Africa Day celebrates unity and integration of the African continent (HELLORF)
Every year, Africa Day is celebrated on May 25. The day marks the anniversary of the foundation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. It is a symbol of the struggle of Africa for liberation, emancipation and development. On this occasion, Martin Mpana, Ambassador of Cameroon to China and Dean of the African Group in Beijing, and Rahamtalla M. Osman, Head of African Union (AU) Mission to China, spoke with ChinAfrica journalist Ge Lijun about the celebration of Africa Day and Sino-African cooperation in promoting the vision of the AU. Here is an edited version of the conversations:
ChinAfrica: What is the significance of Africa Day?
Martin Mpana: For Africans in general, Africa Day means the liberation of Africa. That's how the founding father and the initiators of this project designed it. It was at the first conference of the Independent States, held in Accra, Ghana, in April 1958, that the idea of organizing Africa Day emerged, to celebrate the momentum of liberation in Africa. But there was also the question of what we can do afterward? Becoming united [was a common goal]! These are the two foundations on which Africa Day was conceived. Today, Africa, from a political point of view, is a free continent, and we must not forget what we fought for. Beyond political emancipation from the colonial powers of the time, it is now a question of liberating us economically. So the fight goes on. A divided Africa cannot succeed, especially in the age of globalization. On the other hand, a united Africa is a good market and a good partner for development, with good business opportunities.
Rahamtalla M. Osman: This event is very important because it is the day when the OAU was created in 1963. From the OAU to the AU, born in 2002, the goal is the same: the unity and integration of the African continent at all levels. We celebrate this day today because we think it immensely helps us to unify Africa. We therefore expect more cooperation between our countries. We must work together to promote the integration of all African countries into the international economic order. Africa Day also reminds our peoples of our accomplishments and the journey they have made so far.
Despite great progress, there are still challenges for Africa to move toward a prosperous future as envisioned by the initiators of the OAU. So how can Africa Day play a driving role in finding solutions to these problems?
Martin Mpana: We have common challenges, a common future, and a common destiny. This day still deserves to be commemorated and explained to young Africans. The majority of Africans were born well after independence and do not understand its scope. We, born in the colonial era, know what it is like to be free from colonialism. So, we must teach it to our children and young people through Africa Day. We must remember that we have not achieved all the objectives set by the AU founding father. Africa is vast and diverse, with problems related to peace, security, terrorism, health, and education. All of this hampers the emancipation of men, women and children and prevents them from participating actively in development. These are the challenges facing each state. African countries will continue to fight from generation to generation.
In this fight, what role can China play in promoting Africa's development?
Martin Mpana: We welcome China's efforts to help this continent develop. During the colonial period, China helped Africa emancipate itself. After that, China contributed politically, and we worked together a lot. In the same way, when China returned to the United Nations, it was supported by the African countries that had just won their independence. Today, China has contributed immensely to making Africa economically attractive. In the 1990s, Africa went through an unprecedented economic crisis, with virtually all partners leaving the ship. Still, Africa needs bridges, roads, ports and airports to develop. Africa needs regional connectivity to establish a sound foundation for sustainable economic development. These are all projects and ideas that came out of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which allows China and Africa to work hand in hand for the advent of a new world, in order to balance economic and commercial exchanges. The Belt and Road Initiative adds a new dynamic. I appreciate the politics of openness and reform, because it is a process that is part of a changing world. This policy is valid for China as for Africa, and we must always reform and open up to the outside world.
Rahamtalla M. Osman: The most important challenge in Africa is how to reduce poverty. We have learned from the experience of China. In 40 years of reform and opening up, China has managed to lift some 740 million people out of poverty. We look forward to replicating this model.
How are you celebrating Africa Day? And what are your views on cultural exchanges between the Chinese and African people?
Martin Mpana: At the diplomatic level, we have the chance to organize a reception in Beijing, where we invite the Chinese authorities, the press and the business community, but that is not enough. A few weeks ago, I was in Zhejiang Province where there is a China-Africa Institute in a university. It's interesting; we need to encourage this kind of initiative. They are trying to present Africa to the future generation of young Chinese people so that China-Africa cooperation can continue. If we do not spread these ideas, the next generation will not maintain them. So you have to reach out to the young people at the universities. In this sense, we welcome the launch of the China-Africa Institute in April, which was hosted during the Beijing Summit of the FOCAC. This will foster academic exchanges. We need to encourage this kind of exchange on a broader level, so that people are more and more aware of both Chinese realities and African realities. In addition, Chinese and African media must play a role. The problem is that we let others talk about our world. We have to talk about it ourselves, for our own interest.
Rahamtalla M. Osman: Every [African] country celebrates it, but each in its own way. As diplomats here in Beijing, we meet every year, we exchange ideas to better celebrate this day, and we let the Chinese people discover our cuisine, our dances and our traditions. With regard to cultural exchanges, this is not new, especially since the last Beijing Summit in September 2018, which has reinforced this type of exchange between China and Africa. We have Chinese experts and medical teams coming to Africa. We have a lot of Chinese working in Africa today and a lot of Africans in China as well. It's also a kind of cultural exchange. An exchange between universities and students also helps enhance our cultural relations.
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