News & Media

Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture reflects on the international scramble for Africa and the challenges of unity

The 14th Annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture themed The new international scramble for Africa and the challenges of unity, examined current geopolitical issues and the necessity of African solidarity. This event was held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg on 25 May 2024.

Fostering African Renaissance

In her opening address, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Puleng LenkaBula, stated that as a South African, she is exuberant in celebrating the 30 years of the country’s democracy, post-apartheid. In addition, she reflected on the plight of Palestine and its struggle for freedom and peace. She continued: "We have taken the lead in the struggle of the people of Palestine to be freed from apartheid. When South Africa received a favourable ruling from the International Court of Justice on 26 January 2024, it led the battle cry to free Palestine. We fight for the right of the people of Palestine for self-determination with the same level of vigour as we waged our own struggle be freed from apartheid, declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations."


Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor

The VC stated that the university prides itself on being one of the leading organisations to make celebrating Africa Day fashionable, in addition, affirming the collaboration of the university with the university’s Chancellor, Former President Dr Thabo Mbeki. She continued: "The university Council approved Unisa’s collaboration with the Thabo Mbeki Foundation in October 2009. I look back with great pride to 27 May 2010 when the then Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI), now called the Thabo Mbeki School of Public and International Affairs (TM-school), co-hosted, together with the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the highly successful First Annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture."

She continued: "Fittingly, the Patron of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Former President Mbeki, was the keynote speaker at that inaugural lecture. His central thesis was that Africa can claim the 21st century and that the renewal of the African continent, the African Renaissance, is a certainty that will happen."

The VC lauded the Africa Day Lecture, stating that it serves as a platform to discuss and celebrate the achievement of African countries and address current issues and challenges facing the continent. "The lecture," she said, "also serves as a reminder of the rich culture and diversity of Africa and the importance of preserving and promoting it for future generations."

In conclusion, the VC elaborated on the significance of this lecture, underscoring that it represents a significant milestone "in our continuous journey toward fostering Africa's Renaissance".

An eloquent expression of African identity

Chairperson of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, began her address quoting from the distinguished speech by Chancellor Mbeki, "I am an African", delivered at the adoption of the country’s Constitution in Cape Town. Delivered when he was serving as the Deputy President of the country, the speech is celebrated globally for its eloquent expression of African identity and unity.


Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Chairperson of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation

Reflecting on the event’s theme, Fraser-Moleketi stated that the continent has challenges that need to be confronted, while it is rising and claiming its rightful global stature.

"We see the celebration of this day as an opportunity and a platform to amplify the ideals of the African Renaissance, an important occasion for honest and engaging dialogue, which brings together a diverse array of stakeholders including government leaders, civil society organisations and the broader African community," said Fraser-Moleketi.

Concluding her message, Fraser-Moleketi stated that the prestigious Thabo Mbeki Foundation, dedicated to the achievement of the African Renaissance, is not only the country’s foundation, but the continent’s foundation.

Profound wisdom

In his welcome address, Chancellor Mbeki stressed that the world is undergoing profound changes towards multipolarity. "In addition," he said, "in our continent we have witnessed sustained conflicts, compounded by protracted challenges of leadership and incapacity of multilateral institutions, underscoring the urgency and relevance of the discussions in this lecture."

He introduced the guest speaker, Senegalese politician and diplomat, Prof Abdoulaye Bathily, who is also a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, and praised him for his profound wisdom. 

Economic transformation

In his keynote address, Bathily stated that people of his generation have been bred and fed by principles of the struggle against colonialism, apartheid and racism, for a better humanity and the liberation of Africans.


Prof Abdoulaye Bathily

"Must we remain the providers of raw materials, and leave our arable lands to be auctioned by international investors who will come and produce goods and export them, while our population is dying of hunger?" asked Bathily, arguing that African agriculture has to be reconfigured and redeployed to focus on feeding Africans first.

Bathily pleaded with African manufacturers to provide job opportunities for young people, emphasising that it is necessary in order to transform the African economy. He further stated: "For this transformation to happen, we need inventive, committed and dedicated leadership. We cannot have economic transformation without a social force which will be the tool for this transformation, hence the significance of African businesses putting Africans first."

Bathily stated that African leaders should have a broad vision, and not remain what he termed comprador bourgeoisie. "We need committed business people, who have, at heart, the well-being of the African people," he said in concluding his message.

The Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture, known for its profound significance, concluded with a renewed understanding of the intricate geopolitical landscape Africa faces. The lecture emphasised the importance of unity in overcoming challenges, urging African nations to collaborate and assert their agency on the global stage.

* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2024/05/28

Unisa Shop