#SAFreedomDAY2022: Consolidating gains, empowering women and youth to drive recovery

Grace Jeanet Mason

South Africa is celebrating a momentous 28-year democracy this year – a period that has been characterised by steady economic, political and social freedom, having first marked it in April 27, 1994.

The theme for the occasion: ‘Consolidate our Democratic Gains’, is a charge to the country’s people to seriously guard and leverage the peaceful and democratic rule to spur the rapid resurgence of a nation that was greatly harmed by the covid pandemic, and a time of rising insecurity in some parts of the continent.

South African Ambassador to Ghana, Grace Maison, captured this call aptly in her speech on the special day: “Our people are still reeling from the devastating effects of the pandemic which disrupted their livelihoods. It is therefore incumbent upon us, governments and the private sector, to restore their dignity and to work tirelessly to rebuild our economies in order to improve the living conditions of our people”.

Though the impact of the pandemic has been severe, she applauded the strong demonstration of resilience of the continent and its people, giving special mention to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), which showed proven capacity during the tumultuous times.

“We must admit, though, that the COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Africa to strengthen its public health systems and responses. We must move to a level of prevention, whenever possible,” she however appealed.

Ambassador Maison re-echoed the concern of President Ramaphosa that post-pandemic South Africa, and the continent at large, will be an era of different struggles – one against poverty, underdevelopment and growing unemployment, and one that demands a revisiting of the collective efforts and solidarity in the fight again ended apartheid.

This new struggle, she indicated, will require improved efforts to rebuild the continent’s economies. We have the right policy frameworks and mechanisms to realise the ‘Africa we want’ as envisioned in the Agenda 2063 aspirations.

To her, it is time now to empower the continent’s youth and its women: “In all our endeavours, our youths and women cannot be left behind, nor can they afford to be spectators. We have the youngest population on the continent, and unemployment between the ages of 15 to 35 years is alarmingly high.”

According to the World Bank, 60 percent of all of Africa’s youth are jobless, a situation that needs to be addressed with urgency through policy reforms and other interventions; and an educational system that will create more entrepreneurs who can create better jobs.

Ambassador Maison further charged policy-makers and the leadership of the continent to consciously ensure that the years 2020 to 2030 remain the decade of women’s financial and economic inclusion.

“The time has come for women to lead and play an active role in the mainstream economic activities and contribute to the betterment of our economies,” she noted.

At the heart of the continent’s recovery from the harms of the pandemic is the single continental market, AfCFTA – whose momentum, in addition to COVID-19 response, bodes well with the AU theme for 2022, which is: ‘Building Resilience in Nutrition on the African Continent: Accelerate the Human Capital, Social and Economic Development.

“Every time we record a milestone, we are further encouraged to realise that  a common market of 1.3billion people with a combined GDP of about US$3.4 trillion is within reach,” Ms. Maison stressed.

This year’s Freedom Day celebration is a good time to show appreciation to continental efforts and support to the cause of the South African nation, specifically recounting the formidable bilateral relations and economic cooperation with Ghana.

In recognising Ghana’s relentless contribution toward the elimination of apartheid, the South African ambassador mentioned that the establishment of the Ghana National Committee Against Apartheid around 1967 firmed up an already existing resolve of South Africans to fight for freedom.

She said: “We are therefore grateful to the Government and the people of Ghana who unreservedly supported us during our struggle against apartheid and colonialism.

The people of Ghana did so alongside peace loving people on the continent and across the globe.”

This occasion also remembers the dozens of South African lives that were lost to disastrous rainstorms recently, with a call to action and increased investments to help mitigate the harsh outcomes of climate change.

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