Amid the greatest challenges of this century, the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to build Africa’s resilience and celebrating its achievements is imperative to ensure that all Africans continue making progress toward the African Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. The celebration of Africa’s resilience stems largely from all community stakeholders embracing the values of Ubuntu that enable interdependence, interconnectedness, and mutual support that is critical to mitigating the devastation of this virus. Briefly, the Africa Day commemorations enable Africa to reflect on the progress and common challenges that the continent confronts in a global environment.
Before the 25th of May 2021 commemoration, there were four Africa Friday activations in Inkwali schools leading up to the main commemoration of Africa Day. The activations were held with primary and high schools on the South Coast of Durban which included Mazibu Primary, Inkwali Primary, and Vumandaba High School where information sessions about Africa were shared with the youth of different nationalities. The information sessions came as a result that there was a huge knowledge gap of Africa and its history. Hence, the theme “Know Africa” guided these sessions.
On the 25th of May 2021, Africa Unite in partnership with the Institute of Afrikology conducted a dialogue with young people at Inkwali Primary School Hall in Inkwali rural community under Kwa Thoyana, located 56 km from Durban. The day was commemorated under the theme “Celebrating Africa’s resilience in the time of COVID-19” where youth acknowledged that the pandemic has allowed us to validate our capability to move from a tendency to be preoccupied with the quest of individual achievement to rally together with empathy and kindness to join forces in response to this existential crisis. This shift in behavior towards what matters for humanity and environmental survival was a significant achievement component in our response to COVID-19. The dialogue was attended by 150 learners from various schools of the Kwa Thoyana community (Inkwali Primary, Ophapheni Primary, Vumandaba High School).
The dialogue with young people sought to encourage youth to work together to build a caring and proud African society based on shared values and vision. Moreover, the dialogue gave young people a platform to have conversations on Africa and Africa’s culture and heritage. Youth highlighted that it was imperative to change the narrative of Africa as there have been many different types of misrepresentation of Africa. The negative narratives listed by young people included that Africans were not united, practice witchcraft, and poor. With these, it was important to change the narrative through knowledge sharing, uniting, taking pride in who we are, and respecting each other.
Since Africa Day is not a national day in South Africa, youth emphasized that local, and traditional leaders must take an active role and lead in popularizing the day. Moreover, youth and community members have a role to play in opening learning platforms that will enable information sharing about Africa and its history. Furthermore, the participants acknowledged Africa’s triumphs of continuing to be resilient despite the challenges in a time such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, they highlighted Africa’s collective obstacles which included gender-based violence, xenophobia, discrimination, the killing of albinos, racism, tribalism to mention a few. To address these, the participants argued that there was a need for effective law enforcement on gender-based violence, the need to unite, and the need for voices of traditional leaders in educating especially young people. In concluding the dialogue, young people elucidated that we need to unite as Africans as we are creative thinkers, resilient and that we have a great deal of potential yet untapped in Africa. Moreover, we need to continue contributing to the development of our continent.
After the dialogue at Inkwali Primary School Hall, we then proceeded to the Institute of Afrikology Resource Centre for the celebrations of Africa Day where we were joined by the KwaZulu Natal government led by Premier Sihle Zikalala, Inkosi Hlengwa from Kwa Thoyana Traditional Council, and the provincial KwaZulu Natal Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture under the leadership of MEC Hlengiwe Mavimbela, and. The theme for the celebrations was “The Arts, Culture, and Heritage: Levers for Building Africa We Want.”
The event created a platform for the government to feature messaging which encouraged unity among the African people despite their diverse identity and heritage. Both Inkosi and the Premier called for unity and condemned violence targeting non-South Africans and emphasized oneness and treating each other with dignity and respect in building a cohesive and Africa we want. The Premier also emphasized the importance of being producers of our food and being suppliers and support each other as that was key to building a resilient Africa.
In conclusion, the day also had a taste of Africa displays where different nationalities which included South Africans, Congolese, Zimbabweans, Burundians, and Rwandese had an opportunity to showcase their traditional food. Also, we had a fashion parade where South African and Congolese designers showcased their collaborative work. The event also showcased South Africa’s diverse backgrounds and cultures through different art forms and to promote social cohesion. We had Burundian drummers and various South African music groups.