May 25th holds an important celebration every year: Africa Day! Since 1963, Africa and the African diaspora have used this day to commemorate the continent’s liberation from colonial imperialism and the beginning of the African Union (AU). The holiday recognizes this world-changing historical moment, but also stands as a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the changes that are happening in the present day.
First, a quick history lesson:
Between 1945 and 1965, many African nations gained independence from colonial rule. In 1957, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan nation to achieve independence, leading to the nation becoming an inspiration to others in their fight for freedom. The Conference of Independent African States in 1958, formed by Ghana, became the first liberation conference on the continent.
The Conference of Independent African States created a lasting impression on the continent, leading to the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. This organization united over thirty African nations under the common goal of decolonization, creating a common identity from that goal. The OAU ran for 38 years after its formation, becoming the AU on May 25, 2001. The first meeting of the OAU was later considered the beginning of Africa Day.
There are plenty of things to rejoice about this year, including these bits of good news:
Economic growth is essential in the fight against extreme poverty in Africa. The World Bank’s prediction for 2018 bodes well, as 3.2% economic growth is expected in 2018, up from 2.4% from 2017.
Indeed: six of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world are African countries. Ghana and Ethiopia are at the top of this list with 8.3% and 8.2% growth in 2018, respectively. Côte d’Ivoire (7.2%), Djibouti (7%), Senegal (6.9%) and Tanzania (6.8%) are all in the top ten, as well.
Pyeongchang set the stage for a major triumph! Eight African nations – Eritrea, Nigeria, Kenya, Morocco, Ghana, Madagascar, South Africa, and Togo – competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics. African athletes face unique obstacles on the road to the event. Lack of national federations, expenses, and no snow in local climates all stood in the way. Despite the odds, these eight countries were represented, including debuts from Eritrea and Nigeria.
Although none of these teams won an Olympic medal, many teams made important strides. Nigeria’s all-female bobsled team was the first African team to compete in the sport. The Skeleton event also saw its first Ghanaian and first Nigerian woman participants. Kenya and Madagascar both had their first female athletes at the games, as well.
Addressing malnutrition throughout Africa is an enormous task, but the African Union plans to tackle the problem head-on with the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) initiative. This initiative, which officially launched in January 2018, will address malnutrition with policies and interventions targeted at agriculture and food systems.
The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and the African Development Bank argue that tackling the problem of malnutrition can create “significant progress towards Africa’s future sustainable economic success and to its enhanced social and environmental wellbeing.” ALN will work together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to achieve this progress.
4. Major growth is happening in tech
More than 100 tech hubs have emerged across Africa in under two years. That means there are about 40% more tech hubs today then there were two years ago. This growth in technology makes a huge difference, especially for startup companies. In 2017 alone, $560 million was invested into African tech startups.
Some of the innovations coming out of this include production of what will be the world’s largest telescope, touch-screen heart monitoring devices, solar panel production to increase electricity access, to name a few. These innovations alone prove that investment in tech can create amazing change!
As the Digital Age speeds forward, internet access is becoming more and more essential in the world. The number of internet users has already grown tremendously since 2017, with Africa seeing the fastest growth in first-time internet users.
The number of users in the continent has grown by over 20% in comparison to 2017. Mali alone has six times more internet users than it did in January 2017. Benin, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Mozambique have more than doubled their users, as well. This growth in access can have massive effects, including positive advancements in education, healthcare, and agriculture.
This Africa Day, the world can celebrate not only the past, but also the amazing changes taking place in the present.