Our vision for a new and thriving Africa at peace

Dr Dlamini-Zuma

Two major pan-African movements are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) and African Union (AU) is an important moment in the history of the continent. The anniversary will be held under the banner of ‘pan Africanism’ and ‘African renaissance’, a framework and philosophy that have united Africans in their struggles against slavery, colonialism and apartheid.

The founders of the OAU, which included the 32 independent states and liberation movements that attended the founding summit in Addis Ababa in 1963, completed their mission of liberating the continent, as Namibia and South Africa became independent during the early 1990s. The new millennium, starting with the adoption of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the transformation of the OAU into the African Union, marked the start of a new era for the continent. Africa has experienced more than a decade of sustained economic growth, despite the global financial crisis, with a number of African countries counting amongst the top ten fastest growing economies in the world.

The continent has a growing, vibrant, resourceful and youthful population and an expanding middle class, currently estimated at 355 million, that is bound to spur developments in a range of areas, including the growth of the private sector and the knowledge economy and growing internal markets. The information and communications technology (ICT) revolution has also been embraced by Africans, particularly the youth, spurring innovative approaches to information, micro-finance and the mobilisation of rural producers via the mobile telephone. Africa is endowed with rich natural resources, including mineral and marine resources, as well as vast arable land. These are critical components in the industrial and agricultural developmental processes that should drive economic growth, trade and social transformation.

Africa is also making progress on conflict resolution and expanding democracy, through its Peace and Security and Governance Architectures and the African Peer Review Mechanism. These positive trends took place in the context of the reawakening of discourse and action on African development and continental renewal and renaissance. While prominently articulated by a new corps of African leaders, this development also reflects a new consciousness among Africa’s intellectuals and sectors of civil society.

In the context of the 50th anniversary celebrations, Africa is also looking ahead to chart its course for the next 50 years. There is general consensus on the vision, which is to build an integrated, people-centered and prosperous continent, at peace with itself. The African Union is therefore spearheading a process this year to consult with different sectors of society and the African populace about the substance of this vision and the development paradigm necessary to reach this vision in the shortest possible time.

A number of areas are being prioritised by the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities, which in the coming decade should enable the continent to move closer towards building inclusive prosperity and peace. These include human development with a focus on education, vocational training, higher education and investments in science, technology and innovation; integration through infrastructure, especially transport, energy, ICT and social infrastructure; the empowerment of women in business, agriculture and leadership, with significant reduction of maternal and child mortality during this decade; expanding intra-Africa trade and investment, and industrialisation through beneficiation of natural and other resources; and consolidating and building peace, political participation and democracy and social inclusion.

Fifty years after the launch of the OAU, there is a renewed sense of energy and optimism that indeed, the 21st century will be an African century.

About the author:

Dr Dlamini-Zuma is chairperson of the African Union Commission


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