Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), presently recognised as the African Union (AU).
Africa Day 2016 is being celebrated in furtherance of the AU’s theme for this year: “Human rights, with a particular focus on the rights of women”.
The day demonstrates the commitment of African leaders to place women – as key drivers and enablers – at the front and centre of all efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the AU’s Agenda 2063.
A statement from the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, said both frameworks shared similar strategic principles, with a focus on people, prosperity, environmental sustainability, justice, human rights and mutually accountable partnerships.
He said the alignment between the global and the continental agendas called for a harmonised approach in planning, implementation and monitoring.
Under Agenda 2063, Africa’s priorities include investing in its people, with an emphasis on women and the youth; developing manufacturing and agro-processing; building transport, water, sanitation, energy and ICT infrastructure; domestic resource mobilisation and stemming illicit financial flows; ending conflict; promoting human rights and expanding democratic governance.
Mr Ban said Africa also had the opportunity to pursue industrialisation in a more environmentally sustainable manner, including through climate-smart agriculture, renewable energy and arresting deforestation.
He encouraged African nations and their partners to spare no effort in advancing these priorities, saying the UN was committed in its support.
Africa’s economic prospects
“Africa’s economic prospects are good, despite the uncertain global economic landscape. Growth is projected to increase to 4.4 per cent in 2016, from 3.7 per cent in 2015. I urge Africa’s leaders to use these gains to address rising social and economic inequalities and ensure that no African is left behind,” he added.
He said that was crucial for tackling the root causes of conflicts, terrorism and violent extremism and fostering peace and stability.
“I also commend Africa’s bold initiative on ‘Silencing the Guns by 2020’ which is one of the flagship projects of Agenda 2063’s First Ten-Year Implementation Plan,” he said.
Mr Ban said the successful implementation of these new agendas would require a renewed partnership for development cooperation among African governments, UN entities, the AU Commission, the NEPAD Agency, the regional economic communities and the development partners.
He said the private sector also had a key role to play in creating jobs, promoting innovation in technologies and services and supporting the massive infrastructure transition needed to fulfil Africa’s sustainable development objectives.
“On this Africa Day, I urge all stakeholders to rally behind the transformative vision set out in the SDGs and Agenda 2063. What is good for Africa is good for the world,” he said.
In 2002, the OAU established its own successor, the AU. However, the name and the date of Africa Day have been retained as a celebration of African unity.
Africa Day is observed as a public holiday in six African countries — Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
However, celebrations are held in some African countries, as well as by Africans in the Diaspora.