Home / Uncategorized / CELEBRATING AFRICA, 2023

(the SLHC joins other Missions on a continental platform, honouring commendable efforts in the relentless pursuit of Unity, Innovation and Growth.)

A group of officials from the Sierra Leone High Commission (SLHC), led by Deputy High Commissioner, HE Yvonne King Odigboh, on Thursday 25/05/2023, joined the African Diplomatic Community in London’s Leonardo Royal Hotel, to celebrate #AfricaDay2023.

Since the continent was divided into bits of geographical parcels, as a by-product of the Berlin Conference of 1884, Africa has been striving to fulfil its historic mission for ultimate self-realisation in the creation of a strong, united, and prosperous continent, with mix results.

While there is much to celebrate, challenges persist. These challenges continue to be attentively confronted  and consciously addressed by individuals, governments, and organisations seeking to create a happier, healthier, a more productive, and a more United entity.

Every year, Africans celebrate this onerous effort, while working together and looking ahead, through a collective vista, to a more United, freer, healthier, happier and prosperous phase.

The African Union (AU), is the organisational offspring of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which has the mandated duty to craft and actualise the continent’s collective goals.

This year’s African Union Theme, “Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation” aims to deepen Economic Integration among the 1.3 billion Africans, by creating and strengthening a UNIFIED MARKET for goods and services.

Despite previous and existing trade limitations, the AfCFTA, once fully implemented, will become the world’s largest Free Trade Area, boasting a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion. Currently, 54 out of 55 African countries have signed the agreement, showcasing strong commitment to the set objectives.

The chosen theme for this year’s celebration aims to accelerate the AfCFTA implementation in 2023, and to foster overall economic integration across the continent, by securing unfettered commitment from all stakeholders.

Based on the glorious vision of its founding fathers, the AU seeks to build an Africa that is, in the words of late President Jomo Kenyatta, “Self reliant, prosperous, and united.”

The curtain to this year’s celebration, held in the Leonardo Royal Hotel in centre London, was formally opened in a hearty rendition of the African National Anthem, sang by attendees at the august gathering.

In his Opening Remarks, His  Excellency Estifanos Habtemariam, the Eritrean Ambassador and Dean of AU Heads of Mission Group in London, talked lengthily about the subject of Unity, progress and other issues that the AU has been battling with since its inception. He described Africa as “the cradle of civilisation” and a continent with “a rich history”, fortified with a resilience that has “withstood the trials and tribulations of time; always emerging stronger and more determined” to pursue its given goals. HE Estifanos Habtemariam delved into the history of the OAU, formed 60 years earlier “with a vision to bring the nations of Africa together, to foster collaboration and to work towards the development and prosperity of the continent.”He observed that over the years, the organisation, which evolved into the AU, “has registered significant successes” as it continues “to pursue economic growth and to work on maintaining peace and stability.”He pointed out that the initiatives adopted by the AfCFTA “has the potential to significantly transform Africa’s economic landscape, creating real opportunities and improving the lives of people”.

The ambassador then went on to acknowledge the regrettable presence of “poverty, inequality, and the lack of access to quality education and healthcare” which still plague large parts of the continent. He mentioned the presence of “conflicts and violence” in several spots, and “the adverse effect of climate change”, and ended his remarks by firmly underlining that “Africa will rise above its challenges by harnessing its collective strength and potentials to build a prosperous future for all”. He called upon everyone to help in this quest, and encouraged the “empowerment of women and girls to enable them play their rightful roles in society”!

The keynote speech was delivered by HE Wamkele Mene, Secretary General of the AfCFTA. Speaking via a virtual link, the Secretary General expressed his delight and honour at addressing the gathering of diplomats. He talked about the achievements registered by the continental body in easing restrictions and helping trade. “For the first time we see organised large scale trading taking place across regions”, he stated. He expressed satisfaction at the speed and intensity with which Individual entrepreneurs and business communities, across regions, are beginning to make use of “the advantages conferred by the emerging conducive AfCFTA environment”. The Secretary General also talked about issues that are still being tackled to further ease the situation for the business communities, including the work on integrating policies that should be totally embedded in the statutory framework of all member states, and fully embraced by everyone. He explained the effort of the AfCFTA Secretariat, including in the area of Digitisation, enabling traders to buy goods in the currency of the country of purchase. Everyday Africa continues to take necessary steps towards the creation of “a unified and strong continental economy”, he maintained.

The evening was also marked by exhibitions of items of arts and crafts from different regions of the continent, with music and dance acts featuring cultural groups from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Algeria, and Zimbabwe.