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A series of public debates under the theme ‘Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance’ kicked off on Tuesday at the African Union (AU)
Headquarters with various commentators calling on the AU to do more for the African people in areas of integration, free movement of people, the economy and democracy.
The event was organized by Oxfam International and the African Union Commission (AUC), together with The National Secretariat for the Organization of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), and is designed to enhance public’s understanding of the AU, its past and the way ahead.
The seminar was opened by Desire Assogbavi of Oxfam International, who said that the debates, which are expected to run for a whole year, are timely because 50 Years after the founding of the OAU, over 10 years after its transformation into the AU and a decade after the setting up of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), it was time to take stock. “This exercise of evaluating the progress made so far is an integral part of celebrating the past 50 years and will be done by us, African citizens. This seminar is one of the opportunities for us to do so, in order to contribute to the debate and the reflection of the Africa that we want for the next 50 years,” he said.
Among the delegates was Dr. Jinmi Adisa, Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Directorate at the AUC, Professor Abiy Ford from Addis Ababa University (AAU), who chaired the seminar, Professor Mekonnen Haddis, Head of the National Secretariat for the Organization of the OAU/AU 50th Anniversary of MoFA, and Professor Tessema Taa, a Senior Lecturer at AAU. Professor Tessema presented a paper on the concept of Pan-Africanism and its role in the setting up of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) reviewed the role played by the founders of the OAU in 1963 and said that if, at the end of this year’s celebrations, we don’t have a solid agenda as the founders had, then we will not have the correct vision for the next 50 years.
“Today is the time to reflect and measure the success of the continent in a thorough and methodological way to ensure that the vision and ideologies that brought about the founding of the OAU carries forward into the future,” he said.
Professor Mekonnen said that the series of debates were a crucial platform for African people to self-evaluate and determine for themselves what type of Africa they wanted to see in the future.
The event was attended by civil servants, members of the diplomatic corps, AU staff, academics, students and the media, who were invited to give their comments. Some speakers said that more needed to be done to make the AU relevant in the lives of ordinary Africans today and gave an example of African countries still restricting the movement of people across the continent by placing stringent visa requirements.