Friday “Africa Day”, set aside annually to commemorate the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). In July 2002, the OAU was succeeded by the present African Union. While much of the efforts of the OAU was focused on attaining political idependence, forty-four years later, some say the task of the African Union is to bring about sustainable economic development, good governance, eradicate poverty, and end the many conflicts on the continent.
Couaovi Apan Johnson is secretary to the African Union Commission. From the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, he told VOA several events are planned in observance of Africa Day.
“The first one is the launching of the African Union diplomatic passport. I will tell you that the chairman of the African Union, President Kufuor of Ghana will launch the African Union diplomatic passport here at the headquarters. The second activity will be the launching of the VSAT Project. As you know, communication is the main budget consumer for the headquarters. We pay a lot for communication, but we don’t have the best facilities. So the member states have decided that we should have our own communication system,” he said.
Johnson said the VSAT communication system will be used to communicate with AU offices outside Addis Ababa while at the same time making possible videoconferences with all foreign ministers of all AU member countries.
He said the new AU diplomatic passport is significant because it would enable officials of the organization to travel freely and easily.
“You should remember that in the past, officials of the OAU had what we call OAU laissez passer to travel within the continent. But now it has been decided to have a true passport for the movement of the staff of the organization. The new significance of this passport is that it will be extended to officials of member states. All the head of states of the 53 member states will have this passport, ministers from member states, and renown personalities on the continent, and also some people from the Diaspora,” he said.
Johnson said the theme for this year’s Africa Day celebration is “Let’s strengthen Africa’s place in the world through strategic, balanced and responsible partnership.”
“As you know, Africa has developed historical relationship with Europe through colonization. Because of that, we have a strong partnership with European Union. But we believe that this partnership is not yet what it should be. So Africa believes that the new partnership has to develop through balanced partnership and responsive strategy, which will be based on equal advantages. But to do that Africa has to be united,” he said.
Johnson confirmed that talk of a united Africa is alive within the Africa Union.
“All our members have agreed that the ultimate goal of the African Union is the United States of Africa. But the debate in Africa now is how and when to get there,” he said.