Africa is now in the spotlight like never before, with one very crucial concern of policy makers the world over being how to make the make the continent competitive with others.
Although the retardation of growth in the continent can be blamed on both external and internal factors, it's the latter that call for greater scrutiny. With all the countries in the continent now independent, it goes without saying that they have since then had the yam and the knife in their own hands to dictate their own policies.
But instead, they chose to rule with an iron fist, misappropriating their own resources in compliance with foreign exploiters. In fact, Africa has for so long lagged behind that she has been characterized as the latecomer to development.
After decades of dictatorship and authoritarian rule, it is only now that the wind of change has begun to blow across the continent, and several countries are beginning to embrace democracy as a system of governance.
It's increasingly becoming more and more possible to change governments through the ballot box, and moreover, the protection and promotion of human rights has now become an agenda in static policies as well.
These developments are beginning to be reflected too in issues affecting pan-Africa. The six-year-old African Union (A.U.) has already been praised for making a giant step in the right direction by increasing intervention in African crises, unlike it's defunct predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.), which was more or less a toothless bull dog.
The A.U. has also grown to become one of the most important actors in international politics, as well as taking a definite stand on prominent issues rocking the continent.
In fact, one of the most ambitious projects on the table right now is to move from the African Union to the "United States Of Africa” (U.S.A.).
The incumbent chairman of the A.U.'s Assembly of Heads of State, President John Kuffour of Ghana, and chairman of the African Commission, Malian born Alpha Oumar Konare have already put forward the proposal to all the 53 members of the organization for reflection before the next summit this July in the Ghanaian capital of Accra.
“All member states have been asked to critically examine the issue ahead of the summit and to come up with steps needed to ensure its actualization.”
Akufo-Addo, Ghana's Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose sitting president currently chairs the union, recently made the revelation to the Ghanaian parliament.
According to the plan, loosely modeled after the United States of America (U.S.A.), all African countries would henceforth constitute just one single federal state, with 54 federated states (including Morocco which is presently not a member of the A.U.).
Moreover, all the federated states would have a single integrated defense force, common currency, and all other institutions of state. Above all, the whole of Africa would be transformed into a common market, with no travel restrictions for African nationals.
Each African parliament is now expected to debate it before the July summit. The Ghanaian parliament has already announced that it will begin debating the issue from its May session.
But just how realistic is this dream?
Realistic or Not?
It is important to reflect on some of the stakes involved in this move to a United Africa. It should be recalled that this is not the first time that the option has been put on table.
In fact, even before the European Economic Community (E.E.C.) was born, the Ghanaian nationalist and pioneer president, Kwame Nkrumah in 1963 had proposed during the pioneer summit of the Organization of African Unity (O.A.U.) in Addis Ababa, that Africa should defy the odds of colonialism by constituting itself under one country.
“Not one of us working singly and individually can successfully attain the fullest development. Only a united Africa functioning under a union government can forcefully mobilize the material and moral resources of our separate countries and apply them efficiently and energetically to bring a rapid change in the conditions of our people.” Nkrumah suggested.
But that option was blown aside like a candle in the wind. Why would the same same countries that rejected unification 43 years ago want to make a u-turn now?
Would such unity be one of strength or weakness? If anything, I can only say that the last thing that a struggling Africa needs at the moment is unity in weakness.
But how can unity be ensured in a continent where some of the worst humanitarian conflicts in places such as Darfur and Somalia are still ongoing?
The answer may lie in Europe, which is a veritable success story. Before it could ever become a reality, Europe had been rocked by two bitter world wars, but the lessons of its successful “unification” has been that economic integration is the only policy that truly works.
Most African conflicts will ultimately disappear if they suddenly consider unity as a means, and not as an end. Unity definitely has the potential to reinforce and accelerate the reaching of ends, provided those ends are not betrayed.
On a personal note, I suggest that instead of the United States of Africa (U.S.A.), it should be called the States of United Africa (S.U.A.) to make a distinction from the current popular acronym U.S.A., which stands for the United States of America.
If I were to give any further counsel, I would humbly recommend that Africans hasten this rush to achieve unity on the whole continent. It will create miracles that the authors themselves never envisaged. Long live the newfound continent Africa.