By Biruktayet Bihon
September 9, 2019 (Ezega.com) – The African Union Commission celebrated the African Union Day (AU Day) today at its Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The African Union Day which is held annually on the 9th of September commemorates the decision by African Heads of State and Government, to transition from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union.
The Sirte Declaration which paved the way for the establishment of African union has brought various amended or new agendas to be included in the system.
With a main focus of solidifying the continent with common economic structure, AU Day reflects on the Union’s transformation and achievements in the continent.
With common call for uniting the continent, African Union has also adopted continental agendas since the transformation of OAU to the African Union.
However the capacity of the union to unify the continent in economic, political and social arenas and the mission of strategizing the tools of Pan Africanism have been questioned by various African scholars.
While commemorating the African Union Day, we looked around for the status of Pan-African feeling among Africans and the actions taken by the union and African Governments to unify the continent.
According to Dr Getahun Fenta, an African Studies scholar at AA University, Africa is making significant strides in terms of economic development. However, some serious issues continue to undermine these achievements, including instability, poverty, civil war, ethnic violence, electoral irregularities, impunity, human rights violations, crimes against humanity, disaster unpreparedness, and stubbornness of some leaders to discard dictatorial tendencies.
The obstacles that are seen around the continent has also hinder the effective implementation of the Agendas drafted by the OAU as well as the AU system,’ Dr. Getahun noted.
Pan-Africanism was articulated in 1897 by prominent Pan Africanist leaders, such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Emperor Haileselase I of Ethiopia, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Sékou Ahmed Touré, Ahmed Ben Bella, Amilcar Cabral, and Patrice Lumumba. The Pan African idea was used as the main empowerment tool to establish and run the Organization of African Union.
Unlike these historical leaders, contemporary African leaders have largely paid lip service to the ideology and spirit with less implementation programs of the African agenda,’ Dr. Getahun added.
Despite being well-placed to articulate the Pan-African agenda through African Union rotational chairmanship of the continental body, the majority of African presidents have been less active on initiatives that promote regional and continental integration.
Such performance at the continental level has reduced the African Union to a talking arena, rather than a serious institution that could facilitate leveraging the developmental potentials of the continent through its diversity, resources and strategic position in the global order.
In an interview with Dr. Desta Yashimabet Meghoo J.D, Pan African activist and owner of Creative Consultant, Africa should redesign the tools of Pan-Africanism to further strengthen the continental capacity to prosper.
According to Dr. Desta, even though the notion of Pan-Africanism exists, the methods to solidify it has to be redefined in way that could economically integrate the continent.
The existence of free trade is important to have a connected network that would unify the rich and diverse cultures that exist in the continent,’ Dr. Desta Emphasized.
Africa in ancient days was always connected through trades and scholars. They were also globally connected and still are, even when the continental movement has been monopolized by former colonizers,’ she recalled.
The African continental free-trade agreement which is said to bring all 55 member states of the African Union under common market was adopted by all African Nations except for Eritrea. According to the Agreement, tariffs are largely abolished inside the common market.
Even though the agreement is vital to the realization of the very objectives of the union, it is facing several challenges. Prominent economists of the continent predict it could be decades before there is a common market in which tariffs are largely abolished.
The challenges include infrastructure constraints, internal disputes between countries and between governments and companies. These must be overcome first to ensure the free movement of goods, services and eventually capital and people.
Dr. Desta further stated about the need to preserve African identity and integrity through the promotion of rich African culture, music and way of life. ‘Organizing bazaars, fashion shows with various African countries displaying their cultural attire, African music and cuisine, which reflect the richness and diversity of the African culture and traditions, is important to implementing the African agenda’ Dr. Desta said.
To promote the diversified culture of the continent, Ethiopia has been hosting African Cultural Festivals in the past two years.
The celebration of the African union day coincides with major strides made by the union towards achieving its goals, including, amongst other things, launching the AU Passport, the decision by African states to finance the activities of the African Union through a 0.2% levy on eligible imports, enhancing member states collaboration towards achieving the continent’s development agenda, as well as the peace and security missions.
In spite of all the challenges, the African Union through its various policies, including Agenda 2063 (Africa’s 50 year vision), has a major focus on shared prosperity and improved livelihoods of its people, particularly in the areas of health, education, access to basic services, and growth in agriculture, which is a mainstay of the continent and its actualization.
Many hope the AU will guide the continent to achieve African Renaissance, and move it towards self-sufficiency and beyond, which can only be achieved through collaborative and collective work throughout the continent.
Biruktayet Bihon is Addis Ababa-based contributor for Ezega.com. She can be reached through this form.
Other articles by Biruktayet Bihon:
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