The last two decades have seen unprecedented levels of growth in Africa. While much of this can be explained by rapid changes in technology, growth-oriented government policy and the advance of democracy, the hard work and vision of ordinary Africans have played a critical role.
As we celebrate Africa Day on 25 May, it’s worth keeping this in mind as evidence of our inherent resolve and innovation: today we are a continent that is now the second-fastest growing region in the world, not only in control of its wealth, but its destiny.
Formally known as African Liberation Day, Africa Day commemorates the establishment of the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). Formed in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa by 32 founding states in 1963, the OAU encouraged decolonisation throughout the continent. Of course, this meant that the focus of Africa Day was strongly on liberation for many decades.
As the years progressed, however, the OAU began to play a more economic role, rather than a political one, as Africa’s various states successfully fought or negotiated for independence. Thus, the African Union (AU) was born and its aspirations for Africa have shifted to achieving a future of peace and unity through democracy, inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Subsequently, the focus of Africa Day has shifted. We now look towards building a better future together. Despite being blessed with abundant natural resources, our continent faces pressing challenges, most notably in infrastructure, education and gender equality. The good news is that these challenges can be, and are being, overcome through our realisation that triumph comes through unity.
With more than 154 years’ experience in Africa, Standard Bank, also trading as Stanbic Bank, respects and celebrates the continent’s character; we see that shared progress and success can propel entire communities forward. Consequently, our strategies are built on ensuring progress for the collective. We support a number of social, environmental and developmental programmes throughout our 20 markets. For example, we partner with Seedstars World, a programme to mobilise and support start-up communities globally; we also partner with the Global Fund on their AIDs, TB and Malaria programmes; and we sponsor Lionesses of Africa, a social enterprise that encourages female entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the implementation of our digital innovations across our countries help connect Africans to other Africans and the financial world beyond our borders.
“Africa Day expresses our hopes for African unity and marks our continent’s freedom from colonialism. Thanks to the struggle and sacrifice of the generations that achieved independence, we get to choose our own future,” says Sim Tshabalala, Standard Bank’s Chief Executive. “That future will be bright: As we have seen since the turn of the millennium, countries that control inflation and public debt, regulate business sensibly, construct and respect an independent legal system, build roads and ports and power stations, and find ways to draw people into the modern economy can be sure that they will continue to flourish over the years and decades to come."
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