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Celebrating Africa Day

Boitumelo Maswabi

May 25th, 2021 will mark the 58th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, which made way for the African Union in 2002.

The African Union was formed “To accelerate the process of integration in the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems.”

Africa Day offers us the chance to celebrate “The achievements of the peoples and governments of Africa’ and on that note, Voice Woman speaks to four highflying African women: International professional, Margie Otukile; Co-founder of Fashion Without Borders Africa, Tebo Bakwena; Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Dr. Chinandu Mwendapole and lastly, Dr. Samantha Laone Letsholo, who is a veterinarian specialising in the area of Virology.

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Margaret Otukile, who is currently based in Trieste, Italy, is the Head of Human Resources at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB).

A hugely inspiring African woman, Otukile has worked for Puma Energy in Angola and Tunisia.

She has also worked for the African Development Bank based in Cote d’Ivoire and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Egypt.

What does it mean to be an African?

I am an African because I was born in Africa; my cultural upbringing is African.

My environment, despite being an international professional, is shaped by African norms and practices.

I am a professional African woman and still live by principles that were instilled in me by my parents and grandparents when I was growing up, respect, botho, love, and care for one another.

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It gives me the strength and confidence to be who I am.

It means I am a citizen of the continent, and proud to be an African, I should be comfortable living anywhere across the 54 countries.

I take pride in my country, Botswana, and have always been an ambassador of the blue, black, and white flag wherever I go.

I have always integrated with the people and societies of the countries where I lived, learning about their cuisine, ceremonies, rituals, and important cultural activities.

What achievements do you celebrate about Africa?

I celebrate African humanity; African history and heritage, achievements, tribulations, pain of slavery, colonialism, and above all the triumph of Africa over all the adversities, which have bedevilled the continent and its historical trajectory.

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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) is one of the biggest successes that will integrate trade between African Countries and improve their economies.

This will also strengthen trade with other continents and offer business opportunities offered by the huge Africa market.

The creation of AfCTFA will see the creation of jobs, infrastructure development, industrialisation, and improvement in the lives of the people of the continent.

What do you hope to see happen in Africa in your lifetime?

Africa overcoming its current problems of corruption, inefficiencies, dependence on fossil fuel – propel its development based on green energy.

I hope for an Africa that utilises its rich resources for the people and competes with the rest of the world and not being dependent on handouts from other parts of the world.

Former model and Co-founder of FWB, Tebo Bakwena, says she’s only lived in two countries in Africa – Botswana and South Africa.

Celebrating Africa Day

For her, Africa Day is an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and where we are going as a continent.

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“I’ve met so many brothers and sisters across the continent and this has opened my eyes to Africa I never knew, and that is essentially what inspired the Fashion Without Borders Africa movement.”

What does it mean to be an African?

It’s the way we celebrate our diversity in a manner that promotes understanding and the spirit of togetherness.

To be African is to be complex in a land of complexity.

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I am African first and a Motswana second, no matter where I go.

I may be influenced by western culture but always love and celebrate African cultures, even those I have yet to experience.

What achievements or successes do you celebrate about Africa?

With so many devastating events due in part to political instability, which imperils economic growth, it becomes increasingly easy to lose sight of the true value the continent possesses and it is easy to overlook the continent’s contribution to the world at large.

What do you hope to see happen in Africa in your lifetime?

I always hope for Africa to be one big country.

Just how exciting it’d be to move within Africa without a passport? Imagine the possibilities and opportunities!

Botho University Lecturer, Dr. Chinandu Mwendapole – originally from Zambia – has lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and has visited the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Congo, and Ghana.

Celebrating Africa Day

She says she proudly celebrates Africa Day annually.

What does it mean to be an African?

Original people – Africa is the cradle of humankind.

What achievements do you celebrate about Africa?

I celebrate Africa’s humanity, diversity, size, nature, culture, food, and people.

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What do you hope to see happen in Africa in your lifetime?

I wish to see the industrialization of Africa’s value chains, eradication of poverty and wars, as well as the growth of a strong African identity and unity.

Dr. Samantha Laone Letsholo says she does not celebrate Africa Day strictly on the 25th of May but every day.

Celebrating Africa Day
SPECIALIST-VIROLOGY: Dr. Samantha Laone Letsholo

She believes future generations must be deeply grounded in African culture and history, as this will ensure a solid identity.

What does it mean to be an African?

To be an African is to embrace our diverse cultures and ethnicity.

As a people, we are connected by our identity and resilience that is grounded in our unshaken belief in God; the spirit of ‘botho!

What achievements do you celebrate about Africa?

I celebrate the move to have free trade among us through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Kazungula Bridge as a significant first step towards achieving this goal.

I celebrate that the world now recognises that our story is worth telling and is being told by major media houses like CNN and BBC every day; our children can be proud to be called Africans, the sons of the soil.

What do you hope to see happen in Africa in your lifetime?

I hope to see the free trade agreement’s success and our continent develop into a high-income region, as well as to see the disease burden in humans and animals decrease and with it our continent achieving a high life expectancy, food security, and wealth creation.

I hope to see the abundant natural resources primarily benefit continental Africa.

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