What is Africa Day?
During the period 1958 to 1963, seventeen African countries managed to free themselves politically from colonial rule. Because of this development and in order to assist in the liberation of other African states, in 1963 32 African countries got together in Ethiopia to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The purpose of this organisation was to ensure economic and political stability and development for all African Nations.
Since its creation, the OAU was gradually joined by the rest of the African countries as they gained independence – each newly liberated African country then joined the OAU and the cause. This continued to happen throughout the years up to June of 1994 when South Africa gained its political independence.
In 2002, the OAU was disbanded and replaced by the African Union, which was established in 2001. Currently, the AU has 54 member countries. Morocco is the only African country that is not a member of the union, after exiting in 1984. There are other member states from outside the African continent that are considered Member Observers. These include Kazakhstan, Palestine, Latvia, Turkey, Serbia and Haiti. The only member to be suspended is the Central African Republic after a civil war which began in 2012.
Although there have been conflicts within the African continent, there have been major achievements in terms of peace and unity, particularly between the 1950’s and the end of colonial oppression. It is because of this unity that the members of the OAU saw it fit to inaugurate Africa Day.
Africa Day is a celebration of the formation of the OAU on 25th May 1963 – a vital part in African history. During that time, it was called Africa Liberation Day. It is celebrated on the 25th of May each year. Although Africa Day is celebrated by all nations of the continent, only six countries actually observe it as a public holiday – namely Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
Africa Day has become more than just an anniversary of the formation of the OAU, and eventually the AU – it has become a celebration of the African people as well as African unity. All over the world, people from the continent celebrate by uniting and hosting celebrations in different ways. In some parts of the world, the African communities join with local groups and share in the festivities in the form of parades, sporting events, food festivals, concerts, fashion shows, comedy shows, musical performances or dance parties. Some take the time to learn about different African cultures by visiting museums or attending conferences.