The commemoration of Africa day allows us as Africans to celebrate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. Indeed this date marks a clear point in the history of our continent, a point at which our founding leaders signalled to the world that Africans were ready to work in solidarity with one another. This is key to our future.
One of the most prominent leaders behind the founding of the OAU, Kwame Nkrumah, is quoted as saying, “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”. This still applies now under the Africa Union, where the focus is on addressing not just political but also development and economic challenges, as well as creating current and future opportunities for Africa’s young population.
This year, the AU has decided to strengthen its action towards refugees and displaced persons in order to develop durable solutions for them, focusing on autonomy and resilience. The AU theme for 2019 is “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa’’.
Figures show that sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly half of the 11.8 million new people displaced worldwide by conflict in 2017 alone, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). The most affected country is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 2.2 million new displacements in 2017, out of a total of 4.5 million displaced people. Then come South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic.
From the Lake Chad Basin to Somalia, conflicts are most often a primary cause, as are drought and natural disasters. It is too often forgotten that these natural phenomena represent a substantial part (2.6 million in 2017) of the influx of new displaced people on the continent.
The complex issue is of primary concern to the countries that signed the Kampala Convention on the Protection of Internally Displaced Persons in 2009, ten years ago. Africa has committed itself to providing responses, since displaced persons are in principle under the responsibility of their country's authorities. In practice, the UNHCR is also concerned about rescuing them, but faces funding difficulties.
Long-term solutions can be summed up in a few words: conflict prevention, poverty alleviation and anticipation of natural disasters, which are always easier said than done in broad concrete action plans. Nevertheless, good practices were discussed in New York, for instance what has been done in Niger, the first African country to adopt a national law on the protection and assistance of displaced persons in 2018.
It is a good thing that the celebration of Africa Day allows us to continue to reflect on the best way for Africa and its partners to assume their responsibilities. And so as the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, we would like to convey the best wishes to all Africans across all corners of the world. Together we will win this fight and achieve ‘The Africa We Want.’
Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki
CEO, African Union Development Agency-NEPAD