Sibusiso Ndebele -The Coming Together Of Minds


Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, Chairperson and founder African Renaissance Festival

The year 2018 marks the 20th edition of the African Renaissance Festival. It also marks the Centenary Celebrations of the lives of our liberation struggle heroes, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Mama Albertina
Sisulu. This event, which started small and grew over the years, is characterised by the coming together of minds from various sectors of our society. The African Renaissance Festival has become an annual calendar event where one can expect leaders in government, business, civil society, the intellectual collective as well as the religious sector coming together to discuss and dialogue about solutions that can take our country, our region and our continent forward.

The idea of a Renaissance first became prominent with the European Renaissance which, in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, saw intellectuals, creatives, academics and scientists questioning the status quo.

The European Renaissance was characterised by a new way of thinking about creation, the arts, the sciences and challenging the stereotypes and unsubstantiated beliefs of the Middle Ages. The European Renaissance teaches us that for a Renaissance to occur, it must be preceded by an era of darkness where nothing positive happens.

In Africa, the era of darkness is represented by slavery, colonialism and apartheid. A Renaissance shifts the
focus, from routine to the maverick. It introduces the era of the thinker, the innovator, the inventor, the creative, all of which lead to the mass beneficiation through growth and development. A Renaissance ushers in the era of peace, stability and accelerated futures. A Renaissance leads to unlocking of the human mind to be responsive to technological innovation. The African Renaissance in the year 2018, happens as the world stands at the doorsteps of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

When, in the early 1900s, Pixley ka Isaka Seme wrote about Africa’s Regeneration, he was anticipating an era of massive growth and development which would see Africa digging deep into its human, cultural and natural resources, in order to rebuild and reclaim its place in the world of nations. Indeed, six years after the
Seme’s thesis was written, the African National Congress was born. It soon became a place of ideas, intellectuality, liberation struggle and a home to many people who saw their role in life as being that of crafting the rebirth for the Africa which was re-emerging from slavery, colonialism and apartheid. John Dube, Charlotte Maxeke, Albertinah Sisulu, Sol Plaatjie, Rev Mahabane, Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela Johnny Makhathini and many others became globetrotters, who although fighting a struggle for South Africa’s liberation, perfectly saw the interconnectedness of that struggle with the total liberation of the African continent.

The African Renaissance, in 2018, is a platform to negotiate the re-positioning of Africa, as a continent of scientific, industrial, engineering, technological and cultural excellence. It is a Renaissance which is in the
context of continent-wide development of tourism routes and regional integration.

As a way forward, the African Renaissance movement will be conducting town hall level dialogues in partnership with various stakeholders. We need to debate and find solutions to such current issues as economic and social transformation, land reform, and the 4th Industrial Revolution. We need to engage young people at high schools, colleges and universities as well as those who are unemployed so as to generate a new form of society where reconciliation, peace and development are promoted and valued.

In the same vein, the African Renaissance movement must continue to engage South Africans who are living and working in many parts of the world, with a view to encouraging them to share their skills and knowledge with the rest of our population. Human Resources development is key to the renewal of our country and continent. We will therefore be establishing relations with skills, education and training agencies with a view to contributing to the development of our human resources.

The movement will also continue to engage and involve Africans in the Diaspora. We share a lot of historical experiences with the African Diaspora. It is in this vein that we must strengthen our relationship with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, so that such relations can be linked to other similar global initiatives, similar to ours.

With these words I welcome all of you and hope the discussion will be fruitful and aligned to Africa’s growth
and development imperatives. I would like to thank the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Willies Mchunu, Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Cllr Zandile Gumede, Chair of the organising committee, Prof Sihawu Ngubane and all members of the committee for promoting and upholding the spirit of the African Renaissance movement and allowing us to reach this important milestone.