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Back to Día mundial de África. Un continente joven, pobre y rural

Antonio Monge, Director of research center in Applied Pharmacobiology (CIFA), University of Navarra, Spain

World Africa Day. A young, poor and rural continent

Wed, 25 May 2011 08:05:34 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

World Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963 in Addis Ababa. Its impetus came from the work of such famous names as Haile Selassie, Gamel Abdel Nasser or I. Kwame Nkrumah. Leaders who wanted to provide the continent with a voice that would transmit the unity of Africa to the rest of the world. Personalities who also sought to put an end to colonialism and promote international cooperation.

In 2002, the African Union was established, with 53 states, where the official languages are Arabic, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Swahili. However, European countries with territories in Africa do not belong to the organization. Since 2004, its Pan-African Parliament has been based in Timbuktu, and since 2009 the functions of this body have been legislative as well as consultative.

In terms of both its objectives and its vocation, this organization is not so distant from us, since it is directly inspired by the European Union and its declaration - dated May 9, 1950 in Paris - on the need for "creative efforts for peace" and for creating a "European federation that is indispensable to achieve this end, while respecting the freedom and identity of the member countries, on the understanding that what can be done in common, must be done so".

This declaration of intent should not remain merely the union of different blocs in commercial areas. It can be an opportunity to find common points that speak of the future for those countries that share the same interests, both in Europe and in Africa.

Today, 50 years after the first organization was born to give voice to the continent - the OAU - and after a decade of activity of the African Union, we still have an image of Africa made up of two very different faces: that of the territory of the great spaces, the wild fauna and the color of its human and artistic manifestations, but also that of the continent of poverty, HIV/Aids and armed conflicts.

Africa is a multifaceted reality: it is the third largest continent in the world, inhabited by approximately one billion people: one sixth of the world's population.

At the same time, the African population is growing at a rate of 2% per year, much higher than the 1.2% rate of average in the rest of the world. It is therefore the youngest continent, with 40% of the population under 15 years of age and only 3% of people over 65 years of age, although life expectancy average does not exceed 46 years.

In general, the African population is predominantly rural - 64% live in the countryside - compared to 26% in Europe. This fact helps us to understand the importance of agricultural policies for the future of Africa. Without losing sight of the fact that the urban population is growing significantly, by around 5% annually.

Its resources (ivory, precious woods, fabrics) and, in particular, its mineral production, which is extremely important for the international community, are recognized. In fact, one third of uranium production is mined in Africa and the world's largest radioactive reservation is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its oil, copper and nickel are also highly valued.

Despite all this, the entire continent's GDP represents 2.6% of the world total. It is therefore the poorest continent. A territory of great wealth where one third of the population lives in poverty. Fifty million people suffer from hunger every day and one in three has no access to drinking water.

These are all contrasts of a young, poor and rural continent.