Africa Day: Looking Back at Continent's Path to Unity

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Earth and African continent - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 25.05.2023
This year, May 25 marks the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). On this date, known as Africa Day, nations across the continent reflect on the legacy of their predecessors, those who led the fight against colonialism and eventually liberated Africa, creating a better future for generations to come.
On the occasion of Africa Day, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent greetings to African leaders, congratulating the continent on the significant anniversary. The president highlighted that this date is a symbol of victory over colonialism, and the sincere desire of people for freedom and prosperity.
Underscoring that Moscow has always paid special attention to strengthening friendly relations with its African partners, President Putin reiterated that he would be happy to see all the leaders of the continent at the July Russia-Africa Summit.
Russia Putin African Leaders - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 25.05.2023
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The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also congratulated African nations, recalling that the Soviet Union supported the continent in its fight for independence and played an important role in the development of the young states. The ministry added that under pressure from the Soviet Union, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which stipulated the need to put an end to colonialism and other forms of discrimination.
It was emphasized that even though there are attempts by the West to hush up the atrocities of the colonial era, the suffering of generations of Africans, including the slave trade, racism, and extrajudicial murders, "Africa remembers" everything, as does the whole world.
On this historic date, Sputnik Africa couldn't help but join in the congratulations coming from across the globe, and take a look back at the major stages the continent's main intergovernmental body, created on the ideal of a united Africa, went through.

Unity and Freedom as Common Theme of Continent

In 1960, which is now referred to as the Year of Africa, 17 African nations succeeded in their fight against colonialism by gaining independence from colonial powers and becoming sovereign states. This was a major milestone in Africa's liberation movement that highlighted the growing Pan-African sentiments on the continent. Having gained freedom, African countries embarked on building a common future, proclaiming integration and unity as their priorities.
Against this backdrop, 60 years ago on this very date, 32 leaders of independent African states convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sign a charter establishing Africa’s first post-independence continental institution, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). This historic event shaped to some extent the course of the continent for years.
The establishment of the organization was a manifestation of the Pan-African vision for the continent as "united, free and in control of its own destiny." African leaders of that period, including Emperor Haile Selassie, Julius Niyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, and many others, advocated for the idea that Africa could be as strong as ever when it is united. The founding fathers of the OAU recognized freedom, equality, and justice as underlying principles that corresponded to the aspirations of the African peoples.
"Today, Africa has emerged from this dark passage. Our Armageddon is past. Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men. The blood that was shed and the sufferings that were endured are today Africa’s advocates for freedom and unity," said Haile Selassie during the first Organization of African Unity Summit in May, 1963.
The organization was aimed at combating colonialism, apartheid, and defending African nations' sovereignty, independence, and self-determination, as well as promoting unity and solidarity among its members.
The OAU positioned itself as a platform for African nations to defend their common interests on the international arena and make their voice heard, to gain the world's support in their liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid.
Kenyan President William Ruto speaks during the 60th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, in Kololo, Uganda, Sunday Oct. 9, 2022.  - Sputnik Africa, 1920, 17.05.2023
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New Chapter in History of United Africa

Over the years, the continental organization effectively promoted its vision and values, drawing more and more African nations wanting to be part of the integrated and united continent. In the 1990s, when all African countries were independent and apartheid was finished, the main task of the OAU, Africa's liberation, had been successfully completed.
At the time, there was a need to refocus the organization's attention from the fight for decolonization towards increased integration and cooperation among African states in order to boost the continent's growth and economic development. Thus, in 1999, the heads of state and government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration, calling for the establishment of an African Union, a new continental organization to build on its work.
The re-launch of the intergovernmental body was intended to accelerate the process of integration to enable African countries to take their rightful place in the global economy while jointly addressing various social, economic, and political challenges. The African Union was founded on May 26, 2001 in Addis Ababa, and officially launched on July 9, 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
10 years ago, in 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the OAU/AU, member states adopted the 2063 Agenda, which represents concrete goals that the continent set to achieve in 50 years. In this document, African countries reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring inclusive and sustainable economic growth, strengthening peace, and reducing the number of conflicts. They also confirmed their intention to harness Africa's growing cohesion to become a global power and major player on the world stage.
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A Way Forward for Africa

Today, the African Union is 55 members strong and is rapidly becoming a crucial voice on the global arena. The continent's dynamically developing countries not only have a significant resource base, but also strong economic potential, which makes it attractive for businesses from all over the world.
According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Africa will be the fastest-growing economy in the world by 2027. In its annual report titled "Global Africa. Africa in the World and the World in Africa," it was indicated that Africa’s GDP growth rate would outstrip the global average in each of the next five years, being second only to Asia.
Moreover, Africa's population and its cities are growing rapidly, while poverty is declining. The continent's population today stands at 1.44 billion. In 30 years, according to forecasts, this figure will grow to 2.4 billion people. By 2050, 25% of the world's population will live on the African continent.
African nations have repeatedly highlighted their commitment to harness this potential. One of the initiatives on this path is the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the largest free trade agreement in the world by number of countries and population. Almost all African nations have signed on to join the AfCFTA. According to the IMF, if successfully implemented, it could accelerate economic growth and enhance the living standards of all people across Africa.
On the occasion of Africa Day, the AU's member states, as part of the celebrations, showcase their major successes, milestones, challenges, and way forward under Agenda 2063. In particular, many African officials have called for renewed commitment to a united and integrated continent, stating that it is necessary to advance a vision of African unity and create a stronger Africa for the sake of its people.

"In an increasingly complex, dynamic and fast changing global order, unity is no more a catchphrase but a means of survival," said Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, adding: "I call upon all African leaders and peoples to heed the call of unity declared by our great forefathers as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Organization for African Unity!"