Africa Day takes place on May 25 every year, commemorating the signature of the founding agreements of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was formed in Addis Ababa on May 25, 1963 and later succeeded by the African Union.
This year’s Africa Day was celebrated throughout the continent and coincided with the third day of the 51st Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) – the emblematic Pan-African institution, formed barely a year after the OAU. The meetings are taking place in Lusaka, Zambia until May 27, 2016. The day was a public holiday in Zambia and featured a series of commemorations.
The aim of this Africa Day was to “bring together the people of Africa, reaffirm their faith in integration and popularise the ideal of a united continent”. The same aim was echoed in the speech made by the President of the AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina, at the official opening ceremony of the Annual Meetings.
“Africa must think big, act big and deliver big,” he said. “We must never have low ambitions for Africa!” The presence, in the front rows of the audience, of 10 African heads of state and other leading figures, illustrated the Pan-African dimension of these Annual Meetings: in addition to the President of the host country, Edgar Lungu, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby Itno – who has also served as President of the African Union since January 2016, the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta – there were a number of Vice-Presidents and Heads of Government present, including the Nigerian Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, and the Prime Minister of Mozambique, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário. In another strong sign of Pan-African convergence, Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations and now director of the Africa Progress Panel; and the Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former Minister of Finance and former Director General of the World Bank, are among the guests and participants attending the five days of the Meetings.
The Bank’s slogan is “Building today, a better Africa tomorrow”. The AfDB works to drive the development of the continent’s 54 countries, all of which are members of the institution; it strives to improve the well-being of all people, advocating green, inclusive growth that leaves no African unable to take advantage of the benefits of development.
President Adesina made the point clearly from the outset of these Meetings: We need to raise our aspirations. “Africa cannot afford to have low ambitions,” he declared, adding, “The African Development Bank is here to support Africa’s great aspirations.”
As a result, the AfDB, under the authority of its eighth elected president, has set itself five main priorities, also known as the “High 5s”: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
These expressions of faith were swiftly followed by wide-ranging actions to make their ambitions a practical reality. The “New Deal on Energy for Africa” – along with the “Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa” – (priority no. 1); “Jobs for Africa’s Youth Initiative” (priority no. 5), which aims to create 225 million jobs, and the “Affirmative Action for Women in Africa” (AFAWA) fund, which aims to raise $5 billion from the EU to support female entrepreneurs in Africa, are some of the AfDB’s most important and most recent initiatives.
More generally, the Bank’s transformation plan unveiled by President Adesina in Lusaka expresses its determination to embark on ambitious reforms and accelerate the changes underway to build a strong, prosperous and proud Africa. “We must be audacious: for Africa must develop, and develop with pride,” declared Akinwumi Adesina. Money is not the answer to everything, as he emphasised during the televised debate on the South African channel CNBC-Africa, which included Presidents Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta, on May 24, 2016. “First and foremost, it is political will we need to move things forward.” So that every day of the year is an “Africa Day”, driving growth, innovation, boldness and creativity, and offering promising prospects and a better quality of life for all Africans.