COMMEMORATIVE STATEMENT ON AFRICA DAY WHICH IS OBSERVED BY AFRICAN UNION MEMBER STATES EVERY 25TH MAY BY SAMUEL OKUDZETO ABLAKWA, MP FOR NORTH TONGU AND RANKING MEMBER ON PARLIAMENT’S COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Right Honourable Speaker, I am most indebted to you for the opportunity to deliver this commemorative statement to mark Africa Day which is observed the 25th of May annually by Member States of the African Union.
It is quite fortuitous that this august House resumes work after recess on this auspicious day. As we thank the Almighty for His grace and mercies in preserving us and bringing us together to pursue Constitutional imperatives and carry out the expectations of our constituents, we must use this significant co-incidence to reflect on how we can rekindle the Pan-African spirit and work assiduously towards achieving the dreams of our founding fathers.
Mr. Speaker, whether observed as a holiday or a working commemorative day, today is a great day for all true Pan-Africanists and friends of Africa all over the world. Since 25th May 1963, Africa Liberation Day has been observed as a constant reminder that colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism must be defeated in all their forms and guises. To the credit of our forebears, when the first Accra conference of Independent African States was called by the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah on 15th April 1958, only 8 African countries had been liberated from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism, however, due to their iron opposition to colonialism and granite resolve to liquidate these evils from the face of Africa – to put it in Nkrumah’s own words, they ensured the political independence struggle was won in no time.
Mr. Speaker, what has eluded our beloved continent since the victory over colonialism is economic emancipation. Data from the UN, World Bank and the Brookings Institution align that 70% of the world’s poorest people live in Africa which remains the last frontier in the fight against extreme poverty. Sadly, according to the Brookings Institution, at current trends, Africa will represent approximately 87% of the global poor by 2030 and that will mean that we shall be unable to meet Sustainable Development Goal 1 which enjoins us to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.
Mr. Speaker, we all know that Africa is the youngest continent with almost 60% of the population under the age of 25. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected by UN data to double by 2050. Despite this stark reality, opportunities have been few for the continent’s youth. The African Development Bank reports that of the 12 million young people who enter Africa’s labour force on an annual average, only 3.1milion real jobs are created. In addition to limited opportunities, there is a growing feeling amongst African youth that their leadership is disconnected from them and does not appreciate their needs. The UNDP believes that Africa’s wide gap between the governors and the governed – the widest in the world may be a key factor. Whereas the average age of African Presidents is 62, the median age of Africa’s population is 19.5.
Mr. Speaker, the African youth reminiscent of the days of the West African Students Union dynamism which heralded independence on the spark of the WASU Paris and Manchester Conferences are demanding a change in living conditions and agitating for improved good governance that delivers the hopes and aspirations of an independent Africa.
Africa’s youth are no longer sitting on the fence neither are they docile, they are mobilizing and impacting greatly with the tools of the digital age. From the youth-led protests that ousted Sudanese strongman President Bashir in 2018, the Robert ‘Bobi Wine Ssentamu crusade in Uganda, Fees Must Fall movement in South Africa, The End SARS campaign in Nigeria and the Fix The Country Now agitations in Ghana – they all go beyond mere hashtags – they are the voices of millions of smart and talented activists who are determined to positively affect the fortunes of Africa by commendably staying in the continent to make their voices heard instead of embarking on a perilous expedition across the Mediterranean in search of the proverbial greener pastures in Europe. Mr. Speaker, respectfully, we must all as leaders use this day to reflect on how we can meet the legitimate expectations of these young Africans through timely transformational leadership.
Mr. Speaker, our continent’s predicament can potentially become even more precarious when one considers the fact that the African Union failed rather abysmally to achieve its agenda of “Silencing the Guns by 2020” which was ratified in 2013 and followed by the Lusaka Road Map to end Conflict by 2020 adopted in 2016. Here we are in 2021, a year after the target date and unfortunately, the guns got louder instead of being silenced. The “Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project” reveals that by the end of 2019 Africa recorded a whopping 21,600 incidents of armed conflict. All around us is an insurgency moving southwards from the Sahel Region. We cannot feign ignorance about the havoc terrorists have wrought in many African countries not excluding Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Sudan, Central African Republic, DR Congo and Mali. Conflicts have continued in Mozambique, Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Somalia and Burundi as I speak.
We must all agree and be quaking in our boots that any continent with these characteristics: over 60% of the population under 25, massive unemployment, fewer opportunities, plentiful theatres of conflict, proliferation of small arms and a perception that leadership is disconnected presents a veritable explosive cocktail. All true Pan-Africanists and advocates of a peaceful and just world must be committed to urgent steps to redeem this quagmire. Failure is not an option.
Mr. Speaker, we must therefore commend African leaders for the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) initiative. Another Nkrumah vision which he long espoused and that is why it is most befitting that Ghana is privileged to host the secretariat. It is crucial that steps are re-doubled particularly in this era of post-COVID economic recovery to create an industrialized Africa where jobs will be readily available for the youth of the continent. AfCFTA must not and cannot afford to be a sleeping giant – its full economic potential must be realized in our lifetime.
The AU Agenda 2063 – “the Africa We Want” must begin to bear fruits through deliberate pragmatic policies and convince all that unlike “Silencing the Guns by 2020,” this target shall be met. And meeting that noble target has only one banner which the Osagyefo brilliantly captured in his 1970 book authored from his base in Conakry titled: “Africa Must Unite” – he emphatically argues – “Unless Africa is politically united under an All-African Union Government, there can be no solution to our political and economic problems. The thesis of Africa Must Unite remains unassailable.”
Mr. Speaker, as I conclude on the theme of this year’s Africa Day commemoration which is “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want” – this must lead us to remember that we have not always been a troubled continent. We have a most inspiring history. Historians confirm that civilization began in Africa. Early geographers and chroniclers speak of well-organized wealthy African states and Empires such as Ancient Egypt, Ghana Empire, Mali Empire, Songhay Empire of Gao and the great State of Kanem; not forgetting intellectual centres such as Djene and Timbuktu, whose colleges could exchange scholars with Spain and others. All these were long before Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), Bartholomew Diaz (1488) and some ten years later Vasco da Gama all claimed to have discovered Africa.
Africa shall rise again!
Our glorious heritage shall guide us to an even more prosperous and equitable future!
May I convey to you, Mr. Speaker, an expression of my deepest gratitude.