Africa Day is the official day of the African Union, which falls on 25 May annually. In Ireland Africa Day is celebrated on the weekend closest to the official date. In 2016 events were held in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford, supported by Irish Aid.
Fr. Maurice Henry SMA attended Africa Day at Farmleigh Estate, Phoenix Park, Dublin, on Sunday 29 May 2016, to explore possible ways the SMAs and OLAs might participate in future years.
This year’s event included free public performances by well-known African and Irish musicians, children’s entertainment, education projects, film screenings, traditional African drumming and dance workshops and cultural performances. Dublin Bus organised a free shuttle service from the city centre to the Pheonix Park throughout the day.
The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., said, “Africa Day celebrations in Ireland present an important opportunity to show how those Ireland-Africa connections are operating in many positive and exciting ways… providing a platform to celebrate the achievements of African nations, as well as their diverse cultures and heritage. By supporting Africa Day in 2016, we are demonstrating our confidence and hope for the continent over the years to come…”
Ten Facts about Africa Day:
- Seventeen countries gained independence from European colonisers between 1958 and 1963, and to mark their liberation, several states starting celebrating African Liberation Day around that time.
- 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 Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). It was a major political force on the continent until the 1990s.
- Since 1963, 21 more states have joined, notably South Africa, who only became part of the organisation in 1994 following the end of white minority rule.
- Ironically South Africa is a founding member of the African Union, which evolved out of the OAU.
- 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.
- 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).
- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is the current chairman of the African Union.
- The organisation remains headquartered in Addis Ababa, although it’s legislative arm, the Pan African Parliament, is in Midrand, South Africa.
- While Africa Day is only a national holiday in a handful of African countries, it is widely commemorated.
- The theme for 2016 is ‘Building a better Africa and a Better World’.
Irish SMAs and OLAs have worked in Africa for 130 years. Across the decades we have grown to love and respect the tenacity, generosity, hospitality and faith of the African people.
To learn more about Africa Day Ireland click here.