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Africa reborn – the first glimmers of a new dawn

Cyril Ramaphosa is President of South Africa.

A divided Africa is a betrayal of the anti-colonial struggle and the vision of an independent, self-reliant continent. But the restoration of Carthage and the regeneration of Africa requires sacrifice, hard work and the unity of the peoples of Africa.

On Africa Day, we cannot speak of the promise of African renaissance without recalling the hope, exhilaration and anticipation of the era of African independence.

This sense of liberation and resurrection was most vividly captured in the poem Ghana Calls by the father of Pan-Africanism, Dr WEB Du Bois.

He wrote:

I lifted up mine eyes to Ghana

And swept the hills with high Hosanna;

Above the sun my sight took flight

Till from that pinnacle of light

I saw dropped down this earth of crimson, green and gold

Roaring with colour, drums and song.

Yet Ghana shows its might and power

Not in its colour nor its flower

But in its wondrous breadth of soul

Its Joy of Life

Its selfless role

Of giving.

School and clinic, home and hall

I lifted my last voice and cried

I cried to heaven as I died:

O turn me to the Golden Horde

Summon all western nations

Toward the Rising Sun.

From reeking West whose day is done,

Who stink and stagger in their dung

Toward Africa, China, India’s strand

Where Kenya and Himalaya stand

And Nile and Yang-tze roll:

Turn every yearning face of man.

Awake, awake, O sleeping world

Honour the sun;

Worship the stars, those vaster suns

Who rule the night

Where black is bright

And all unselfish work is right

And Greed is Sin.

And Africa leads on:

Pan Africa!

As we gather here, we dare declare that our identity is unambiguously African. We dare say that our being is one with Africa, that we are loyal disciples and workers for Africa’s development. We must insist that we are unmistakably products of Africa’s long and complex history. We maintain too that we are ultimately the authors of Africa’s auspicious future.

We are Africans – Kwame Nkrumah told us – not because we were born in Africa, but because Africa was born in us. To realise Africa’s ability to give birth to a world with a more human face we carry the responsibility to confront the colonial limitations that were imposed upon us.

Through brute force, through the plunder of resources, through the enslavement of minds and bodies, Africans were stripped of their humanity and dignity. For the absurd colonial project to prosper, we were reduced to unimaginative, primitive savages who were merely content with subsistence living.

Our belief systems, customs, and traditions were denigrated, frowned upon, and ridiculed as superstitious and a hindrance to development. Long after the overthrow of colonial rule, imperialism and racial prejudice prevented our historical wounds from properly healing and for us to freely march forward to progress.

It was Frantz Fanon who said:

Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well.”

Imperialism flourished because it made the oppressed believe some of the worst lies about themselves. To be black and African carried a burdensome weight, irrespective of one’s standing in African society.

This gathering should be about affirming our individual and collective self-worth as a people. It should be about raising our consciousness to the endless possibility that the idea and experience of being African carries. It should be about us taking advantage of the vast, golden opportunities available in the programme of rebuilding Africa.

A more humane and just world cannot blossom without an African renaissance, without embracing African values and without a proper appreciation of African aspirations.

It is over a century since Dr Pixley ka Seme declared in his seminal work The Regeneration of Africa that:

The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved;

Her desert plains red with harvest;

Her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities,

Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce;

Her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business;

And all her sons employed in advancing the victories of peace—greater and more abiding than the spoils of war.

Yes, the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period!

The renaissance envisioned by Pixley ka Seme is one that affirms the bonds of solidarity and humanity of all Africans.

It is a call on us to fully identify with the hardships and sufferings that Africans experience day by day.

Seme dreamed of a new self-reliant Africa whose development would be driven by Africa’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

He saw the spread of enterprise – from Cape to Cairo, from Morocco to Madagascar – as integral to the restoration of our identity and inherent dignity.

We therefore applaud the organisers of the African Renaissance Conference who have been seized with the role of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem in the restoration of Africa’s self-worth.

This conference is essentially about the role of enterprise in bringing a better life to all our people.

To succeed, we must affirm Africa as a birthplace of all humanity and cradle for civilisation.

Archaeology, history and science confirm Africa as a pre-eminent centre of innovation, scholarship and commerce.

To free ourselves from economic injustice and social marginalisation, our children must know that they share an affinity with the civilisations of Egypt, Timbuktu, Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe.

In our quest to root out the evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality, in our pursuit for an equitable economic renaissance, we must simultaneously plant the seeds of Africa’s cultural revolution.

We must purposefully celebrate black excellence and innovation to demonstrate that over millennia, we possessed and refashioned a culture full of energy, strength and vigour.

In our quest for freedom and prosperity, we should remember what Frantz Fanon said:

The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anti-colonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.”

Our identity is African.

Our destiny is African.

From our ancient ruins, we must act decisively to reconstruct the Africa of our dreams. The unity of the African continent and its prosperity must be the vision that inspires all of us.

We must unequivocally state that days of the scramble for Africa to selfishly serve the interests of foreign nations and neo-colonial elites are gone.

From the destruction of the ancient African city of Carthage, we must build a new Africa at peace with itself and its neighbours.

As former President Nelson Mandela said in 1994 at the summit of the Organisation of African Unity in Tunis:

Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance. Let it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding of the African city of Carthage… Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory.”

But the restoration of Carthage and the regeneration of Africa requires sacrifice, hard work and the unity of the peoples of Africa.

A divided Africa is politically and economically weak.

It is vulnerable to greedy exploitation by powerful local elites and international capital.

A divided Africa is a betrayal of the anti-colonial struggle and the vision of an independent, self-reliant continent.

As Molefi Kete Asante warns:

The current situation on the continent is untenable. Africa’s destiny will be that of a beggar continent for centuries if Africa is not united. We cannot allow this moment to pass. It will take great heroes to rise to the challenge.”

The future of enterprise development in South Africa is intertwined with the future and unity of Africa.

It is intertwined with continental efforts to promote inter-African trade and development.

It is linked to Agenda 2063, which the former Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, championed as a roadmap for the future of our continent.

Agenda 2063 is a call to action to all Africans and people of African descent to take personal responsibility for the destiny of the continent.

This is a plan for an Africa where development is people-driven. At its heart are the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of African Renaissance. The plan calls for the development of an African private sector.

It is about fostering pan-African businesses through the growth of regional manufacturing hubs and scaled up intra-Africa trade. It is a call to action to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent. It is envisages a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. It asks you and me to build an Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics. An Africa where we develop and utilise the full capabilities of all our people, a continent that unleashes the potential of its women and youth. It advocates for a peaceful, yet strong Africa which takes its rightful place as global player and partner.

Today at this African Renaissance Conference, we have taken a break on the journey that was begun by our forebears to 2063. As kinsmen and kinswomen, we have paused to collectively agree that our work will not undermine or betray the sacrifices of the heroes of our revolution.

We have taken a moment to say we have a sacred duty to harness all our strengths and capabilities to rebuild our country and continent from the ravages of colonial and imperial destruction.

And you, our entrepreneurs and innovators, have a special role to restore our self-worth and respect. Africa awaits to embrace you and support you in your enterprising endeavours. You can only win and make our people prosper.

Today we are wiser than yesterday. And we are certain that our tomorrow will be better than yesterday. Unlike yesterday, we will be vigilant to ensure that Africa’s guests – invited and uninvited – will not be allowed to destroy we, the host tree.

We will not allow them to spoil our sacred places. We will not allow them, as we did with the weaver bird, to cause our pain, suffering, and humiliation.

We will remember Kofi Awoonor warning about this weaver bird:

The weaver bird built in our house

And laid its eggs on our only tree.

We did not want to send it away.

We watched the building of the nest

And supervised the egg-laying.

And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner.

Preaching salvation to us that owned the house.

They say it came from the west

Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls

And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light.

Its sermon is the divination of ourselves

And our new horizon limits at its nest.

But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the communicants.

We look for new homes every day,

For new altars we strive to rebuild

The old shrines defiled by the weaver’s excrement.

As we meet here on Africa Day to deliberate on entrepreneurship and innovation, let us be guided by the words of Robert Sobukwe:

Let me plead with you, lovers of my Africa, to carry with you into the world the vision of a new Africa, an Africa reborn, an Africa rejuvenated, an Africa re-created, young Africa. We are the first glimmers of a new dawn.” DM

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address at the 19th African Renaissance Conference


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