In case you missed it, Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), presently recognized as the Africa Union (AU). The African Union, comprised of 54 member states, has brought together the continent of Africa to collectively address the challenges it has faced, such as armed conflict, climate change, and poverty.
The OAU was committed to helping bring about change and freedom to many African countries and restore dignity to African people. The 25th of May, is now celebrated as Africa Day, and marks the beginning of a quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of its people as well as co-operation among them.
In 2002 the OAU was dissolved and was replaced by the African Union (AU).
Ten things you need to know about Africa Day
1. Seventeen countries gained independence from European colonizers between 1958 and 1963, and to mark their liberation, several states started celebrating African Liberation Day around that time.
2. The newly liberated countries felt the need to express solidarity with one another, and in May 1963, 32 African countries met in Addis Ababa to form the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU). It was a major political force on the continent until the 1990s.
3. Since 1963, 21 more states have joined, notably South Africa, who only became part of the organization in 1994 following the end of white minority rule.
4. South Africa later became a founding member of the African Union, which evolved out of the OAU.
5. The OAU became the African Union because of the increasingly economic, rather than political, nature of the challenges faced by the continent in the 1990s.
6. Although years in the making, the African Union was officially launched in Durban, South Africa, in 2002, and 10 years later former Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma became the first women chair of the AU Commission (the AU’s administrative arm), she also happens to be ex-wife to current South African President Jacob Zuma.
7. President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe is the current chairman of the African Union.
8. The organization remains headquartered in Addis Ababa, although it’s legislative arm, the Pan African Parliament, is in Midrand, South Africa.
9. While Africa Day is only a national holiday in a handful of African countries, it is widely commemorated across the continent and the world.
10. The theme for 2016 is “Building a Better Africa and a Better World”.