Together towards Africa’s tomorrow

Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, CEO of the National Heritage Council, reflects on the meaning of Africa Day 2014

Sonwabile Mancotywa (1)

Africa Day, which falls on 25 May, had special significance for South Africans this year. As we celebrated 20 years of democracy, it gave us the opportunity to reflect on how far we as a  nation and as Africans have come since 1963, when Africa Day was established to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).


This year is also the tenth anniversary of the National Heritage Council, which further gives pause for thought about the nation we are today and the nation we wish to become.


When the OAU was formed, it set itself the goal of overcoming both colonial and racial domination in Africa, and this goal was finally fulfilled when South Africa became a democracy in 1994. Twenty years later, South Africa and fellow African nations face an equally important and intractable challenge. While we have achieved political self-determination, many of the continent’s people still live in poverty, and have little or no access to such important social services as education and healthcare.


So, while colonialism and racism may have been the challenges of the 20th century, the great challenge of the 21st century is one of overcoming their long-term legacies, especially poverty and economic inequality.


Recognising this as a challenge that requires a new and innovative approach, the OAU has reformed as the Africa Union, a 54-member confederation that was launched in South Africa in 2002. And on the 50th anniversary of Africa Day in 2013, African heads of state unanimously adopted a progressive social development programme called Agenda 2063.


Agenda 2063 focuses on the task of creating a paradigm shift in Africa, and on the recognition that countries across the continent need to do things differently in order to be successful and prosperous in fifty years’ time.


A global strategy to optimise the use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans, Agenda 2063 has identified eight priority areas, namely African identity and the African Renaissance; the right to self-determination; the integration agenda; social and economic development; peace and security; domestic governance; and the issue of determining Africa’s destiny and its place in the world.


Locally, these objectives are supported by the National Development Plan, which places great emphasis on continental integration rather than just on cooperation between nations.


The role of the National Heritage Council in working towards the fulfilment of the objectives defined in both Agenda 2063 and the National Development Plan is to promote heritage as a key component of the social transformation process. Since its establishment, the NHC has worked tirelessly to free the African voice in all of its many facets, and to develop the infrastructure necessary to ensure that that voice always has a platform. It is our role not only to engage with our history, but also to look forward towards the formation of a new and inclusive post-colonial and post-apartheid African identity.


It is a sad and inescapable truth that the impact of colonialism and apartheid has lingered long after the systems themselves have been overcome. It is now our task as Africans of all races to embrace this challenge, and to forge a new and unified identity that will help us to be the authors of our own success. In this, we are able to draw on Africa’s incredible wealth in history, heritage, philosophy and governance, which will help us to bring new dimensions to the institution of democracy that people the world over are hungering for.


The task will not be easy and the road will not be smooth, but if there is anything we as Africans can bring to the process is our resilience, energy and commitment to cooperative development. These things are in our hearts and will sustain us on the challenging path that lies ahead.


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