I believe there are no coincidences in life. Events are divinely orchestrated. While I am in Senegal, one of the African countries where I feel most comfortable among the many that I have had the opportunity to visit in the course of my professional career, its national Independence Day, celebrated this April 4th, reminds me of how much our continent needs to strengthen and consolidate the gains that its countries have made, through the sweat of their peoples and leaders, over the last 60 years. It is therefore with heartfelt joy that I join millions around the world to express my best wishes for Senegal as it celebrates 63 years of sovereignty and independence.
Like my country, Nigeria, which also gained independence in 1960, along with many other countries on the continent, in that decolonization movement triggered by the demands of a post-World War II world and the enthusiasm of colonized peoples for self- determination, every independence celebration is a reminder of our journey to freedom, and a duty to accentuate the hopes and vision of our founding fathers of a greater, united, democratic and economically prosperous continent. It is, in particular, the best pretext for taking stock of the progress and shortcomings of our countries in order to better define the steps to be taken at the national but also continental level, to consolidate the place of our nations and that of the continent in the international order.
We are, like the rest of the world, facing multiple challenges, and we are equally being impacted by developments in the international community. One of these negative developments is the resurgence of wars, particularly that of Ukraine, with its seamy consequences in terms of inflation, disruption of food security and supply food chain; the attendant shock waves across economies throughout the world, including those of Africa; the growing incidence of transnational threats from cross-border pandemics to violent fundamentalisms all of which weigh heavily on the fragility of our societies.
The independence of African countries in the early sixties were significant milestone events which is one reason why they should always be celebrated with solemnity and deep appreciation of their historical import. Since the advent of independence, our countries have continued to work to overcome poverty, famine, insecurity and create a context of peace, stability and democratic progress with mixed results. Being aware of the road that remains to be travelled and the need to do so together, under the seal of the ideals defined since May 1963 by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and taken up and amplified by the African Union (AU) at its birth in 2002, is one more reason to take advantage of each national independence day to recommit to the urgency of mobilizing African nations around common causes of democracy, good governance, economic prosperity, political stability, security and trade. The goal and indeed our duty is to work
collaboratively towards achieving peace, prosperity and progress for the people of Africa and Africa as called for in Agenda 2063 adopted by the African Union.
Senegal stands tall as one of the driving forces in the construction of African unity. She has distinguished herself with her intellectual density, democratic ambition and cultural purity. It is therefore with great pride that I associate myself with the good people of Senegal and its Independence Day. To the leaders of Senegal, through its President, Mr Macky Sall, and to its valiant people, I would like, through this message, to express my encouragement for you to build and consolidate on your democratic credentials and ensure that it remains a worthy model in Africa from which sister African nations can draw inspiration as we journey towards a common ideal!
From the implementation of the continental free trade area to solidarity and sovereignty in food and health, the fight against irredentist and terrorist activities, and the recovery of our democratic projects to the strengthening of our democratic ambitions, which are increasingly under threat, there is no shortage of reasons to get back to work. We are capable of doing so. May the celebration of Senegal’s independence serve to illuminate the pathway of democratic consolidation in Africa. It is with a view to participate and support Senegal and its people at this critical juncture in its history, that we have come, with our leadership education and citizens empowerment projects to make modest contributions for continued progress.
Obiageli Ezekwesili, former Vice-President Africa of the World Bank, former Minister of Education, Nigeria, is Founder of Human Capital Africa Foundation and #FixPolitics Africa.