Africa celebrates 50 years of ‘unity’


African leaders Saturday marked the African Union’s 50th birthday against a backdrop of economic growth despite persistent armed conflicts and the new shadow of the threat of terrorism.

AU Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was optimistic as he launched extravagant celebrations, urging leaders to “create a continent free from poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens enjoy a middle-income status.”

Saturday’s party in Addis Ababa will be followed by a more sobering two-day summit to tackle a series of crises across the continent.

Today’s 54-member AU is the successor of the Organization of African Unity, established in 1963 amid the heady days when independence from colonial rule was sweeping the continent.

African leaders were joined by U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon, French President Francois Hollande, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund, and has attracted huge amounts of foreign investment in recent years.