Africa Day, celebrated annually on May 25, serves as a significant occasion to raise awareness about Pan-African ideals and educate the population on the rich history of the continent.
This year, the day was marked under the theme "The Africa We Want" which highlights Africa's journey towards achieving socio-economic and political development while shaping a positive narrative for the future.
Africa Day traces its origins back to the first conference of independent African states held in Ghana in 1958. During the period between 1958 and 1963, 17 African countries, including Rwanda gained their independence, making 1960 the celebrated "Year of Africa" due to the growing Pan-African sentiments across the continent.
Pan African Movement Rwanda held a momentous celebration of the 60th African Liberation Day, centered around the theme: "Accelerating the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area" (AfCFTA).
As Africa observes this day, voices of prominent Pan-Africanists in Rwanda shed light on the significance of this day and its theme:
Protais Musoni, Chairman of the Pan African Movement Rwanda Chapter, emphasized the importance of reflection on this day. He acknowledged the leaders who fought for Africa's liberation and independence, stating that colonizers had rewritten the continent's history. However, Africa has since reclaimed its narrative.
Musoni highlighted ongoing issues such as the exploitation of Africa's natural resources by foreign entities and the need for Africans to exhibit patriotism. He suggested that the way forward lies in reflection, addressing present challenges, and uniting as Africans to find solutions.
Jean-Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, Minister of Trade and Industry, drew attention to the lingering greed within some African countries, specifically regarding the delayed implementation of The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreements.
Ngabitsinze stressed that sanctioning the terms would bolster Africa's economy, as every country stands to benefit from this landmark initiative.
Shakilla Umutoni Kazimbaya, Director General of Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, emphasized the necessity of significant investments in infrastructure, education, and other strategic goals. She underscored the potential of such investments to accelerate the implementation of AfCFTA and foster Africa's overall development.
Dr. Richard Sezibera, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Rwanda, highlighted the absence of a robust legislative framework as a hindrance to effective coordination and addressing trade barriers, tariffs, and non-tariff barriers within the continent. He emphasized the need for African countries to work collectively to establish such a framework for the benefit of all.
Eric Ndushabandi, Chairman and Founder of the Centre for Research and Training on Human Rights and Democracy, addressed the culture of mediocrity prevailing in some African nations. He emphasized that this culture has led to weak governance, corruption, and a lack of accountability, ultimately hampering the successful implementation of AfCFTA and hindering Africa's development potential.
Jane Babirye, a communications student at Mount Kenya University Rwanda, passionately expressed her vision for a proud Africa. She highlighted the need for Africans, especially the youth, to embrace their skin color, language, and culture with pride.
Babirye lamented the prevalence of skin bleaching among African women and the preference for foreign languages over mother tongues, which she believed eroded cultural identity. She further expressed concern over the adoption of alternative sexual orientations by young Africans, emphasizing the importance of preserving traditional values.
As the only black race among all continents, Babirye perceives Africa's uniqueness as a reason to embrace its heritage and work towards prosperity. She emphasized the need to break free from mental slavery and honor the sacrifices of the continent's forefathers.
As Africa Day 2023 is commemorated, the contributions and perspectives of these Pan-Africanists highlight the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the continent. The celebration serves as a reminder of the progress made, while also calling for concerted efforts to overcome barriers, promote unity, and create an inclusive and prosperous Africa for generations to come.