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Reflections on Africa Freedom Day


IN ONE of her famous quotes, late Indira Ghandi, the third Prime Minister of India, the world’s largest democracy once said that ‘the power to question is the basis of human progress’.
The Africa of today is totally different from the Africa of the 60’s and 70’s. The transformation that has occurred at every human endeavour is due to being in a position to question ourselves and doing something about the question to progress. To people with vivid first hand memories of the African struggles during colonial times hold different and most likely emotive reflections of this day.
It should be recalled that the epoch of the 1950’s and 60’s was characterised by a great surge in national liberation struggles across the African continent for self- rule and determination. The quest to gain this self-rule came at a huge cost as many lives were lost. Before the commencement of the struggle for self-determination, natural resources were being shipped out of the continent. When the struggle was in motion, the imperialists further continued to heist resources in the midst of this bedlam. Unfortunately, this swooping of Africa’s natural resources has continued.
Last week on Wednesday, 25th May, the continent ruminated on this important day Africa Freedom Day under the theme ‘Celebrating the role of women in the liberation struggle’. This theme is timely as it recognises the cardinal role women across the continent played in the political emancipation of the Africans. Some schools of thought have argued that the liberation struggle has been given a man’s face while the woman’s face assumed a supportive role. In this author’s view, adduce that in the 50’s and 60’s, promotion of gender equality and women empowerment was not given due prominence and perhaps explains the perceived subservient prominence women have been given in the liberation struggle. In fact, in the Zambian case, despite the important role women played in the independence struggle, the first cabinet was all male. A clear cut example of the struggles men at that time had to appreciate a woman’s place in society.
It is pleasant to note that this year’s Africa Freedom Day has for the first time been themed around women and their extraordinary role they played and continue to play to attain total emancipation of the African continent at all fronts. 50 years after attaining self-rule, Africa has produced uncountable women luminaries in the sector of economics, politics, academics and science. On the political and leadership front, Africa has been able to produce Liberia’s 24th President of Liberia, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf while Ms. Catherine Samba held together a politically fragile Central African Republic from 2014 to 2016. In the two countries, mentioned stability appears to have been attained. The African Union is currently being headed by Mrs. Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma. The former Vice-President of Zimbabwe Mrs. Joyce Mujuru and indeed Zambia’s very own Mrs. Inonge M. Wina are colossuses of women that have provided leadership at the highest level of governance in Africa. This is a clear example that Africa is moving forward and this is not time to repose our efforts to better the lives of the very common African and women in particular.
While women have and continue to play that onerous role in transforming African society, the rural woman who constitutes the majority of the African women is bedevilled with problems around maternal health, lack of education facilities, HIV/ AIDS and other diseases, and access to entrepreneurship opportunities. It is even worse for women in war torn parts of the continent as they are not only exposed to diseases but security risk and in many cases their human rights violated. These are just but a few examples of the many challenges the African man faces today. In the face of the above, one cannot even be oblivious to the fact that deliberate measures to sustain peace, democracy and political and economic stability, food security coupled with extreme poverty and hunger remain a daunting task. This is exacerbated by the fact that today, most African economies are still dependant on the international system that appears to have the power to dictate the pace at which Africa progresses economically. An economic downturn in any of these major importers of Africa’s raw materials causes all sorts of problems. This has inevitably placed Africa’s economic development open to too many external shocks that in turn have a negative impact on the lives of the very common citizen. These are the pangs of economic slavery that Africa needs to be emancipated from if indeed, it has to write its own history as the first Prime Minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba said.
The focus of African Governments just like regional blocks such as Southern African Development Community (SADC) should be to make the natural resources work for the common person. It is important that the youth and in particular women are given opportunities to enter skills colleges to gain professional careers, and access to empowerment programmes that prepare them for life ahead. To attain total economic emancipation and social progress, it calls for hard work and investment in innovation. This therefore means that Africans both within the continent and in the diaspora should be asking themselves what they are doing for Africa and not what Africa is not doing for them.
Pan-African institutions such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) should by every means scale-up their efforts in supporting member countries investment in infrastructure and equally promote innovation to ensure that African problems are resolved by African solutions. This is the only way sustainable economic development will be spurred. Above all, more needs to be done by the continent to enhance greater unity and enhancing peace and security.
The author is an observer of local and international affairs.
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