Africa Month






347 Days 11 Hours 3 Min 20 Sec

Until next Africa Day

2020 Virtual Africa Month ‘A reflection on ubuntu, and the quest to achieve African unity’
Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, University of the Free State

The 2020 Africa Day reflection and celebration is different from any previous commemoration of African unity on the occasion of the anniversary of the founding of the African Union’s predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, on 25 May 1963. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for us to host any event that requires physical presence. Consequently, we are unable to host our traditional Africa Day Memorial Lecture coordinated by the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies, or any of the other large events that normally signify our commitment to African togetherness and solidarity. We were forced to rethink the way we commemorate African unity and solidarity, and as such, developed the idea of the 2020 UFS Virtual Africa Month. 

 With the theme ‘Africa together forever’, we signify that African unity and solidarity are critical for our continent, now and in the future. This theme is particularly significant, considering that it is only through Pan-African solidarity and unity that Africa can overcome the challenges emanating from the current global pandemic.

 Through a variety of cultural and intellectual contributions posted on the dedicated UFS Virtual Africa Month webpage, we are expressing diverse views on African unity from the Kovsie community and beyond. Highlights include an Africa Day webinar, ‘Revisiting the African idea of Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic’, which will be presented by the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies on 26 May 2020, the launch of the book Ke Ilela Makgulo, written in Sesotho by one of our students, Setenane Matsimela, on 25 May 2020, as well as a range of thought pieces published on our dedicated Africa Month webpage. 

 The diverse Virtual Africa Month activities highlight our university’s commitment to creating a diverse, challenging, and intellectual environment.  As a research-led university, we strive to generate a space where new ideas are conceived and debated, contributing to our transformation process. This year, I would like us to reflect particularly on how we, as a research-led South African university, contribute to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic; and more so, how we envisage the role of higher education post-COVID-19. While these are challenging times, it is also a time for reflection, regeneration, innovation, and new possibilities. I believe that as part of the higher education space, we are more than well positioned and equipped to give credence to new possibilities, especially for the continent. Re-imagining higher education and what our universities will look like post-COVID-19, will require extensive collaboration and co-creation in order to navigate the complexities that have recently emerged.

History and intellectual underpinnings of the Africa Day celebration


On 25 May 1963, representatives of 32 African states gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (now known as the African Union). During the formation of the OAU, only two-thirds of African countries had been liberated from the yoke of colonialism. The coming together of these states to form the OAU was aimed at supporting the liberation of other African states that were still under colonial rule, as well as to foster political and economic unity and the integration of the continent. It was at this conference for the formation of the OAU, that a decision was made that the peoples of Africa will, on 25 May each year, commemorate Africa Freedom Day, later renamed Africa Liberation Day, and now known as Africa Day. 

The commemoration of Africa Day presents a unique opportunity for the affirmation and celebration of the history and ideals that spawned and sustained the movement towards economic integration, political unity, and liberation of the African continent. Today, the commemoration of Africa Day has metamorphosed, incorporating the celebrations of the rich cultural diversity and heritage of the African people. The understanding is that Africa Day celebrations should be inspired by more than just inquisitiveness about the past and about politics. Though history and politics are still the fount and matrix of the celebrations, the celebration should also help us affirm our culture and heritage as fellow progenies of the African soil.  

It is indeed true that much has been achieved on the political and economic front. In a similar vein, there is a lot that still needs to be done. However, in the discourse on the celebration of Africa Day, we should choose not to indulge in the clamour of bean counting. Instead, we should pause, take stock, and embrace what has been achieved – with the sole understanding that this can lead us to achieve even more. We should be inspired by our resilience as a people, drawing from the understanding that we cannot afford the luxury of throwing in the towel even in despondent and gloomy times. 

This is even more apt today, as Africa and the world at large find itself facing the spectre of the coronavirus disease of 2019, popularly known as COVID-19. On a lighter note, perhaps the irony of this year’s celebration of what was known as Africa Freedom Day or Africa Liberation Day (now known as Africa Day), is that we are not really ‘free’ or ‘liberated’. The spectre of COVID-19 is proving that the challenges to our ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’ and even to our existence, are vast and evolving. But as enunciated earlier, we should draw from our resilience as a people. Only then shall we overcome.

Article was written by Kanego Mokgosi, Senior Officer Comprehensive Internationalisation, UFS Qwaqwa Campus 

A Virtual celebration of Africa Month

On 25 May 2020, Africa will celebrate the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity. A central tenet of the organisation, which was the predecessor of the African Union, is African solidarity. Member states undertook to coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the people of Africa. The University of the Free State (UFS) has a long tradition of commemorating Africa Day and the ideas underpinning it. Every year, diverse events aimed at advancing African unity and solidarity take place during Africa Month – traditionally, the highlight is the Africa Day Memorial Lecture hosted by the University's Centre for Gender and Africa Studies

This year, celebrating African unity through significant events involving the physical presence of a large number of people, will likely be impossible. COVID-19 is ravaging the world and Africa may become one of the world regions worst affected by the consequences of the virus. Social distancing may be difficult to achieve in a continent with densely populated urban centres that often feature large informal settlements. Besides, the economies of African nations are not as robust as those of other world regions. The challenge that Africa is facing, appears to be one that can only be mastered by its people acting in solidarity and unity. The continent has already developed an Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak to combat the virus, and an Africa Taskforce for Coronavirus has been established. The ideas of African togetherness and the underpinning philosophy of Ubuntu may be critical for strengthening African solidarity at a time when it may be more relevant than ever.

The commemoration of Africa Day takes a different theme each year. This year, the UFS 2020 Africa Month celebrations will take a virtual format, with the theme of ‘Africa together forever’ underpinned by the COVID-19 global pandemic. The theme is particularly significant considering the context of the African continent; and only through the demonstration of solidarity and unity can Africa overcome the challenges of the global pandemic.

The diverse contributions to the 2020 virtual Africa Month activities will highlight the University’s commitment towards creating a diverse, challenging intellectual environment. The UFS strives as a research-led university, to provide an environment in which new ideas are incubated and debated; contributing towards its transformation process and African unity. 


WATCH:  Setenane Sidwell Matsimela’s first published book Ke Llela Makgulo. Interested in his culture (Sesotho), he is doing research to learn more about his culture, as well as the cultures of Africa as a whole.


“I do hope that you enjoy listening to the audio overview of my book.”

Africa Day 2019


WATCH:  UFS Africa Day Celebrations 2019.  Streamed live on 24 May 2019.


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From a pre-colonial to a COVID-19/post- university

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Introduction to Toyin Falola’s ‘African Continentalism: The Future of the Past’

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