes place in the digital world. Thanks to the internet, countless tools are created to better learn, practice and share information and ideals. Ultimately, Africans across the world are transgressing the boundaries of space and time in advancing the objectives of the pan-Africanist movement.

The rate of exchange of ideas, values, knowledge and entrepreneurship is higher today than ever before.

What then could be hindering the progression and demonstration of true pan-Africanism in the world? A key challenge within pan-African discourses is that the African political class is suspected to govern according to Western models and interests, with no “contextualised” development projects, and an intentional dismissal of the needs and voices of African populations.

Opposition parties, the media and independent thinkers are oftentimes violently suppressed, leading to a shrinking intellectual space for genuine dialogue and critical thinking.

Authentic pan-Africanism rejects the notion that human rights are dispensed from the top by governments. Rather, it demands that citizens exercise constant vigilance, make an active and informed effort to collaborate with Africans to bolster development and to acknowledge the inherent commonalities that African people share in order to propel democracy and unity of purpose.

Africa, and its descendants, is extremely diverse.

The continent is crammed full of unparalleled resources and minerals. It is for this reason that African nations (and the control of their resources) has been rivalled over for centuries.

Foreign interference and nefarious powers rely on instability in African nations in order to further their own abominable causes.

It is high time that African people use the resources at their fingertips to fight for their land, their people and their interests.

Pan-Africanism is not only a socio-political and cultural movement, but also an economic, political and developmental movement that views Africans all over the globe as a single entity.

It speaks directly to continental integration and economic freedom. African people have the ability to empower themselves, influence the society around them and shape the futures that they want to see.

As powerfully said by revolutionary activist and author of “The Azanian”, Thabiso Monkoe: “The reason why lions hunt successfully as a pride, is reason enough for Africans to unite.”

Tswelopele Makoe is a Gender & Social Justice Activist, published weekly in the Sunday Independent, IOL (Independent Online), Global South Media Network (GSMN), Sunday Tribune and Eswatini Daily News. She is also an Andrew W. Mellon scholar, pursuing an MA Ethics at UWC, and affiliated with the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. The views expressed are her own.