Rwandan dancers perform at the  2015 Africa Day gala, (Mariama Diallo/VOA).
Rwandan dancers perform at the 2015 Africa Day gala, (Mariama Diallo/VOA).

To celebrate this year’s Africa Day, the African Ambassadors Group to the U.S. held a series of events highlighting the progress the continent has made and the challenges that lie ahead.

A gala -- based on this year’s theme: Women Empowerment & Development! -- topped off celebrations.

Africans in US Celebrate Africa Day 1839246

?From traditional dances from Rwanda and Ivory Coast to a whirling dervish, an Egyptian folk dance to Gnawa music from Morocco, it was a night of celebration.

“What is particularly important is that Africa is succeeding. Africa is on the rise. For decades in the past Africa was the continent with many problems. Today Africa is pulling its act together,” said Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. and co-chair of this year’s event. We are doing that because we are working together as a team. All Africans have these aspirations and together we’ll be able to achieve them.”

Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal from Morocco said this year’s theme about empowering African women is of the essence. “Women in Africa are extraordinary; we just need to give them opportunities. Second, Europe, the U.S. where we are right now and other countries can help do more to empower women. There’s a lot being done but it’s not enough,” she said. “And I think that it’s a good opportunity on a day like today to inform people already about what women are doing but also what we can do more.”

Well-known designer Alphadi (center) with Ivorian
Well-known designer Alphadi (center) with Ivorian and Ghanaens, (Mariama Diallo/VOA).

Oliver Wonekha, the Ugandan ambassador to the U.S., says an evening like this one is a moment to think of the continent as a united group. As a woman ambassador, the theme definitely speaks to her.

“It’s very important to empower women because it’s not just a human right, it’s a development issue. You’re talking about 51 percent of our population. You know being engaged, involved and being empowered so they can meaningfully contribute to development of our continent," Wonekha says.

South Sudan Ambassador to the U.S. Garang Diing Akuong said the continent is developing despite all the challenges.

'This is the century for Africa'

“We’ve seen socio-economic developments, strides in the technological development in Africa, innovations. This is the century for Africa; only that we need to stop some of the insecurities that are happening in the continent,” explained Akuong. “We need to embark in socio-economic development so that we stop our youths being frustrated and fleeing the continent looking for better opportunities.”

In addition to dance and music, some countries showcased products specific to their regions.

Art from Botswana on display at the 2015 Africa Da
Art from Botswana on display at the 2015 Africa Day gala, (Mariama Diallo/VOA).

“Some agricultural products like coffee and tea, obviously presenting it in an industrial and modern form. But we also have traditions like the masks, which represents the 10 provinces that make up our country,” said Joseph Charles, FOE Atangana, ambassador of Cameroon.

A good way to mix business and pleasure. Africa Day celebrates the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union, established in May of 1963. On this month, the African countries and their friends reflect on the successes and their continued goals and aspirations for a better future.

2015 has been declared a year of “Women Empowerment and Development Towards Achieving Africa Agenda 2063,” a roadmap for Africa’s long-term socio-economic transformation within the next 50 years.