Before an audience of 200 invited guests an opening ceremony was held in the capital Addis Ababa, featuring a performance by Marley’s mother, Cedella Marley Booker.

It is the first time that the annual commemoration, this year dubbed Africa Unite, is being held outside of Jamaica, Marley’s birthplace.

“It has always been the wish of Bob Marley to return to Ethiopia and become a Rastafarian… and with the African Union, Addis Ababa is the capital of Africa and therefore a very symbolic place,” his widow, and one of the event’s main organisers, Rita Marley said.

Around 400,000 people, mainly foreigners, are expected to flock to the east African nation to enjoy a series of concerts and other tributes being staged in memory of Bob Marley’s aspirations for African unity and social justice.

A star-studded line-up of artists, including Youssou N’Dour, Angelique Kidjo, Peter Gabriel, Shaggy and India.arie, will perform at the Africa Unite concert on February 6.

Rita Marley will again team up with her fellow I-Three singers, Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, who originally sang back up for Bob Marley and the Wailers before his death on May 11, 1981.

The event will be broadcast around the world, raising awareness of issues afflicting Africa, including the HIV/AIDS crisis, war and poverty, as well as to raise funds.

Mrs Marley has brought on board the African Union and UNICEF to help coordinate the aid effort which will donate money towards tsunami relief in Somalia, the Shashamene Medical Centre in Ethiopia and the Bob Marley Youth Development Centre in downtown Addis Ababa.

Late last week, Mrs Widow repeated a previous statement that she was committed to honouring her late husband’s wish to be buried in Ethiopia.

She first announced plans to move Bob Marley’s body from his tomb in Nine Miles, Jamaica, in January.

But news of the possible exhumation drew vocal opposition from many in Jamaica, where Marley holds iconic status.

His music helped put Jamaica and reggae music on the map, with hits such as ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ and ‘Get Up, Stand Up’.

Born on February 6, 1945 in St Ann, Marley spent his teenage years in the Trenchtown housing scheme, in Kingston.

With Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, he formed the Wailers in 1963.

Almost ten years later they launched their first internationally released album ‘Catch a Fire’.

Marley later went solo and maintained his huge success.

As a devout Rastafarian, a blend of Christian and Jewish religions with a reverence of nature and Ethiopia’s last emperor Haile Selassie, Marley was deeply attached to the African continent and Ethiopia in particular.

He died aged 36 after being diagnosed with skin cancer four years earlier.