African Renaissance Festival 15-16 August 2019



Celebrating twenty years of the African Renaissance Festival

The 20th edition of the African Renaissance Festival will be hosted at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (Durban ICC) from the 24 to 26 May 2018. The annual event has been described as an exciting and worthwhile opportunity to exchange ideas, views and programmes on the pertinent issues affecting KwaZulu-Natal’s, South Africa’s and Africa’s development and progress.

The African Renaissance Festival is held in May each year as part of the Africa Day celebrations, which are held on 25 May. The Festival comprises a conference held over two days, a banquet, VIP cocktail event and a concert.

Over the years, the African Renaissance Festival has grown in stature and has been privileged to have enjoyed the participation of all our democratic presidents, deputy presidents as well as leading representatives of government, business and civil society.

The first event in 1999, utilised the theme: “Beyond Conflict”. In his key note address, the then President Nelson Mandela said, “For South Africans it is a call to continue the fight for a better life for all. It is a call to join hands against crime, corruption and AIDS; a call to create jobs, to house those who are still homeless; to bring the sweet taste of clean water to more of our rural people beyond the three million who have gained access to it in the first years of our freedom; to bring communications and light to millions more.

Since then, the ‘call to action’ for a better life for all has been echoed in each of the themes chosen to shape the dialogue of the events. 

The theme, “Beyond Conflict “was further developed in the year 2000, when it was contextualised within the dawn of the new Millennium namely “Beyond Conflict in the New Millennium”.

In 2001, the two crucial issues of poverty, and underdevelopment, were raised by then President Thabo Mbeki as critical to the affirmation of the African Renaissance if properly addressed by citizens and effective states. He said, “More generally, we have to consider expenditure on human resource development not as a cost that we must minimise, but as a critical investment that must be made. Accordingly, we must give pride of place to issues of expenditure on health and education as a necessary condition for success in everything we have to do.”

In 2002, the theme, “Ibuya-Our Time Has Come”, (turning to each other and not on each other) was adopted to mark Africa’s return to the conglomeration of world nations.

The African Renaissance 2003 was held under the theme, “Nepad: Quest for an African Renaissance”.

           In 2004, President Mbeki returned as keynote speaker and focused on Haiti with the problems of poverty and underdevelopment.  

The year 2005 marked the 50th celebration of the Freedom Charter, and the theme “Reflecting on the Human Right Triumph” was adopted.

In 2006, under the theme “African Renaissance and African Intellectuality”, the time had come for this forum to identify the role that intellectuals in Africa can play in the development, and advancement, of African scholarships.

In 2007, the theme “Peace and Security through Partnerships” was adopted, as peace is a pre-requisite for democracy and development.

Peace and security were further explored in 2008 with “Uniting the African Diaspora” being the theme, and “Uniting the African World” being the theme for 2009.

     In 2010, the focus was on the FIFA World Cup with the theme “Take charge Africa – the future is in your hands”.  

In 2011, the theme was “Connecting Africa”. Then SA Minister of Transport, and founder of the Festival Mr Sbu Ndebele said, “By talking the language of African connectivity and development, this African Renaissance forum has entered the centre stage of the global discourse of the 21st century. We are one with the world in promoting inter- modal transport systems, transport corridor development, transport investments through partnerships, paying attention to sustainable development imperatives, and promoting transport infrastructure development for social and economic growth and development.”

 The African Renaissance Conference 2012 offered further opportunities for ideas advocating a coordinated approach to knowledge generation and leadership development.  

In 2013, while continuing with the theme of Connecting Africa, human development was addressed.

The need for empowerment was stressed by then Deputy President Mr Kgalema Motlanthe who stated that there is a need to develop an African way and break with the view that we must take from the rest of the world how things need to work. “The ultimate goal is to create a fair world where Africa has a place as an equal.”

The theme for 2014, Africa in Motion, captured the relentless, forward momentum of the African continent.

Key note speaker at the banquet dinner, Dr Johan van Zyl, then President and CEO of Toyota South Africa stated that Africa is a continent of opportunity and diversity. It is important that we as Team South Africa all work together in the same direction for the improvement of society. South Africa is a “can do” nation and we need to develop respect for people, property and life.

Entrepreneurs of Africa was the theme for 2015 and remained the same for 2016 and 2017. Entrepreneurship is one of the key driving forces in economic development, and the conferences aimed to encourage and enable the youth to be the main creators of opportunities and wealth in the future.

In 2015, speaking of the theme, the then Minister in the Presidency, Jeffrey Radebe, said that policies should be frontloaded to benefit the African youth in preparation for Africa’s bright future.

Prof Ngubane, Chair of the African Renaissance Conference organising committee said, “Development of the youth as entrepreneurs plays an important part in Africa’s future. The conference aims to give the conference delegates examples of success to aspire to, as well as resources to achieve similar success.”

Through a joint cooperation between the Office of the Premier, KZN Department of Education, eThekwini Municipality, African Renaissance and the Diplomatic Corps in KwaZulu-Natal, the opportunities arising from international scholarships available to KwaZulu-Natal students and scholars were also presented at each of these conferences (2015-2017).

The focus for 2018, the 20th African Renaissance Festival, is Inclusive Social Economic Transformation which will build on many of the previous years’ themes of empowerment. The second day of the conference will again have an emphasis on the youth and international study opportunities will be presented.

The year 2018 also marks the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, with a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation for people to make a difference and help build the legacy Mandela would be proud of. This is a sentiment, which is very much part of the Festival’s ethos.

As said then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2017, African Renaissance key note speech, “This gathering should be about affirming our individual and collective self-worth as a people. It should be about raising our consciousness to the endless possibility that the idea and experience of being African carries. It should be about us taking advantage of the vast, golden opportunities available in the programme of rebuilding Africa. A more humane and just world cannot blossom without an African renaissance, without embracing African values and without a proper appreciation of African aspirations.”