Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners and representatives of UN and AU agencies,

The Leadership of the National House of Traditional Leaders,

The leadership of the Commission for Cultural, Religious, Linguistic and Cultural Communities,

Our Social cohesion advocates,

Our religious leaders, representatives from business, academia, and our living legends from the creative arts industry,

Veterans of our liberation struggle,

Fellow Africans and friends from all over the world,

It is a great honour to host you today to celebrate Africa Day.

On this day, we commemorate the founding of the Organisation of the African Unity, which championed unity and the struggles for the decolonisation of our beautiful continent. 

We also mark the formation of its successor, the African Union which was launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban.

The celebration of Africa Day is an affirmation of our love for our continent and our commitment to ensure that Africa succeeds in all her endeavours. 

On this day, we take stock of progress we have made in building an Africa whose inhabitants have hope for a better and brighter future, an Africa without despair. We are celebrating this day under the theme: The Year of OR Tambo: Building a Better Africa and a Better World.  The celebration is in honour of our liberation stalwart and selfless hero, the former President of the ANC, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, who would have turned 100 years old this year, had he lived. 

A selfless Pan-Africanist, he led the ANC during a difficult period in exile, and shaped this country’s foreign policy through forging strong links and solidarity with many countries on the continent and the world.

President OR Tambo and President Nelson Mandela attended the founding conference of the OAU.

President OR Tambo gave us clear a direction on our relationship with Africa and the world at the First Congress of the Angolan ruling party, the MPLA in Luanda in 1977.

He stated:

We seek to live in peace with our neighbours and the peoples of the world in conditions of equality, mutual respect and equal advantage”.

A key milestone for Africa this year is the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Ghana. Ghana was instrumental in leading the decolonisation agenda for the continent and the promotion of African unity.  On 24 May 1963, thirty two independent African states and leaders of liberation movements of countries that were still fighting for their freedom, met in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to find ways to unite the continent.

In that historic meeting, President Kwame Nkrumah declared; “We meet here today not as Ghanaians, Guineans, Egyptians, Algerians, Moroccans, Malians, Liberians, Congolese or Nigerians, but as Africans”.

Indeed we are one people with one destiny.

We are grateful to our forebears for their commitment to the liberation of every inch of African soil.  This was stated boldly by President Kwame Nkrumah who said at the dawn of the independence of Ghana that; “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa’’.

The OAU Liberation Committee worked tirelessly to take this vision forward, until the liberation of Namibia and South Africa. However, the mission is not complete.  The people of Western Sahara are still yearning for freedom and self-determination that the rest of the continent enjoys.

We must do everything possible to ensure that they too are liberated.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Africa has made a lot of progress since the formation of the OAU. The promotion of democracy in the continent has taken root.

This is visible through the democratic elections that take place at the end of terms of governments, which have led to peaceful transitions from one government to another in many countries in the continent. The zero tolerance for coup d’ tats and the action that is taken against leaders who refuse to accept the outcomes of democratic elections by the AU leaders, has set a new tone in the continent with regards to promoting constitutional changes to governments.

The AU programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism, remains a key instrument of promoting democracy and good governance, and is one of the key innovations of our continent.

Ladies and gentlemen

The loss of life and displacement of thousands of people who remain refugees in a decolonised Africa, remains of serious concern and requires more effort from AU member states.  As the AU we have thus committed ourselves to ending conflicts and silencing the guns in the continent by the year 2020, so that our peoples can live in peace.  The challenge of terrorism and extremism in some parts of our continent is another key concern of the AU and enjoys ongoing attention. Working with partners in other regions beyond our continent, this goal of peace and stability in every corner of the continent can be achieved. 

South Africa continues to humbly contribute troops for peacemaking, peacekeeping and in mediation efforts in our continent. We are proud of our soldiers who are always ready to be deployed for peace. Africa has made progress at the social level as well. The continent has produced acclaimed authors, academics, musicians, performers, poets and scientists who are respected all over the world.  We have also produced outstanding political leaders, some of whom have played a leading role on the world stage including at the United Nations as secretaries-general.

Indeed, we continue to make progress in building a better Africa.

As Africa changes, so too must  the instruments of global governance. That is why we continue to call for the reform of the UN Security Council to include Africa.  The membership of the UN Security Council must reflect the fact that Africa is now made up of independent countries and not colonies.  The whole system of international governance should thus be much more democratic and rules-based. 

Esteemed guests

While such progress is being made, we also acknowledge that we still have a long road to travel towards full economic emancipation in the continent. A number of countries are growing above 6% per annum and foreign direct investment inflows continue to rise. However, serious socio-economic challenges remain in many countries. Africa has a plan to meet the developmental challenges, the AU’s Agenda 2063. It provides a framework to address unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, inequalities within economies, jobless economic growth as well as the need for peace and security. 

To address unemployment and poverty, initiatives aimed at boosting economic growth are critical.  In this regard, Africa has prioritised regional integration as well as investment in infrastructure over the past decade.  The infrastructure development programme is championed by African Heads of State and Government. We want to produce modern transport and telecommunication networks connecting Africa.

We need roads, bridges, railway lines, trains and modern aviation systems.  Africa must not be left behind in the fourth industrial revolution. We all have a responsibility to ensure that this time, Africa is definitely not left behind. I was given the privilege to lead the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative for the AU, and to champion the North-South Corridor focusing on road and rail, under the auspices of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. 

Some progress has been registered in some key North South Corridor projects, such as the Grand Inga Hydro Project, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project-Phase 2, the Beit Bridge Border Posts and linked roads. 

The Continental Free Trade Area negotiations are also underway which will bring together a market of millions of people and help boost intra-Africa trade. Within our region SADC, we are actively promoting industrialization, agriculture, tourism and other key sectors to boost economic growth. We also need to move beyond principle to action as Africa with regards to the beneficiation of our minerals. Africans need to derive meaningful benefit from the minerals that are extracted from the belly of the earth in our rich continent. 

All these programmes are important and with effective implementation, we will achieve the better Africa we envisage. Importantly, ladies and gentlemen, Africa has a young population and a growing labour force which is a highly valuable asset in an aging world. Our biggest challenge is that unemployment amongst the African youth is significantly high and it will increase as our population increases. 

The AU Heads of State and Government decided at the 26th Summit in Addis Ababa in January last year to devote 2017 to the theme;“Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the Youth”.

In our own country we continue to invest in education and skills development and to improve the general living conditions of our people in general and the youth in particular, as an investment towards the future of our continent. 

As the AU we are also advocating softer borders to enable better movement of people and goods within the continent. The promotion of legal migration within the continent is thus important, including easier movement to enable tourism, skills exchanges and business and business cooperation. 

Esteemed guests, 

For Africa to develop, she needs resources. It is of serious concern therefore, that billions of dollars are taken away from the continent illegally by multinational corporations. These illicit financial flows deprive Africa of the much-needed economic resources to uplift her economies in order to provide basic services, build infrastructure, provide basic health care, access to affordable and quality education and other social services. 

South Africa remains committed to continue supporting efforts and initiatives by the international community to combat these financial crimes committed against our continent. 

Esteemed guests,

Africa Day for South Africa is about celebrating the cosmopolitan nature of our country. South Africans have always lived in peace and harmony with brothers and sisters from other African countries in many communities. South Africa has always been home to nationals from sister countries from Mozambique, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Namibia, Malawi, Swaziland, Botswana, Algeria, Uganda, Kenya and others, even at the height of apartheid oppression.

They have lived in peace and friendship with South Africans and should continue to do so. We urge all communities to isolate criminal elements whose behaviour causes tensions at times amongst our peoples. They must unite against serious crimes such as human trafficking, child prostitution, forced prostitution and others which have become serious challenges in our country.

Perpetrators of such crimes must be reported to the police, regardless of nationality. We also urge employers to stop causing tensions amongst our peoples, through employing illegal immigrants. The South African Government continues to work tirelessly to remove all these sources of tension, working with our people. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are truly happy indeed to celebrate Africa Day today, in an Africa that has a clear vision of the future.  While serious challenges remain, much progress is being made which makes ours a continent of hope. 

We thank our international partners for supporting Africa’s march to the future.

Distinguished guests,

Today we promote exposure to the work environment for girl children in our country through the Take a Girl Child to Work programme. I am happy to welcome my special guests today, the learners from Seshegong Secondary School in Olivenhoutbosch, here in Tshwane.

We also extend a warm welcome to the students from the University of Pretoria, the Ovuwa Cultural Ensemble who are also my special guests and are rendering entertainment today. Tomorrow also marks the beginning of Child Protection Week, which will culminate on International Children’s Day on the 1st of June.

Let us use this week to increase the awareness of despicable and painful attacks and abuse of women and children that have taken place in our country in recent weeks. We must work with the law enforcement agencies to prevent the attacks and also to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.

Ladies and gentlemen

I am also happy to welcome another special guest, gogo Mashake Ntuli from kwa Mhlabuyalingana near the Mozambican border with KZN.  During an imbizo in the area in March this year, Gogo indicated that she wished to travel and see the seat of government and in particular see the President at work!  She also wants to be the President’s friend. We have made her dream come true. Siyakwamukela ngezandla ezifudumele Gogo Ntuli. Sizizwa sijabule kakhulu ukuba nesihambeli esikhethekile esifana nawe namuhla ngosuku lwe Africa Day.


Ladies and gentlemen

Happy Africa Day to you all!

I thank you.


Issued by The Presidency