Today marks Africa Day for the 55 countries on the continent. It was on this day in 1963 that the Organisation of African Unity – now called the African Union (AU) – was established. This year, the day will be marked under unique circumstances with the world and the continent grappling with the novel coronavirus.

History of Africa Day 

In 1958, a congress was held in Ghana to both celebrate countries that had reached independence from European colonial rule and plot a way forward to free nations on the continent that were still under colonial rule. South Africa was not invited to the congress as it was governed under apartheid.

Much of the decolonisation of Africa happened between the 1950s and 1975.  This saw countries move from colonial rule to independence under the leadership of African leaders. South Africa was the last country on the continent to celebrate freedom when it held its first democratic election and had its first Black president, Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Below is a graphic of the history behind Africa Day:

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Silencing the guns in Africa

Agenda 2063 of the African Union lists 15 flagship projects as the key programmes and initiatives to accelerate Africa’s economic growth and development as well as to promote a common African identity through the celebration of our history and our vibrant culture.

One of these flagship projects is “Silencing the Guns”. In his acceptance speech as the Chair of the African Union (AU) on February 9th 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressly stated his commitment to make a “contribution to promote peace and security in our collective effort to “Silence the Guns”, emphasising the important agency of the “AU Peace and Security Council, the AU Commission and the collective membership” to “focus our efforts on conflict resolution across the African continent, especially those experiencing protracted conflicts”.

In the video below: Lucky Masilela who is the CEO of ZA Central registry elaborates on the issue of “Silencing the Guns”.

The economic impact of COVID-19 on Africa

Africa Day is being celebrated under the cloud of COVID-19 with the impact being felt across Africa. People’s lives have been greatly affected and the economic impact has been catastrophic. According to World o Meter, Africa’s population as of May 2020 was over 1.33 billion as per United Nations’ estimates. Research done by the World Bank says one in three Africans (over 420 million) lives below the Global Poverty Line.

Many African countries have implemented lockdowns amid the virus. This has meant restricted movement, with many businesses not operating and in most cases, only essential services being allowed to continue. Social gatherings have been banned under many of the lockdown regulations.

The impact of the virus has put economies of African nations under severe stress with many seeking help from organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Countries have also pledged money within their economies to lessen the blow the virus has had on businesses and people’s livelihoods.

Highlights of economic initiatives to combat the effect of COVID-19 in Africa:

  • The World Bank approved a $1 billion loan for Kenya to help it close a gaping budget deficit and tackle the economic shocks from the coronavirus.
  • Nigeria’s economy could shrink as much as 8.9% in 2020 in a worst-case scenario without stimulus, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said.
  • Egypt’s central bank will provide up to 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($6.36 billion) in loan guarantees to banks to encourage lending to businesses during the coronavirus
  • Uganda will receive an emergency loan worth $491.5 million from the International Monetary Fund to help cushion its economy from the impact of the new coronavirus
  • The World Bank will grant $7 million to Zimbabwe to help it fight the new coronavirus outbreak that is expected to worsen an already struggling economy and food crisis
  • The African Union (AU) has pledged $1.3 million to accelerate development, production and equitable global access to new COVID-19 essential health technologies.
  • African Investors agree that fast-tracking the African Union’s 5% infrastructure agenda is critical in the fight against COVID-19.
  • Nigeria is wooing local companies to boost manufacturing and food production in the West African country, the central bank said, after the novel coronavirus disrupted imports and created large financing needs.

In the video below, SABC News Foreign Editor Sophie Mokoena looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s growth prospects:

 

African Union and the novel coronavirus

African Investors agree that fast-tracking the African Union’s 5% infrastructure agenda is critical in the fight against COVID-19. The AI’s African Sovereign Wealth and Pension fund leaders forum, which is part of the COVID-19 round table, met to discuss the role and response of institutional investors to the pandemic. The big question is where must the money be invested?

Chairman of African Union’s Continental Business Network Hubert Danso unpacks the subject:

African Free Trade Agreement postponed

The implementation of a mammoth African Free Trade agreement will not begin on July 1 as planned due to disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said in April.

“It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances,” Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, said during a conference call.

Mene did not say whether there was a new targeted implementation date.

The 55-nation continental free-trade zone would, if successful, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc with 1.3 billion people across Africa and constitute the largest new trading bloc since the World Trade Organization formed in 1994.

Mene said he was confident the deal would still go forward.

“The political commitment remains, the political will remains to integrate Africa’s market and to implement the agreement as was intended,” he said.

Mene said that as African governments do not have the firepower to launch the same type of economic stimulus packages that the United States and Europe are putting forward to mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, intra-African trade could serve the same purpose.

“That’s our stimulus package. That’s how we’re going to get back on track as Africa.”

South Africa and the impact of COVID-19 on the economy

South Africa, Africa’s most advanced economy, has implemented one of the strictest coronavirus lockdowns on the continent. The central government has implemented a National Command Council to deal with the impact of the coronavirus on all sectors.

South Africa has had to look at the economic impact in a serious light. One of the main initiatives has been an R500 billion pledge from central government to bolster the economy during the pandemic fight. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa also set-up a Solidarity Fund.

By mid-April the Solidarity Fund had received R1,6 billion in its bank account out of all total pledges it has received to spend on measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus and provide relief to affected people.

The fund will focus on efforts to combat the spread of the virus. It will also assist those who are ill and support those whose lives will be disrupted.

More on the Solidarity Fund in the video below:

African artists using innovation during coronavirus restrictions

Social distancing, lockdown rules, concerts being cancelled, have all had a negative impact on the entertainment and arts industry worldwide.  Artists in Africa have not been spared. To stay in touch with their fans they have come up with creative ways to continue performing. Some have used Social Media while others have had virtual concerts to ply their trade.

One of the Social Media platforms that are being used to showcase artists is the ‘Music in Africa’ Twitter page.

The page is a networking and information account for musicians across the continent.  It highlights upcoming events and also a collection of events that have already taken place.

One of the events is the MTV Base Africa Day Virtual Concert which will be hosted by actor, producer, and DJ, Idris Elba. The award-winning star recently recovered from coronavirus. The lineup of artists that will take part in the event was announced on Twitter by Elba. The strictly African line up has multi-award-winning South African artists, Sho Madjozi and AKA, gracing the show.

In the video below, Monde Twala, Senior Vice President for Viacom CBS Networks Africa Youth, Music & Entertainment Channels, shares more on the concert:

World-famous Pata Pata song re-released

The world-famous song “Pata Pata”, a South African dance hit from 1967, was re-released with new lyrics to spread information about coronavirus to vulnerable communities.

Meaning “touch touch” in the Xhosa language, “Pata Pata” was written by Grammy-winning singer Miriam Makeba who named it after a dance move popular in Johannesburg at the time.

The new version sung by Beninese artist Angelique Kidjo includes lyrics such as, “We need to keep our hands clean so ‘no-Pata Pata’… Don’t touch your face, keep distance please and ‘no-Pata Pata’”.

It was played on more than 15 radio stations across African countries in April.

“It sounds so simple and yet it’s still really difficult to get information out to people in the most remote areas or to people who aren’t online,” said UNICEF spokesman James Elder, who was part of the initiative for the re-release.

South African artists doing their bit

Durban artists have collaborated to record a song entitled “We are the World”. The aim of the music project is to uplift South Africans during the lockdown period and to create awareness about coronavirus. The song is already making waves on various social networks.

These sounds of angelic voices are a product of a collaboration of Durban musicians known as 2Unique. The combination of voices is a product of an individual recording by each artist using smartphones at different locations. They opted for this mode of music recording to ensure that they adhere to lockdown regulations.

Two artists speak about how they been coping during lockdown

SABC News spoke to South African gospel artist Tshepang Mofokeng and Nigerian afrobeat artist Jammin.

Both artists say it is a very important time now to interact with supporters and come up with creative ways to keep in touch with them.

“It’s especially important to keep in touch with my supporters and fans. And generally, everyone close to me from family to friends. This period people are passing through a lot. A lot of people are passing through depression and some people have lost loved ones. So, it’s very important for you to communicate,” says Jammin.

They hope that after this pandemic everyone will come out stronger, and encourage everyone to spread positivity.

“I’d love to pass this message to everyone to all my colleagues that they should use their platforms to spread positivity and love,” adds Jammin.

Tshepang Mofokeng has urged everyone to stay home and adhere to the rules of the national lockdown.

“We need to stand together as a country, and we need to push forward so that we come out better. So that we lessen the infection rate and death rate. It is important for us to adhere to the rules in order for everyone to stay safe.”

In the video below the artists speak about the importance of interacting with supporters:

I am an African

Former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, on the 8th May 1996 in his capacity of vice president at the time delivered the speech ‘I am an African’ on the occasion of the passing of the new Constitution of South Africa.

The speech is below:

Click here for SABC News coverage on COVID-19 in Africa.