In a bid to creating societal awareness of and constituency for ‘African unity’, South African President Jacob Zuma on Sunday marked Africa Day, pledging to make Africa a continent of hope for the youth and future generations.
“Africa Day is a celebration of African progress. We have a lot to celebrate and we have a lot to look forward to. It is also a day to reflect on challenges that still remain,” Zuma said on the occasion of the Africa Day celebrations in Mamelodi, Pretoria.
Africa Day is celebrated annually within the African continent to mark the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963 and the African Union (AU) in 2002.
Leaders of the continent, on Africa Day, also take stock of the AU’s strengths and weaknesses as an intergovernmental organisation designed to promote the pan-African agenda politically and economically.
“We continue to work together as Africans to find solutions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, the Central African Republic and other parts of the continent facing challenges such as Burundi in recent weeks,” said Zuma referring to the unrest in Burundi.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term has sparked a crisis, with the unrest provoking an attempted military coup on May 13.
The South African President in Pretoria on Sunday invoked continental solidarity for common development.
“Africa Day is a celebration of African unity and a reminder that we should never lose sight of that noble goal of the founding leaders of the OAU,” Zuma said.
Decolonisation in South Africa where racism was institutionalised, was a major achievement of the African Union.
“We also at the same time celebrate the solidarity and friendship provided by South Africans in many townships and villages to African nationals who came to settle in our country in search of opportunities even at the height of apartheid colonialism,” he added.
Zuma’s speech was also aimed at reassuring foreigners from other African countries that the attacks against immigrants have stopped.
Seven people were killed and thousands of foreigners displaced during the violent attacks in April. Government estimates that there are more than five million immigrants in the country
South Africa has for decades been home to many African nationals, Zuma said.
“We are happy to be joined by nationals from these countries at this celebration. “We became one people, and shall remain one people, living together in peace and friendship at all times.”
Africa Day, Zuma said, is also a “celebration of the strides that Africa has made since the establishment of the OAU in advancing peace and stability, democracy and sustainable development”.
“Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world. It is our expectation that this important AU Summit will also serve as the platform for African leaders to deliberate decisively on the reform of the United Nations and other institutions of global governance,” Zuma said.
Sub-Saharan Africa’s expansion is forecast at 4.5 percent in 2015 and 5.1 percent next year, according to the International Monetary Fund, as nations build roads, power plants and water systems to meet the demands of the world’s second-most populous continent.
TBP and Agencies