Africa is home to more than 54 sovereign states and territories, with a population more than one billion people and the second largest continent in terms of land area. Many archaeological data trace the origin of humans to Eastern Africa, and Egypt has been historically considered the cradle of civilisation, medicine, education, and science. Africa’s most prized assets include her rich cultural heritage and abundant deposits of precious natural resources which has often been the envy of the world- evidenced in the history of her colonialism.
Africa’s greatest problem has been the scramble for power and problematic leadership. That struggle has unfortunately crept from colonial era to the now postcolonial era, resulting in wars and mismanagement of resources. However, despite those challenges, there is improvement in the outlook of the continent’s future.
In commemoration of Africa Day 2021, here are some of Africa’s golden moments on a global scale, including politics, sports, technology, finance, and entertainment, highlighting the achievements of the African people and their pedigree to do more.
3 August 1996, Nigeria Wins Football Gold Medal
A win for Nigeria at the Atlanta ‘96 Summer Olympic Games was an emphatic victory for Africa. The fairy-tale-esque journey to the triumph made it even more memorable. After coming close to a maiden quarter final appearance at the USA ’94 FIFA World Cup while playing one of the most entertaining brand of football at the event, this Nigerian team made up of the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Taribo West, Sunday Oliseh, Celestine Babayaro, etc., had a point to prove once more in USA. Right from the semi-finals, it was sheer drama. The Dream Team came from 3-1 down to beat a star-studded tournament-favourite, Brazil, to set up a final with Argentina. Again, the team came from a goal down to claim a 2-1 victory over the Albiceleste- the world knew African football had peaked; Cameroon won football gold at the next Olympic Games in Sydney.
16 January 2006, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former World Bank Employee and Liberian Finance Minister Becomes the First Democratically Elected Female Head of State in Africa
The Liberian general elections were held on 11 October 2005, with a runoff election for the presidency held on 8 November. The presidency, all seats in the House of Representatives, and Senate were up for grabs. The 2005 elections were the first held in the country since 1997 and marked the end of the political transition following the second Liberian civil war, having been stipulated in the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2004. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former World Bank employee and Liberian finance minister, won the presidential contest and became the first democratically elected female African head of state in January 2006- a new height in democracy and leadership was reached.
South Africa Hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup
In 2007, South Africa won the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup under FIFA’s rotation policy which has now been abandoned. It was the 19th edition of the world’s men’s football national sides championship. It took place from 11th June to 12th July, across 10 stadiums in nine host cities in the country. Six African teams made it to the event, the hosts South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast. However, it was Ghana that put the most smile on the faces of Africans, before bowing out at the quarterfinals, losing to Uruguay on penalties. The effect of the World Cup is still enjoyed in SA today. Up to $1 billion was pumped into the economy, creating thousands of jobs.
March 2016, Jumia Becomes Africa’s First Tech Start-up to be Valued at $1 Billion
Founded in Lagos in 2012, in 2016 Jumia became the first African startup unicorn, achieving a $1 billion valuation after a funding that included Goldman Sachs, AXA, Rocket Internet, and MTN. The start-up made history again in April 2019, as it became the first African unicorn to list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), with shares traded at $14.50 on the opening day, valuing the company at $1.1 billion. Shortly afterward, Jumia shares peaked at $49.77, valuing the company at nearly $3.8 billion. Although Jumia’s shares sunk hitting an all-time low $2 range after 12 months of its IPO due to fraud allegations and concealed losses, among others, it raised investors hope and belief in the African tech space.
December 2, 2019, Dangote Receives Largest Crude Oil Distillation Equipment in The World
It took 14 months for this piece of steel to be put together and more than 8 weeks to ship from China where it was constructed. With a single crude oil distillation unit, the refinery will be the largest single-train refinery in the world. At full production, it will be able to produce 50,000,000 litres (13,000,000 US gal) of gasoline and 17,000,000 litres (4,500,000 US gal) of diesel daily, as well as aviation fuel and plastic products. With a greater capacity than the total output of Nigeria’s existing refining infrastructure, the Dangote Refinery will be able to meet the country’s entire domestic fuel demand, as well as export refined products.
1 March 2021, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Former World Bank Employee and Nigerian Minister of Finance Becomes the First African and Female World Trade Organisation Director General
The World Trade Organisation members made history today on 15 February 2021, when the General Council agreed by consensus to select Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria as the organization’s seventh Director-General. When she took office on 1 March, Dr Okonjo-Iweala became the first woman and the first African to be chosen as Director-General. Her term, renewable, will expire on 31 August 2025.
14 March 2021, Nigerian Singer-Songwriter, Burna Boy Becomes the First Afrobeat Solo Act to Win a Grammy Award
Afrobeat is Africa’s most renowned genre of music since the turn of the millennium. Pioneered by the legendary Fela Kuti, it is the most exported sound from the continent. Nigerian musician, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu a.k.a. Burna Boy became the first Afrobeat solo act to win a Grammy Award at the 63rd edition of the annual music showpiece. It presents a symbol of belief and accomplishment for African music and opened the door for more global recognition.
These are but a few of the continents timeless achievements. They all highlight the pedigree and promise the region holds when it comes to global affairs, showing that the African people can take centre stage where the spotlight often shines.