Africa Day must prompt reflection on progress

Fifty-Three years ago today, the founders of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and later African Union, showed great purpose in leading the world against colonisation and apartheid.

Inspired by the few African states which had gained independence, the founders were driven by the aspiration of Africans for freedom, self-determination and independence from colonial rule.

Africa Day is meant to honour and celebrate and inspire us to question who we are as Africans and offers a platform from which to reflect on the past in order to craft a today and a future that strives for the success and development of Africa and its people.

As we celebrate this day, it is imperative that we look at how far Africa has come since that day in 1963 when leaders of 32 African states converged on Ethiopia’s Addis Abbaba and formed the OAU to plot its revolution against colonial rule and imperialism.

Central to the convergence of these leaders was the resolve to be free from a system that stripped them of mineral resources and human dignity.

Are Africans free from racism, oppression, poverty, inequality and imperialism – economically and culturally? Do Africans have access to education, housing, healthcare and water?

Have we changed our selfdefinition from that of an African living under the shadow of the Western culture to one that embraces African humanity through adopting our traditional African beliefs that promote ubuntu or botho?

Ubuntu is a way of life that is unique to Africans. The concept means we are interconnected and promotes a communal relationship.

It suggests pride in and respect of otherness and oneness; aspects which become central to the unity that Africans seek.

African languages explain aspects of traditional literature, riddles, folk stories and myths, which encapsulate who we are as Africans. The question that must therefore be asked is what progress Africans are making in safeguarding African languages, cultures and customs?

Media imperialism has subjugated Africa through transnational media organisations which shape communication and thought which favours Western interest.

It is perhaps in issues of democracy and governance that Africa has been most assessed and criticised.

Do we live in a more peaceful and just continent whose leaders are democratically elected and represent the will of the people?

Here more than most, the OAU and later the AU, has a mixed score.

The AU has had some successes in collaborating with the international community in minimising conflict in some countries and resolving post-election violence in countries like Ivory Coast and Kenya, and forcing military coup makers to hand back power.

The AU still struggles to resolve many of the continent’s problems and seems helpless against the numerous genocides, coup d’états, conflicts and abuses of power that take place at the hands of many of the dictators.

Africa is plagued by postcolonial and neo-colonial issues, including that it has failed to unifyits economic institutions for the benefit of the continent.

Africans around the world are still subjected to racism, inequality and oppression.

Imperialism still has a stranglehold on the continent; whether it’s in the form of Shell Oil, the blood diamonds in Sierra Leone and the devastating financial stranglehold of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on developing countries.

The AU is still young and perhaps its impact on the African continent can be better assessed in a few more years to come.

Pinky Khoabane

Where the OAU sought unity against colonisation, the challenge for the AU is integration if we are to move forward.

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