Ethiopian-American Yadesa Bojia Wins AU Competition for New Flag Design

The recent 2010 African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa not only provided distinguished Heads of State and Government an opportunity to discuss pressing business, but also to unveil the AU’s new flag.  Designed by Ethiopian-American artist Yadesa Bojia, the flag features stars to represent AU member states and a green background, symbolizing the hope of Africa.

African leaders decided in 2007 to launch a competition for the best new AU flag design.  A panel of experts chose Yadesa’s design out of 106 entries, submitted by citizens from 19 African countries and two Diaspora communities.  Yadesa, who lives in the Seattle-area of the United States, says that the AU’s history, as well as that of its precursor the Organization of African Unity (OAU), inspired his work.  “I focused on understanding the rich and vast history of this organization and its accomplishments,” he explained.  “I also wanted to capture the past and wish a bright future with my design.  I wanted my design to be forward-looking and something that has a strong message and look, even 20 or 40 years from now.”

Yadesa’s own career path illustrates the importance of looking toward the future.  He moved to the U.S. in 1995 to pursue his education, earning degrees in Graphic Design and Illustration, as well as Visual Communications.  Although he was an artist before going to the U.S., he notes that, “my studies in the U.S. shaped my skills to a higher level….Education gave me a chance to have a bigger impact in the community I live in and also the world.”

The selection of Yadesa’s design as the winner of the AU’s competition is concrete evidence of this impact.  On a broader scale, Yadesa believes that the African Diaspora has a vital and important role to play in Africa’s growth and development.  “The extent of our involvement has to be raised significantly,” he asserts.  He sees the relationship between Africa and the Diaspora as a two-sided equation in which members of the Diaspora dedicate themselves to making serious contributions to Africa while African governments pursue initiatives to attract the Diaspora’s assistance.

Africans and Americans alike can take pride in Yadesa’s accomplishment.  For years to come, those who gaze at the AU flag will see the hope and history captured in his creative design.  The flag will stand as a symbol not only of the African Union, but of the goals that can be achieved when education combines with commitment to benefit Africa.