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The Story of African Unity DayOn this day in 1963, the leaders of 30 African countries (representing a majority of independent countries on the continent) gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sign the founding charter of the OAU. The move heralded a new era of cooperation and bore the hope that African nations would strengthen ties with one another and speak with one voice, for their collective interests, on the international stage. Over time, more countries joined the fold of the OAU. On July 9, 2002, at a meeting in Durban, the organization morphed into the African Union. Today, it has 55 member states, encompassing the entire continent. It is currently headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the transformation to the AU at a different date, Africa Day continues to be celebrated on the OAU’s founding date. This year’s commemoration coincides with the 60th anniversary of the organization’s establishment and has the theme Our Africa, Our Future. As such, activities marking the day are expected to revolve around fashioning a future in which Africa achieves considerable progress on the developmental front.
The African Union’s Strategy for Attaining a Brighter FutureThe AU does have a broad strategy for attaining its targets for the future. This strategy is encapsulated in the Agenda 2063, which includes several programs and initiatives. If successfully implemented, they may make the continent a stronger player on the global stage. They include the following:
The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)The AfCFTA is designed to drive the expansion and deepening of intra-African trade. If it succeeds, it will ease the flow of economic players and factors and power cross-border investments. Ultimately, it could spawn a multi-trillion-dollar economy. Nigeria signed up for the AfCFTA in July 2019.
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The African PassportAnother initiative aimed at making cross-border movement easier is the Africa Passport. The plan for this was announced by the AU in 2016. It could remove restrictions on intra-continental movement, enabling Africans to travel, live and work anywhere in Africa.
Pan-Africa Financial InstitutionsThe AU also wants to establish financial institutions which would serve the continent as a whole. They are the African Monetary Fund, African Central Bank, Pan African Stock Exchange, and the African Investment Bank. Member countries want these institutions to mobilize resources from within and beyond the continent in order to support the economic growth and development of the AU’s constituent states.
Integrated High-Speed Train NetworkThere’s a plan in the works to connect all of Africa’s capital cities and commercial nerve centres with an extensive high-speed train network. Its initiators hope that it will grant African businesses access to broader markets, reduce transport costs, relieve the congestion of key systems, and spur economic growth.
A Single African Air-Transport Market (SAATM)Also on the cards is a single liberalized market for African air transport. The plan here is to eliminate restrictions to movement by air between the major cities in Africa. This should enhance traffic rights and expand market access for commercial entities that wish to do business beyond their country’s borders. Just like the other plans on this list, this one is intended to promote the economic integration of African states.
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Final WordsThis year, Africa Day points us to a future of exciting possibilities. Although the challenges that beset the continent are many and significant, there’s a reasonable hope that its people can hold on to it. Perhaps, working together, we can overcome the odds that are stacked against us, and reach for heights our forebears could only dream of.
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