Africa Hall, the place where the first summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) took place, is to be preserved as the continent’s historical heritage and monument.
Enunciating the building’s historical and cultural value, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Abdoulie Janneh, appealed to African countries to support the Africa Hall Historical Project, saying the present generation had an obligation to maintain it.
Janneh made the announcement as the ECA celebrated its 50th anniversary, playing a dual role as a pan-African institution and a United Nations body that aims to promote Africa’s economic development and the living standards of the people.
He said: “The idea behind the Project is to get the assistance of African and UNESCO member States to get the Africa Hall complex declared as being of historical and cultural value. “This would entail mobilising support and resources for renovating and upgrading the building to include a museum as a permanent standing exhibition related to historical events that have taken place there. “In this context, we also hope that ECA member States will contribute works of art from across the continent to adorn the Africa Hall exhibition.”
At the founding of the ECA in 1958, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Sellasie put the building at the service of the African people, making it the first conference facility of the Commission. “The point, however, is to show that Africa Hall is more than a conference centre. It occupies a unique role in Africa’s political history,” Janneh explained, noting that it had since hosted several summits of the now defunct OAU and its successor organisation, the African Union (AU).
Holy Ground of Africa
Meanwhile, AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping has described Africa Hall as the continent’s “holy ground” and in biblical terms as “our Mount Sinai”, saying: “It reminds us of our pilgrimage, the road travelled so far and where we still have to go.”
Addressing Addis Ababa-based African diplomats and UN staff at the ECA celebration, Ping said that Africa Hall “is an intersection of our past and future that vividly reminds us of the promise of Mother Africa at independence and the challenges of development that confront us in a rapidly changing world.”
On the ECA anniversary, Ping said, “ECA has not merely grown but it has grown we ll. It marks the coming of age in which childhood is no longer an excuse. ECA is neither too old nor too young today. It has simply matured.”
The AU chief executive added that African institutions must work together in sup porting their common client, the African people and the continent. “Within this context, we have now proceeded to put in place a mechanism for effective coordination of activities within the AU, ECA and the African Development Bank (AfDB) that would facilitate regular exchange of information at various levels,” said Ping.
He explained that the institutional collaboration was designed to enable programmatic synergies, build consensus and mobilise partnership while ensuring effective result-oriented actions that would enrich the living conditions of the African people.
Ethiopia’s President Girma Woldegiorgis told the gathering that, over the last 50 years, the ECA had been a key arena for addressing the long-standing aspirations of the continent towards regional economic integration.
Girma said that the Commission’s past successes would serve as the launch pad for its future development as it moves into its second half century with new enthusiasm and vigour.
The president assured that his government was ready to commit itself to promotin g the objectives of the Africa Hall project and that it would solicit support fo r that purpose from UNESCO member States and partners.