STATEMENT OF THE UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR AT AFRICA DAY COMMEMORATION UNDER THE THEME: “ARTS, CULTURE AND HERITAGE: EVERS FOR BUILDING THE AFRICA WE WANT."
A very good evening to you all.
Today is the 58th celebration of Africa Day.
On the 25th of May 1963, Africa made history with the creation by 32 nations of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is now the African Union (AU) comprised of 55 Member states.
As Africa Day is celebrated in all African countries and the entire diaspora, sadly, , our beloved continent continues to face many challenges from armed conflict, extreme poverty, inequalities and discriminations, climate change and health pandemics, including HIV&AIDS, malaria and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on all aspects of our lives.
Africa Day is a day of remembrance.
When the OAU was formed, Member States saw the continental organization as fit to unite and address common challenges. At that time, the common enemy was colonization . The OAU was therefore set up for the total political liberation of the continent from colonial power, as well as for unity and solidarity among its people.
Since September 1999 when the OAU changed into the African Union (AU), a people-oriented and people-centered institution, its aim has been the creation of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens and that represents a dynamic force in the global arena.
At this juncture, I would like to thank the organisers of this celebration, the African Women Peace and Development Foundation, for bringing us together on this day of remembrance to celebrate this important milestone in the history of the people of the African continent. I have noted with delight that we come together tonight to celebrate our Africa Day under the theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa we Want”.
This theme comes at an opportune time indeed when altogether, we are looking for ways and avenues to realize the continental promises of the OAU founding fathers (Kwame Nrumah, Haile Selassie, Julius Nyerere and others) and to build back better from the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic around the AU shared values for peace, human dignity, human rights, gender equality, freedom, democracy, the rule of law, justice and solidarity.
Arts, Culture and heritage play a significant role in building back better. I recall in this regard the productive discussions held with Emaswati artists in August 2020 under the UN75 Dialogues and in which we all came to the conclusion that artists give us hope, bring us together, contribute to the social development and economic growth of a country through their products, and inspire us in many ways in times of peace as in times of great distress such as this one.
I could not agree more with the UNESCO Director General, Audrey Azoulay who, in April 2020, said: “art has the power to unite and connect people in times of crisis.”
With this year’s commemoration, the African Union has highlighted the critical role played by the world’s cultural and creative industries, including their contributions to GDPs. By declaring 2021 as the “AU Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage”, the African Union. urges Member States to invest in African culture and heritage as drivers of the economic growth and social development goals outlined in both the AU Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Indeed, creative industries and cultural infrastructure contribute significantly to livelihoods, particularly in developing nations on the African continent. It is worth noting in this regard that a significant portion of those employed within creative and cultural industries in Africa are women. Arts therefore advance is SDG 5 on Gender Equality.
We commend the Government of Eswatini for gradually easing lockdown restrictions as the COVID-19 situation improves and for allowing certain industries, including the arts and entertainment, to resume operations while observing strict COVID-19 precautionary measures.
It is in solidarity between the Government, partners and all stakeholders, including artists, creative and cultural industries in which we shall invest more that we will recover better from the pandemic and achieve both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
In conclusion, I wish to leave you with a quote from Jonathan Butler (a Gospel/Devotional/Spiritual, Jazz, R&B/Soul artist from South Africa), who said, “art changes people, people change the world”. With our arts, rich culture and heritage, let’s bring transformative change to our continent and contribute to a more prosperous Eswatini where no one is left behind.