Africa Day celebrates unity, women's role in independence

Africa marked the 60th anniversary of the African Union (AU) on Thursday, known as Africa Day, a celebration that highlights the significant contributions of women who fought for Africa's independence, battled apartheid, and opposed colonial rule.

This Africa Day, the focus has been on celebrating the often-overlooked women who played instrumental roles in Africa's independence.

The AU, in a statement on Thursday during the celebrations, encouraged everyone to learn more about the remarkable heroines of Africa's independence movement and share their stories.

"This Africa Day, we remember the often-forgotten women of Africa's independence movement instrumental in fighting apartheid and ending colonial rule. We encourage you to learn more about them and share with us female heroes from Africa's liberation movements," the AU said.

The resilience and determination of the heroines remain a source of inspiration for the current generation and serve as a reminder of the important role women play in shaping Africa's future.

In his address, AU Chairperson Moussa Faki paid tribute to the visionary leaders who laid the foundation for Africa's development.

Faki highlighted the AU's commitment to resolving conflicts and promoting peace on the continent.

While acknowledging the challenges Africa faces, Faki also highlighted the continent's resilience and progress.

"Let us rely on ourselves first. The solidarity of our friends and partners will also come to supplement. Long live Africa, long live the friendship between peoples," he said.

The 60th anniversary of the AU highlighted some of the organization's notable achievements that have developed the continent.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) stands out as a landmark initiative aiming to create the world's largest free trade area.

It aims to promote intra-African trade, stimulate economic growth, and enhance Africa's global competitiveness and has the potential to uplift millions out of poverty and accelerate sustainable development throughout the continent.

AU's anniversary commemorates the historic gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963, where 32 heads of independent African states and leaders from African liberation movements charted a path toward Africa's complete independence from imperialism, colonialism, and apartheid.

African unity

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa called for continued African unity saying, "We know that when we are united, we can overcome even the greatest of difficulties."

Addressing Africa Day celebrations at the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng province, Ramaphosa said the worst health emergency of COVID-19 did not destroy Africa because Africans came together and acted as one.

He said, "There were well-founded fears that African countries with low levels of development would be devastated."

He said Africa united and set up a groundbreaking platform to procure medical supplies for African countries and appointed envoys to mobilize resources to help countries fight the pandemic.

"When vaccines became available, we set up a mechanism to acquire them for African countries in need," he said.

Ramaphosa said Africa's collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic gave new momentum to the cause of African integration.

"We learned the importance of collaboration between African countries and that if we work together, we can rebuild our economies, restore hope to our people and chart a new future for Africa," Ramaphosa said.
In Zambia, President Hakainde Hichilema pardoned 1,530 inmates in commemoration of Africa Day.

Leading various activities around the country, Hichilema laid wreaths at the country's Freedom Statue in honor of late freedom heroes and heroines.

Hichilema later held an investiture ceremony at State House, where the honored living and past citizens that had exhibited bravery in serving the nation.

Bintou Keita, the special representative of the UN Secretary-General in the DRC, said resilience is a characteristic of the African people as well as their rich culture.

In a speech on Thursday, she called for remembering "the tremendous power of African unity for peace and prosperity."

This celebration "reminds us that solidarity is the best guarantee for peace and prosperity," Keita said.

In terms of prosperity, African nations have already achieved "great success," according to Abdoul Salam Bello, executive secretary of the World Bank.

He welcomed the establishment of "the largest free trade area in the world" by presaging "a promising future" for Africa.

In Rwanda, the day was marked under the theme "Acceleration of AfCFTA (the African Continental Free Trade Area). Implementation: Achievement Made and Challenges to Overcome."

The event was organized by the Pan African Movement Rwanda chapter.

"The celebration of African Liberation Day is an opportunity for governments, academia, the private sector, and civil society to reflect on our journey towards achieving an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa," Shakilla Umutoni, the Director General of Africa at Rwanda's Foreign Ministry said in her remarks.

The East African Community (EAC) said Africa Day marked celebration of the spirit of unity and progress across the entire continent.

"Let us unlock the full potential of Africa's free trade area. Together we can drive economic growth, foster integration, and empower African nations to thrive," it said.

Senegalese president Macky Sall congratulated Africa on the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union.

Senegal "renews its attachment to the ideal of African integration," he said on Twitter.

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