Updated: Jul 8
Held every year on 25th of May since 1963, Africa Day aims to commemorate African people and Afro Descendant cultures by celebrating the many vibrant cultures of the African continent and African Diasporas around the world, promoting them as an effective lever for sustainable development, dialogue and peace. As a rich source of the world’s shared heritage, promoting African and Afro Descendant culture is crucial for the development of the continent and humanity as a whole.
The Africa Day (formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day) is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU; now known as the African Union).
There is so much to learn, share and celebrate on Africa Day, not only for African peoples, but for every human being, and Urban Kapital encourages everyone to join in through various activities such as debates, conferences, workshops, cultural events and presentations or exhibitions.
Getting to know Africa
There are 54 countries within the African continent, and one “non-self-governing territory”, Western Sahara. All of Africa was colonized by foreign powers during the “scramble for Africa”, except Ethiopia and Liberia. Before colonial rule, Africa comprised up to 10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs. Today, the African continent is the world’s oldest populated area.
In Africa, the Arabic language is spoken by 170 million people, followed in popularity by English (130 million), Swahili (100 million), French (115 million), Berber (50 million), Hausa (50 million), Portuguese (20 million) and Spanish (10 million).
Over 25% of all languages are spoken in Africa only, with over 2,000 recognised languages. What an enrichment would be to learn them all!
Nonetheless, Africa is the second most populous continent with about 1.1 billion people or 16% of the world’s population, and over 50% of Africans are under the age of 25. A synonym for African populations? Youth!
Mapping Africa's natural resources
Africa is a key territory on the global map. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position.
Did you know that Africa is the world's fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment? It has approximately 30 percent of the earth's remaining mineral resources.
Sub-Saharan Africa has six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies. North Africa has vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore, and resources such as coltan, gold, and copper, among many others, are abundant on the continent.
Africa is home to five of the world's top oil-producing countries, with an estimated 57 per cent of Africa's export earnings from hydrocarbons.
Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and Mozambique are all rich in oil and gas.
Proven oil reserves have grown by almost 150 percent, increasing from 53.4 billion barrels since 1980, to 130.3 billion barrels by the end of 2012.
The region is home to five of the top 30 oil-producing countries in the world, and nearly $2tn of investments are expected by 2036.
Besides oil and gas, Africa is rich in precious minerals, forests. Here’s a complete summary of the amazing resources Africa offers:
Diamonds: in Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Gold: in Benin, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania.
Nickel and Uranium: in Burundi.
Pozzolana: in Cape Verde.
Fish: in Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles.
Timber: in Liberia.
Titanium: in Gambia.
Graphite: in Madagascar.
Tobacco: in Malawi.
Iron Ore: in Mauritania.
Phosphates: in Western Sahara and Morocco.
Aluminium and Gas: in Guinea and Mozambique.
Cooper: in Uganda and Zambia.
Clearly, the region is full of promise and untapped riches - from oil and minerals and land to vast amounts of people capital.
African geography and nature
Today there are few truly wild places left on the continent with 1.1 billion people and a global economy looking to Africa for the resources to sustain development into the next century.
Africa is the world’s second-largest continent covering about over 30 million square kilometres, and the Sahara is the largest desert in the world and is bigger than the continental USA.
Also, Africa is the world’s hottest continent with deserts and drylands covering 60% of land surface area (e.g. Kalahari, Sahara and Namib).
It is the world’s second driest continent (after Australia) and has approximately 30% of the earth’s remaining mineral resources.
Rainfall variability is very high – from 0 mm/year in the Sahara to 9,500 mm/year near Mount Cameroon.
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. Africa has the most extensive biomass burning in the world, yet only emits about 4% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions. It has eight of the 11 major biomes and the largest-remaining populations of lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah, hyena, leopard and hundreds of other species.
Megafauna like giraffe, zebra, gorilla, hippopotamus, chimpanzee and wildebeest are unique to the continent and only found here.
And did you know that Lake Malawi has more fish species than any other freshwater system on earth?
Not less important, the Nile River is the longest river in the world with a total length of 6,650 kilometres. Africa has also over 85% of the world’s elephants and over 99% of the remaining lions are on the African continent, counting eight of Conservation International’s 34 biodiversity hotspots, with over 25% of the world’s bird species.
Indeed, the Serengeti (Tanzania) hosts the world’s largest wildlife migration on Earth with over 750,000 zebras marching ahead of 1.2 million wildebeest as they cross this amazing landscape.
African cultural celebrations everyone should experience
There are countless reasons to visit Africa, but the continent’s endless array of festivals and traditional celebrations that bring people together from all over the world are one of the most alluring.
The celebration of culture through art, literature, music, fashion and food make African social festivities so special, and they have become so deep-rooted on the continent that it would be hard to visit and not attend one of the several hundred to choose from. If you’re not sure which festivals to attend, here are six of Africa’s most paramount celebrations worth travelling for.
Zimbabwe: Harare International Festival of the Arts
Known as the “Glastonbury of African Festivals,” Zimbabwe’s Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is an explosion of creative artistic work that showcases the resilience and strength of the Zimbabwean people.
The festival is considered one of the continent’s largest events and takes place each year in late April in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, though the event did not occur in 2019.
“Come and share our brotherhood and sisterhood; come and share our love of the arts and humanity,” reads a statement of HIFA’s website. Throughout the years (since its inception in 1999), the festival has attracted more than 1,000 musical performances and in 2018 alone, HIFA issued more than 30,000 tickets.
Morocco: Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
Enthusiasts admit that a trip to Africa is not complete unless one visits Morocco’s popular Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, a festival highlighting Balinese dance, Moroccan song, Italian Renaissance music and African Sufism.
The festival is held under the patronage of the king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, and combines the scholastic, artistic and spiritual traditions of Fez, one of Morocco’s most mystical cities.
During the festival, art displays, food vendors and more than 50 concerts scatter throughout the city every year during the last week of June. The festival draws crowds from groups all around the world, specifically Europe, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia.
Free forums are offered to patrons who get the chance to mingle with legendary Moroccan scholars and artists both local and abroad.
When you think Afrochella, think Coachella but with an effervescent twist.
Featured in Essence and Travel Noire, Afrochella draws in thousands from all over the world for its precise depiction of Africa’s popular culture and art scene.
“The name was befitting only in its essence but not practically. Coachella is a music-focused festival,” an Afrochella spokesperson said in a statement. “While Afrochella highlights musical talent within Africa, the festival is built to highlight African creatives and business.”
The week-long festival is only three years old but has already appealed to more than 5,000 attendees in its first year alone through a celebration of African art, food, language and music.
Afrochella is held every year in Ghana’s capital city of Accra during the last week of December.
Tanzania: Sauti za Busara
Sauti za Busara has been named one of “Africa’s best-loved music festivals” because of its eclectic mesh of the continent’s top artists.
Forty of Africa’s young and emerging talents all convene in Tanzania’s capital, Zanzibar, for a three-night celebration of song and dance with acts travelling from Guinea, Nigeria, Algeria and South Africa to perform.
Besides, to live performances, training workshops are held throughout the grounds to promote networking and managerial skills for up and coming entertainment professionals.
The festival is typically held during the second week of February.
Rwanda: Kwita Izina
Rwanda is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas and every year in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, a week-long tour of the country’s breathtaking landscape is conducted for hundreds of tourists.
One of the most popular parts of the trip is Kwita Izina, a gorilla baby naming ceremony, which celebrates the newborns while raising awareness about the importance of protecting the species from extinction.
Kwita Izina 2019 will begin the first week of September and also offers beer brewing, basket weaving, music and food tasting experiences.
The tour is fast becoming one of the continent’s most praised cultural celebrations and draws in more tourists than the year before since its inception in 2005.
South Africa: Knysna Oyster Festival
Oyster lovers: look no further because South Africa’s Knysna Oyster Festival provides attendees with a limitless display of mollusc delicacies for your slurping pleasure.
The festival, which takes place right in between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, is an annual one-week event that draws in thousands for its half marathon, cycling race, swimming, canoeing and scuba diving events.
Food lovers can join in on the competition and participate in oyster cooking and shucking contests, including the Oyster and Wine Mardi Gras, a culinary event where chefs compete for prizes. Knysna Oyster Festival is held annually during late June and early July.
The only thing left to say? When borders will reopen, I will treat myself with an African immersion… will you join me?