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NEW YORK, May 27, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today declared that while Africans forge ahead with "a new narrative" for their continent, the United Nations will support them as they faced any challenges that remain on the path towards a prosperous future.

In his message to mark Africa Day, which commemorates the founding in 1963 of the Organization of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU), Mr. Ban acknowledged that over the past decade, the continent had witnessed "unprecedented progress," largely at the hands of the AU.

"The launch of the AU's Partnership for Africa's Development and Peer Review Mechanism has helped to advance economic, social, political and institutional reforms," he stated, referring to the self-monitoring mechanism by which participating African nations promote and re-enforce high standards of governance.

"Similarly, the African Union is playing an increasingly more dynamic leadership role in preventing, managing, and resolving Africa's conflicts through its revamped Peace and Security Architecture," Mr. Ban added, while noting that many countries were also seeking to energize their private sectors.

The Secretary-General pointed out, however, that despite Africa's gains and achievements, "numerous and serious challenges remain including conflict, environmental degradation, and the need for strengthened infrastructure and institutions."

"We must accelerate efforts towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), from maternal health to HIV/AIDS, and keep Africa's needs and aspirations front and centre in discussion on the post-2015 development agenda," he continued.

This year's Africa Day has particular significance because it also marks 50 years of the Organization of African Unity's founding.

Mr. Ban declared that while Africans forge ahead with "a new narrative" for their continent's future, the United Nations would support them along the way.

"The United Nations will proudly continue to work in partnership with the African Union and the peoples of Africa to help build a continent of opportunity and hope for all," he concluded.

Mr. Ban is currently attending the 21st African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On the margins of the Summit he met with United States Secretary of State John Kerry, with whom he discussed various topics including Syria, the Middle East peace process and developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.