The annual event took place at the prestigious Paris Sorbonne University Campus, Reem Island from 26th – 28th May, 2016.
The ceremony was held to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of African Day, marking the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) (now the African Union) founded in 1963.
The event attracted hundreds of guests, including senior officers of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, CEOs of Private and Public Sectors, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, African expatriates resident in the UAE. It was also attended by children of African diplomats from the embassies of the UAE as a display of diversity.
The colourful celebration hosted by the 26 resident African diplomatic representatives in that oil –rich Gulf State commenced on May 26th with a diplomatic reception. The diplomatic missions displayed artifacts, carvings of wood, traditional national dressings, drawings and paintings which depict their customs and tradition of the respective countries with slight differences. Speeches were also made.
In his key note address, the Chief Guest of Honour, His Highness, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development noted that Africa is a New Frontier for trade and investment as well as South-South Cooperation.
He furthered that the continent is blessed with abundant resources ranging from human, material, mineral, to name but a few, which he said, can be meaningfully utilized, if only individual differences can be amicably resolved rather than resorting to civil conflicts, Good Governance, Women’s and Youth Empowerment to be vigorously launched and to uphold the integrity of national political leadership for the love of their respective countries and peoples as hallmarks for potential developments.
In his statement, Dick Patrick Esparon, Ambassador of the Republic of Seychelles and Dean of the African Ambassadors Group said, “This event is an opportunity for Africans to share the bond that runs between the continent’s culture that is relatively stronger in the United Arab Emirates in comparison to the region.’’
His Excellency Dick Esparon also pointed out the importance of holding such events, which highlight the wise UAE leadership's keenness to develop relations between African nations based on the historical relations and common interests.
He also underscored the significance of the Chief Guest of Honours’ remarks that Africa is today a Gateway, especially when we are now living in a Global Village without any splendid policy of isolationism; irrespective of the economic and military might of any nation.
Ambassador Esparon reiterated that Africa have long since continued to maintain longstanding and excellent relations with the UAE and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Countries and that the commemoration is reminiscent of the Pan-African Movements and the Nationalist and Liberation struggles of their forefathers.
Speaking to reporters during the ceremony, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador also hailed the excellent and historic relations binding African countries and the UAE.
He ncouraged UAE businessmen, in particular, and those in the Gulf, in general, to invest in Africa and take advantage of opportunities for partnership and investment in the Continent to strengthen the economic relations between the UAE and African countries, with a particular reference to his home country, Sierra Leone.
At the conference, the Envoy showcased the potentials of Africa in terms of investment opportunities but also laid special emphasis on what Sierra Leone could offer to UAE investors in its investment priorities for key sectors – including infrastructure, mining, communication, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, aviation, to name but a few.
In keeping with this year’s theme, ‘Women and Youths on the Frontline’, the spouses of the Ambassadors also pioneered an exhibition highlighting the diversity of the African continent.
The other segment of the festivities includes a two-day Soccer African Tournament at the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi Sports Hall in which Sierra Leone emerged as the winning country defeating Angola, Kenya in the qualifier and defeated Ethiopia and Somalia in the semi final and final respectively.
The Sierra Leone UAE “Leone Stars” which was captained by the famous Junior Tumbu and managed by Ambassador Timbo came out victorious and clinched the Championship Trophy. A month prior to the tournament, Sierra Leonean footballers from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Musaffa were holding weekly trainings, together with the Embassy staff and the Ambassador, at the Al Wahda Football Academy at Shahama, courtesy of Junior Tumbu (Lamin Conteh) where he works as the assistant team manager for the Al Wada under 17 football team. The soccer tournament was attended by over 60 Sierra Leoneans.