Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. The OAU was the precursor to the current African Union, which remains focussed on creating pan-African solutions that promote prosperity for all Africa’s citizens; a prosperity based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Africa Day, celebrated annually on 25 May across the continent and throughout the global African diaspora, highlights the diversity of Africa’s people, cultures, religions, languages, and the many communities from other diaspora which, over time, have become uniquely African and call Africa home.
One of the things I love most about higher education environments is that universities are inevitably microcosms of the society they form part of. Over the course of my first four months as Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP), it has been a source of pride for me to note the strides that UP, the largest contact university in South Africa, has made toward becoming a true microcosm of the country – and continent – which this proud institution inhabits.
At UP, because of our interconnectedness with our continent via staff and students from across Africa, through numerous agreements including joint research projects, staff and student exchanges and the continental networks we belong to such as the African Research Universities Alliance and many others, every day is Africa Day! We are of, in and about our continent.
As we celebrate Africa, we also celebrate the more than 3 600 staff and students from other African countries and across the world who have found a home at UP, thereby helping us to become a true microcosm of our continent we love.
UP’s commitment to Africa’s growth is further highlighted by two of our biggest 2019 projects: Future Africa, launched in March, is a key initiative which seeks to bring together scientists from across the continent in a space where they can work together and live together as they pursue solutions to some of Africa’s most urgent problems. The Javett Art Centre at UP, set to launch later this year, will provide a new home for showcasing the art and cultures of Africa. These new continental hubs will help propel African research, art and culture into the global arena.
I am also proud of the work being done by UP’s Centre for Human Rights (CHR), which rightfully places special focus on issues of human rights law across Africa. With its unmatched network of practising and academic lawyers, national and international civil servants and human rights practitioners across the continent, the CHR is making a significant contribution to strengthening human rights culture in Africa. An ever-growing cadre of CHR graduates now contributes in numerous ways to the advancement of human rights and democracy and the strengthening of institutions in our continent and beyond.
As one of the highest-ranked universities in Africa, the University of Pretoria is deeply committed to putting our backs into the work needed to propel our beautiful continent and all its people to their full potential. A March 2019 Department of Higher Education and Training report ranked UP as the top producer of published research outputs in South Africa in 2017 – a deep pool of research largely created by African researchers, at a proudly African institution dedicated to the production of knowledge that constantly moves our continent further along on its upward trajectory.
As we commemorate and celebrate Africa Day, let us be inspired by the positive energy generated by these and other initiatives big and small in our country and across our continent; a collective energy that will not be slowed as we advance our shared dream of a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable continent.
Professor Tawana Kupe
Vice-Chancellor and Principal