Today, the 25th of May marks Africa’s Day, a day which according to the Africa Union “commemorates the decision by African Heads of State and Government, to transition from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the African Union.
African Union Day
This was issued in the Sirte Declaration which called for the establishment of an African Union, with the aim of accelerating the process of continental integration to enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they were by certain negative aspects of globalization.”
The day is also said to “reflect on the Union’s transformation and achievements in the African continent.” In Ghana, though the Day is no longer observed as a public holiday, the Day remains of prime importance in the country. For this reason, most business firms call on their employees to put on their African wear and accessories in celebration of the day. As we celebrate this day, one cannot help but wonder about the state of the continent and if the day is worth celebrating.
African Union Day – Worth celebrating?
Africa has made some development strides over the past few years, however, the advent of the Coronavirus threaten the growth and developmental progress made by the continent. According to the World Bank, the coronavirus “could push up to 40 million people into extreme poverty, erasing at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.”
Moreover, according to the African Economic Outlook 2021 by the African Development Bank Group, about 30 million Africans were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
Also, government spending across the continent skyrocketed as the government strived to support their citizens through the pandemic. The result led to a worsening debt-to-GDP ratio across some countries on the continent.
For instance, Ghana’s Debt-to-GDP ratio hit an all-time high above 71% of GDP and is expected to rise to 83.2% in 2022, and then further to 84.8%, 86.0% and 86.6% in 2023, 2024 and 2025 respectively per the International Monetary Fund (IMF) data on low-income developing countries. The continuous rise in debt could lead to devastating economic consequence such as higher tax rates, high interest rates, and inflation with the resultant effect of a low standard of living.
Despite the negative economic downturn that the pandemic poses, African Union Day is worth commemorating as it unifies African states in one common goal of pursuing economic and social partnership in achieving a progressive life for the people of Africa.
In celebration of the day, Africa must pursue growth strategies in all sectors of the economy to ensure the continent becomes a global economic giant and strategic partner. One way the continent can achieve this is if Africans can learn to support fellow Africans (i.e. purchasing African products and services, and investing in African businesses and human capital). The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) offers a glimmer of hope if it is effectively implemented across the continent.