We Are the Drums” is a song 18 top African musicians have created as part of the Africa 2015 initiative to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Promoting awareness and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals

The Commitment

Nowhere in the world are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) more urgently needed than in Africa, the region with the highest incidence of poverty and where progress in achieving the MDGs is slowest in terms of life expectancy, per capita income, education and control of diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. More than three-quarters of the world’s HIV/AIDS-infected population reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, the Africa 2015 programme specifically emphasizes the need to address the spread of AIDS in Africa and in so doing can help achieve the other development goals, which are intricately connected to the AIDS epidemic.

The Programme

Africa 2015 is a powerful advocacy campaign designed to create sustained awareness and engage multiple audiences and constituencies in fighting poverty and the spread HIV/AIDS. The effort mobilizes and coalesces all sectors of society to advocate for the MDGs. The process integrates the support of popular celebrities, the media and sports institutions, as well as national, municipal, religious and grassroots leaders. Africa 2015 uses multiple and simultaneous vehicles of communication as agents for change that can resonate with many different types of audiences, particularly, young people.

The Focus on HIV/AIDS

sign2The initial focus of Africa 2015 is combating HIV/AIDS. By 2015, the objective is to halt and begin to reverse the spread of the disease, which affects 42 million people worldwide. With more than 30 million in Africa, the task is urgent in the region.

By targeting HIV/AIDS, the initiative also can help achieve the other goals including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, ensuring environmental sustainability, and establishing a global partnership for development. It is an effort targeted to the young people of Africa, giving them the incentives, support and awareness needed to foster change.

Actions and Progress

UNDP is engaged in promoting the mission and programme of Africa 2015 in virtually every African country through strong, creative alliances with celebrities, musicians, politicians, the media and sports leaders, who commit to generating awareness and action in the fight against HIV/AIDS and poverty. They include:

Africa 2015 Pledge – Athletes, musicians, artists, politicians, municipal leaders and others throughout Africa have taken the pledge and have encouraged their communities to take the pledge as well — at public ceremonies, city halls, the workplace and even online — “To protect myself and to protect others under all circumstances from catching or passing on the AIDS virus.” Such pledge drives help break the silence, build personal commitment and generate public discourse. It gives every individual in Africa, who has taken the pledge, a sense that he or she can control their destiny and make a decision recognizing real change starts with themselves.

We Are the Drums – Building on the fact that Africa’s tradition of oral communication is one of the most effective means to galvanize populations for change, Africa 2015 has initiated the recording of a dynamic song, which will be released on 18 October 2004 throughout the continent. Featuring 12 different languages, the song, We Are the Drums, is the culmination of a collaborative recording effort of some of Africa’s leading musicians and celebrities including — Salif Keita, Youssou N’dour, Chiwoniso, Achien’g Abura, Malouma, Meiway, Manu Dibango and Baaba Maal. The song communicates the fact that each individual can be a drum for change and action. Recorded in May 2004 at a gathering in Senegal, the process engaged 18 celebrity musicians in discussions about the essential importance of the MDG goals and led to the artists’ commitment to use their talent, celebrity status and skills to halt and reverse the spread of AIDS.

Sincerely, Africa – A one-minute video clip, available in three languages, (English, French and Arabic) integrates the spirit, wisdom and energy of men and women from Sudan and Swaziland, from Mali and Cameroon, who sing a song about life and the courage to live. The one-minute clip has been aired by TV networks throughout Africa and Europe and screened at the opening and closing ceremonies of African Cup of Nations 2004 in Tunis.

zidane-undp-bannerSoccer Against Poverty – UNDP and its partners joined forces with organizers of the African Cup of Nations football tournament to use the tournament in Tunisia in early 2004 to promote a campaign against poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Billboards in the five stadiums hosting the matches, along with jerseys worn by the 170 footballers, were part of the effort to raise awareness for AIDS, Africa 2015 and the MDGs. This action builds on the 2001 initiative of 16 African football teams and their players who signed a banner, titled With Africa, Against Poverty, to kick poverty out of Africa by 2015, which was displayed during the 2002 FIFA World Cup games in Tokyo.

Slogans – Awareness for the Goals are also being communicated through hope-inspiring rallying slogans, such as, “For An AIDS-Free Generation” and endorsed by a variety of celebrities, athletes and grassroots leaders.

Partnerships and participants in Africa 2015 include the following:

• Singers and Musicians: Music stars who came together to record We Are the Drums each agreed to display the Africa 2015 label on stage at all concerts; speak at their concerts and in media interviews about HIV/AIDS, Africa 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals; help recruit support for the campaign from national media and sports personalities; and perform in a series of joint, high profile Africa 2015 concerts held across the continent.

• Actors and Directors: Numerous African actors and film directors are involved in developing films on responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Acclaimed U.S. film director John Singleton is also a supporter Africa 2015.

Elisa Mereghetti and Marco Mesa directed Eyes Wide Open, a one-hour documentary on the work of courageous and resourceful HIV/AIDS campaigner Catherine Phiri. The film was produced by Ethnos with support from the European Community media programme, and distributed by Vitagraph. The producers have dedicated the film to the UNDP campaign, Africa 2015 for an AIDS-free generation.

• Journalists and the Media: UNDP’s network of communications officers throughout Africa, who maintain relations with national media in their respective countries, are engaging the media to play their part in Africa 2015. Radio is especially key, as are regional outlets like the Pan African News Agency. Radio France Internationale (RFI)is also a partner in this initiative

• World of Sport: Sports institutions, organizers of sports events and athletes are helping to spread key messages and mobilize sport practitioners and the public to take action toward achieving the Goals. Partners already include the International Olympic Committee and the African Football Confederation. In addition, soccer stars Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane —UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors — have written joint commentaries, published in leading international media, urging industrialized countries to increase official development assistance to Africa.

• Religious Leaders: Outreach to seek partnership with religious communities will be an important part of Africa 2015. Religious leaders can play a critical role in spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS as well as the other Millennium Development Goals.

• Municipalities: Municipalities are each invited to declare their city an Africa 2015 city. This entails action plans based on local priorities for achieving specific Goals as part of their national targets.

• Political Leaders: UNDP, along with its UN partners, seeks to mobilize African Heads of State and Ministers, including the African Union (AU) as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

• Writers and Intellectuals: South Africa’s Nobel Laureate for Literature and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, Nadine Gordimer, has invited other high-profile writers from around the globe to join in promoting the Goals. She is compiling a collection entitled Telling Tales, featuring stories by 21 authors, including herself and four other Nobel literature prize winners, to support the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

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On the ground in 166 countries, the United Nations Development Programme uses its global network to help the UN system and its partners to raise awareness and track progress, while the focus is on helping countries build and share solutions to the challenges of democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, energy and environment and HIV/AIDS. For more information, go to

We Are the Drums — List of Artists

West Africa

  1. Malouma – Mauritania
  2. Coumba Gawlo Seck – Senegal
  3. Baaba Maal – Senegal
  4. Youssou N’dour – Senegal
  5. Didier Awadi – Senegal
  6. Salif Keïta – Mali
  7. Habib Koité – Mali
  8. Meiway – Cote D’Ivoire
  9. Ismaël Lô – Senegal
  10. Angélique Kidjo – Benin

Central Africa

  1. Koffi Olomidé – Congo
  2. Saintrick – Congo
  3. Manu Dibango – Cameroon

East Africa

  1. Chiwoniso – Zimbabwe
  2. Achien’g Abura – Kenya
  3. Mahmoud Ahmed – Ethiopia
  4. Eusèbe Jaojoby – Madagascar

North Africa

  1. Cheb Mami – Algeria