Africa Day: A History of Unity and Diversity

Most, if not all Africans are familiar with Africa Day, a continent-wide celebration of Africa’s diversity and unity. The exact origins of Africa Day, however, aren’t quite as well known. When focused on how this special day came to pass, it’s easy to feel that much more strongly about Africa Day and its inspiring origins that stem from over 60 years ago.

The Drive for African Independence

 Africans responded to the end of World War II with exceptional efforts to decolonize the continent for more political rights and independence from colonial rule. Consequently, a significant number of African countries gained independence from European colonial powers between 1945 and 1965, with Ghana being the first sub-Saharan African country to gain its independence on March 6, 1957. Ghana’s independence inspired other African countries fighting against colonial rule, with Ghana ultimately convening the first Conference of Independent African States on April 15, 1958, a collective platform asserting Africa’s right to independence.  

The Organization of African Unity

On May 25, 1963, following the Ghanian conference’s sentiments, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopiain a meeting seating over 30 African nations dedicated to establishing unity between countries and gaining independence from colonial powers. This meeting marked the beginning of what we now refer to as Africa Day. The OAU eventually evolved into the African Union (AU) in 2002, where South Africa paved the way as a founding member shortly after the end of Apartheid rule.  

Africa Day Today

Africa Day continues to be celebrated in Africa and around the world. It is recognized as a day for celebration of the progress that Africa has made, while reflecting upon the common challenges that the continent faces; a day when myriad African cultures come together, to celebrate the African Union in its objectives for a decolonized, yet united African state; and a day to rejoice in and embrace Africa’s diversity. 

UBA and Africa Day

UBA has always deemed it appropriate to observe Africa Day. This special event is celebrated in all UBA offices around the world, from Lagos to New York, London to MaputoAs part of our annual Africa Day celebrations, we adorn cultural outfits, eat local dishes, and participate in a “best outfit” competition across the group, meant to encourage cross-cultural adoptions and encourage more unity across the UBA Tribe.  

Stay tuned for our activities during this year’s Africa Day celebrations on May 25!  


Ethan Andersen is the Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications for UBA America, the U.S. branch of United Bank for Africa (UBA). 


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