Connecting Continents: Africa Day 

by Dr Srimal Fernando, Inter Regional Advisor

25 May 2021

Africa Day holds a special place in the hearts of many Africans and Asians. The historical day formerly known as African Liberation Day held on 25 May every year since 1963 is celebrated in Africa and around the world. Today the African continent, made up of 55 contiguous nation states, accounts for almost one fifth of the world's population and has made significant strides, and it is all changing and changing fast.

Even before the proclamation of the formation of the African Union (AU), the Pan -African nationalist leaders from various member states of the African continent stressed upon the historical significance and their hopes that the launching of African Liberation Day would provide the much-needed thrust for accelerating cooperation among member nations, eventually paving the way for promotion of peace and stability on the continent.

Among the historical forces that shaped the political economy of Africa, visionary leaders such as Congolese Prime Minister Dr Lumumba, Ghanaian President Dr Nkrumah, Nigerian President Azikiwe, Kenyan President Kenyatta and South African President Mandela laid the firmest foundations in changing the course of Africa's history.

Moreover with pride a new understanding came to the fore influencing African societies. As a part of this new pace the African identity shaped not only by aspects like geographical proximity, institutional interactions and sharing of commonalities, but also by the efforts invested in constructing a continental identity among African nations.

In recent years, African Nations have re-initiated efforts aimed at promoting economic integration among its involved nations. The idea of creating a broader common market for African nations has been spearheaded by the AU. Hence African nations are faced with several policy challenges on various fronts such as trade, transportation foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow, security, environmental protection, amongst others. African nations need to recognize that regional integration is the fastest way to ensure growth and development despite several African economies being riddled with external and internal challenges. While the African Union has taken noteworthy steps aimed at promoting regional cooperation amongst member states, much still remains to be done. In the African context, new regionalism underlined the importance of making the whole idea of regionalism an inclusive one, for all relevant stakeholders in Africa. Thus AU nations are often motivated to be involved in regional integration initiatives due to the potential welfare benefits, among other things, that they stand to gain. Nonetheless the increased interdependence in the financial and economic sectors has provided the impetus for deeper cooperation with the intention of intensifying the institutional capacity of AU member states.

Since its conceptualization, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is an attempt to tighten economic ties between African nations. The expansion of the market also makes it possible for the nations involved in regional economic integration initiatives to reap from economies of scale. The unique position occupied by Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia. Rwanda and, Uganda could provide the momentum needed for promoting meaningful inter- regional cooperation.

Compared with just two to three decades ago, Asia now appears larger in Africa's field of image. The relatively large Asian diaspora in Africa has garnered considerable influence and affluence that plays a crucial role in promoting transnational ties. Although the majority of the Asian diaspora in Africa has been assimilated into the African culture and society, the links that the diaspora in Africa has maintained with Asia have been very influential in promoting development cooperation between the two continents These Asian diaspora communities are responsible for several economic contributions to the African economies as well as other invaluable roles that they play in society. It was through continuing efforts and widening its horizon in a number of sectors that progress was made towards stability and wellbeing of Africa. Throughout the years the major Asian powers such as Chinese, Indian, Japanese governments positively contributed to the various socio economic causes to uplift the rural base, especially in Africa.

The essence of Africa's development dynamics can be assessed from both macro and micro- points of view. The AU recognizes the need for uniform development in all sectors as a prerequisite for sustained Socio economic and political progress. There is no doubt that Africa Day signifies Africa’s identity and unity and will strive to consolidate social cohesion among African nations during early decades of the twenty-first century.

About the Author

Dr. Srimal Fernando received his PhD in the area of International Affairs. He was the recipient of the prestigious O.P. Jindal Doctoral Fellowship and SAU Scholarship under the SAARC umbrella. He is also an Adviser/Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa in partnership with Diplomatic World Institute (Brussels). He has received accolades such as 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ in South Africa, (GCA) Media Award for 2016 and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) accolade. He is the author of ‘Politics, Economics and Connectivity: In Search of South Asian Union.’