Africa day in retrospect

Africa Day is celebrated on the 25th of May each year to mark the founding of the African Union (AU) in 1963. The day is celebrated across the continent to recognise the progress made by African nations towards achieving unity and development. This year, Africa Day was commemorated under the theme: “Acceleration of African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) implementation.”


The AFCFTA is a trade agreement between African countries to create a single market for goods and services, free movement of people and investments, and enhance economic growth and development across the continent. This trade pact agreement will allow public health professionals to create synergies and cross pollinate ideas on how to tackle some of the challenging yet shared sexual and reproductive health problems as an example. This also allow civil society organisations to come together even more to trade public health advocacy ideas and approaches.


SAYWHAT strongly believes that the successful implementation of the AFCFTA will reap significant positive implications on the access to sexual reproductive health services by young people in Africa. The free movement element encapsulated in the   theme demonstrates the political will of the AU to facilitate young people’s access to sexual reproductive health services across the continent. In the spirit of Pan-Africanism, this may see young people and students enjoying access to quality pubic health services with young women benefitting from quality and convenient maternal health services across frontiers without restrictions. 


Additionally, the AFCFTA can equally help to reduce the cost of importing and exporting pharmaceutical products, including contraceptives and antiretroviral drugs. Improving access to such essential medicines, and other sexual reproductive health tools becomes fundamentally key to win the fight against HIV and AIDS, among other STIs. SAYWHAT stands ready to partner with the AU to ensure that AFCRFTA aspirations are realised by capacitating young people in research and entrepreneurship. 


The AFCFTA was signed by 54 out of 55 AU member states and came into force in January 2021. Implementing the AFCFTA will boost intra-African trade, create jobs, and increase economic growth. Creating job opportunities through the opening of new markets will give an opportunity to young people to earn a decent living. Poverty has been one of the factors attributed to rising HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and child marriage cases in Africa. Thus, the AU’s thinking on AFCFTA becomes an alternative to beat poverty which gives young people power especially young women to retain power during intimacy with their partners. This is in line with the AU’s agenda 2063.   


Agenda 2063 is the AU’s strategic framework for the continent’s socio-economic transformation over the next 50 years. The agenda is based on seven aspirations: a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development, an integrated continent, and a peaceful and secure Africa. The AU has identified several critical health advocacy areas for achieving Agenda 2063, including improving access to sexual reproductive health services, reducing maternal and child mortality, and combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.


The AU’s Agenda 2063 and international protocols on health and gender equality are significant for organisations that advocate for young people’s public health services and rights, like SAYWHAT. These policies provide a framework for promoting access to sexual reproductive health services, reducing maternal and child mortality, and combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. They also provide a platform for promoting gender equality and empowering young people, which is critical for achieving SAYWHAT’s ambitious health advocacy goals at the continental stage.


SAYWHAT further takes delight in the progress the AU has made towards improving public health on the continent. The AU has adopted several policies and protocols aimed at improving public health, including the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, the Abuja Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases, and the Ouagadougou Partnership on Family Planning. These policies have helped to improve access to sexual reproductive health services, reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and improve maternal and child health outcomes. SAYWHAT has widened its wings into the continent and has deliberate programs to heighten awareness on public health policies and will do its best to ensure that young people partake in the fulfilment of the policies AU promulgated.


The AU has made significant progress towards improving young people’s health on the continent. For example, the AU has implemented policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among young people, improving access to sexual reproductive health services, and increasing access to education and employment. The AU has also launched several initiatives to empower young people, including the African Youth Charter and the Youth Volunteers Corps. This work is in line with SAYWHAT’s 2021-2050 strategic vision.


Despite the progress made by the AU in as far as access to public health services is concerned, some health gaps need urgent attention. For example, maternal and child mortality rates remain high in many African countries, and access to sexual reproductive health services is limited in some areas. There are also significant disparities in health outcomes between rural and urban areas and between different income groups. The AU needs to prioritise these gaps to achieve its health advocacy goals. SAYWHAT stand ready to be part and parcel of providing solutions on these gaps from a non-clinical perspective.


Celebrating Africa Day under this trade thematic idea points to a potentially improved health environment. This is a good sign towards a one Africa that takes care of its own people.

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