The African Democracy Forum (ADF) would like to join all Africans, across and beyond the continent, in commemorating the Africa Day under the 2017 theme; “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”. The 2017 Africa Day marks the formation of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU) on 25th May 1963 aimed at promoting unity among African countries so as to work together to address their common needs.

The positive strides that have been made in Africa in terms of its political, social and economic welfare are without a doubt numerous, commendable and indeed a reflection of the capabilities that lie within the continent. The 2017 Africa Day theme is a testament to the immense resource that is found in the youth in Africa who, according to the UN World Population Prospects (2015 Revision), will comprise of 46 per cent of the 1.3 billion increase in Africa’s labor force over the period 2015-2063, averaging 12.1 million a year. Efforts therefore need to be made towards incorporating youth in the development agenda of the continent as active participants and partners in the realization of the “Africa We Want”.

With regards to the respect and promotion of democratic principles and human rights within the continent, African countries have had varying levels of success in embedding these values into their institutions and their populace. There have been an increase in demonstrations in a number of countries such as Ethiopia, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe; to name a few, whereby citizens have taken to the streets to protest against the circumvention of democracy and violation of their fundamental human rights. These protests have led to untold damage in terms of loss of lives, destruction of property as well as further violations of people’s rights such as arbitrary arrests and torturing of activists.

On the other hand, there have been steps that have been made in the right direction such as the resolution of the Gambian political crisis through a collective effort of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other international actors. Measures and institutions have also been put in place to ensure that democracy and human rights reign supreme within the continent such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which have continued to gain relevance among African states with Mozambique being the most recent countries to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance while the Tunisia government signed a pact in April, 2017 to allow its citizens direct access to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

The African Democracy Forum therefore urges the African people, as a whole, to work together as one force with a clear goal and focus towards growing our continent and ensuring that we are all beneficiaries of our combined efforts for the sake of current and future generations. The ADF pledges to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the vision of strengthening democracy and human rights in the continent is achieved and the “Africa We Want” comes to fruition. Happy Africa Day 2017! Viva Africa!

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