I wish to welcome you all and express my appreciation and gratitude to all those who have in their various ways made arrangements to commemorate this Africa Day. I know many of us hold commemorative events on the continent, and outside, to mark this very important Day on the African calendar. May you continue to do so in the coming years. I also wish to thank our guests and friends who always spare time to celebrate with us, this priced and momentous occasion for the people of Africa.
As we celebrate the 52nd Anniversary of our organisation, it is indeed a great opportunity for us, the African continent, to pay solemn homage and tribute to the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union. On 25 May 1963, these great visionaries took the historic stride and formed an institution that would be the vanguard of the African people’s aspirations for freedom, unity and solidarity. This Day would not have been possible without the sacrifices of the the founding fathers and those of the African heroes and heroines who fought to liberate our continent from the vestiges of colonialism, racism and apartheid. Today, we are free because of the sacrifices they made.
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
As we mark this important Day, it is necessary to reflect on this year’s African Union theme, aptly coined as “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. The choice of the theme is quite deliberate and revealing. The African Union has taken a great leap in gender equality, specifically on women empowerment and development, out of the realisation that, women, the world over, are the cornerstone of stability and social progress. While women have made tremendous achievements, they sadly often remain unsung heroines. Women have left indelible marks in the history of the struggle against slavery, in the struggle for civil rights and in our wars of liberation.
In recognition of the role of women as a driving force for change and development, most Member States have therefore moved to mainstream gender issues into their national laws and development programmes. The instruments and frameworks that have been put in place for the empowerment and elevation of women cover various spheres of social interaction and development, ranging from governance, politics, and access to justice, education, health and ownership of the means of production.
Informing these transformative decisions is the realisation that Women of Africa are a formidable asset in achieving sustainable, social and economic development, as well as the eradication of poverty, hunger and disease. It is for this reason that African leaders chose this Theme in order to acknowledge the central role of women in implementing Agenda 2063 as well as to reinforce gains already made, and chart new frontiers for women, with the African Union playing an enabling role.
The efforts we have exerted are bearing fruit as we have recently seen women occupying important leadership positions. We have had women elected Presidents. Our continental body is being led by a woman, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. These are achievements which other regions still aspire to. While we appreciate these achievements, we must also accept that we need to do much more in the area of woman empowerment and development.
Your Excellencies, It is heartening to note that the African Union has made great strides both politically and economically to create an environment that safeguards the future of Africa. Through the African Peace and Security architecture, the Union continues to work tirelessly, in collaboration with our partners, to foster peace and security across the continent. The establishment of the African Stand by Force, intended to guarantee peace and security on the continent, becomes more urgent and imperative. It is heartening and encouraging that some of our regional standby forces have now reached full operational capability. We urge those who have not yet done so, to redouble their efforts so that the African-Stand-By Force is operationalised without further delay.
In the economic sphere, the African Union remains focused on attaining economic integration of the continent, as defined in the Abuja Treaty of 1991. The Treaty remains relevant, as it recognises the efficacy of economic integration as a necessary strategy for sustainable socio-economic development in Africa.
Africa is richly endowed with vast natural resources which, if harnessed in accordance with our vision, Agenda 2063, will improve the livelihoods of the peoples of Africa, through the rapid eradication of hunger, poverty and disease.
As Africans, we must leverage these abundant and diverse resources for our benefit. Time has come for us to industrialise our economies and move away from the continued exportation of our raw materials at very low prices for beneficiation and value addition in other continents, only to return to Africa as finished goods at very high prices.
Early this year, Africa adopted its Economic Blue Print, Agenda 2063, which will be implemented in Five Ten-Year Plans. Africa will, next month, adopt the first Ten-Year-Plan under Agenda 2063. The AU Summit to be held in South Africa, is a watershed Summit in the sense that Africa will henceforth proceed in an integrated and planned manner. The regional groups have already started to draw their development plans aligned to Agenda 2063. This is a welcome development.
As a Union, we must build an Africa that is prosperous, an Africa that is economically integrated, and politically guided by the ideals of Pan Africanism, an Africa that subscribes to democracy, respects human rights, and respects the rule of law. We must have a peaceful and secure Africa, an Africa with its own cultural identity, common heritage and shared values, an Africa whose development is based on the creativity of its people, particularly its youth and women.
As we celebrate Africa Day, lets us acknowledge the challenges that face us. We therefore have to devise collective strategies and measures to overcome conflict, insecurity and terrorism. We must work tirelessly to end conflict and insecurity. We therefore welcome the recent peace agreement in Mali and urge other conflict areas to lay down their arms and settle their differences through dialogue and negotiation. This is the only way to make lasting peace which is the essential ingredient to development and prosperity.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Early this year, Africa addressed the issues of the AU’s over-dependence on its international cooperating partners. The AU Summit decided that this was neither desirable nor sustainable. It was therefore decided that new and innovative ways of generating revenue be found so that within five years, the African Union should be able to fund 100% of its operational budget, 75% of programme budget and at least, 25% for its peace keeping operations. These are targets that AU Member States have committed themselves to achieving so as to give themselves greater ownership of their organisation.
While the liberation agenda of OAU/AU has largely been achieved, let us not forget our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara, who are still fighting for their independence and self-determination. Theirs is the last outpost of colonial occupation in Africa which has to be dismantled in fulfilment of the vision of our founding fathers, to fight for a fully independent and sovereign Africa.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that during this year of empowerment of women, benchmarks must be set and measures taken to ensure that we lay an irreversible roadmap towards the full empowerment of women, and with it, the total empowerment of our nations, our regions, and our continent.
Pamberi ne Africa
Long live the African Union
Long live Pan Africanism
I thank you.