May 25 is a public holiday for the whole of the African continent. The day is known as Africa Day and this year marks 60 years after the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 32 signatories of the founding fathers of the OAU Charter gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1963 to establish the OAU with the following objectives:
- To promote the unity and solidarity of the African states.
- To eradicate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa.
- To defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence.
- To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa.
- To promote international cooperation, having due regard to the charter of the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The OAU was later transformed to African Union (AU) and Addis Ababa remains the headquarters of the organization.
How far has the African continent moved with the implementation of these objectives 60 years after their promulgation?
Analyses of the realities of the current situation on the African continent indicate that there is still lot of work to achieve these objectives. It is estimated that 422 million people, which is a third of the entire population of the continent, live below the global poverty level and they constitute 70% of the world´s poorest people. There are more than 10 countries with active wars.
Many countries especially in southern Africa are facing severe drought and the employment rate in Sub-Sahara Africa is at 6.63% with over 10.2 million persons aged between 15-24 unemployed. How do we explain these realities in the context of the background of these beautiful objectives that were set 60 years ago? How do we explain these realities in the context of the second largest continent in the world and the richest in terms of natural resources?
The theme of this year's celebration is Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the African Continent. Issues of malnutrition are still a challenge in Africa due to a number of factors that include: prominence of drought, unemployment, wars, and bad stewardship of the continent's resources. A more holistic approach is needed to tackle the issues of nutrition and food security in Africa. More factors should be put into consideration for the continent to achieve the goal of a healthy society by 2063.
Firstly, Africa has vast tracks of utilized land. There is misappropriation of land in Africa and with many hectors of land lying idle. The issues of land ownership and rights should be addressed because those with political power own huge tracks of land that are not put to good use. The land tenure system in Africa needs to be revisited. Land is the primary source of food and without proper use of it food security cannot be guaranteed.
Second, the issue of water management should be addressed for a sustainable nutrition and food security programme. Most countries in the sub-Sahara region receive good rainfall averages per year but the major challenge these days, due to global warming and other factors, is the distribution pattern of rain throughout the season. The continent needs to invest in new water harvesting techniques to ensue good harvest. Many countries experience floods and within a short period of time all the water is drained to the oceans without benefitting the farmers. Therefore, political leadership as well as investors should prioritize water harvesting.
And thirdly, new farming technologies need to be introduced in African farming. Gone are the days of using ox-drawn ploughs. The continent needs to move from subsistence to fully-fledged commercial farming. Most of the farming in many African countries is done by rural people and it is not done at commercial level. Nutrition and food security are not luxuries but basic human needs. Food is at the top of the pyramid of human needs and failure to address food security is a serious breach of human rights. No excuse will justify poverty in Africa; it all boils down to bad stewardship and greediness. Therefore, African leaders need to give the subject of security the seriousness it deserves.
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