The talk of 'Africa Rising' is beginning to wane as we begin to confront the current realities we live in. Of course, there are those who would like to replace 'Africa Rising' with 'Africa Falling' but these sentiments are not the focus of this article. Where is Africa going? Is a new African world without poverty, deprivation, and division possible? How can Africa overcome new threats? How can African deal with the re-emergence of armed civil (non state) groups? These issues and many more will form the main basis for the 8th Pan African Congress scheduled in Accra, Ghana in November, 2014.
Since the Africa Union celebrated the Africa at 50, there have been calls for a re-examination of Africa's relationship with the rest of the world, especially where this relationship puts Africa in a subordinate position, and affects the sovereignty of African nations.
The 2014 Africa Union Summit
The 2014 Africa Union Summit held in Equatorial Guinea from 26-27th June, 2014. Provided an opportunity for African leaders to reflect on these issues and many more.The summit repeated the calls by African thinkers, especially, from leading pan Africanists for political, economic and social independence from the West. The 2014 Summit had to deal with major challenges which are fundamentalto the survival of the continent. Currently, Africa is confronted with Al-Shabab rampages in Somali and Kenya, Boko Haram's continued harassment of Nigerian civilians, separatistconflict in Mali, continued inter-religious and politically motivated conflict in the Central Africa Republic; and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The list is endless. Quiet obviously, internal security challenges remain critical to any discussion around Africa's sovereignty.
The question of African sovereignty has occupied the minds of foremost post ndependent leaders on the continent:. President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, President SekouToure of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo (now DRC). andJomo Kenyatta of Kenya, all had to content with similar issues. 50 years down the line these remain as Africa's major challenges. It is therefore no surprise that the issue of security dominated the most recent Summit. Even though the Summit had prioritised Agriculture and the need for inter-continent and South-South trade, the issue of sovereignty loomed large in the horizon. In his opening address, President TeodoroObiangNguemaof Equatorial Guinea warned that Africa “could no longer look to the West for economic
development or political culture.”.
Fifty years of progress
Fifty years of African independence, and 20 years since the last Pan African Congress, Africa needs to remind itself (not to reinvent the wheel) of the need for clearly defined pan African goal. A distinctively African path towards the 'Pan Africa World We Want'. This Africa cannot be built on the thinking of Paris, The Hague, Washington and London based think tanks, but must emanate from Africa, and from African thinkers and activists.
In terms of Human Development, Africa still lags behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Though much progress has been made, the rate of poverty does not match the economic growth witnessed. Inequalities still exist as well as an ever increasing gap between the rich and poor in every African country. A recent document produced for the Pan African Congress attributed this state of affairs to “endemic corruption, weak institutions, insecurity, non–inclusive economic growth, weak intra African trade mechanisms and global trade/financial imbalance.” It will therefore not be churlish to suggest that no African who looks at the continent today will be satisfied with the way things are.
However, there is a silver lining to all this. It needs no repeating that Africa is a rich continent. However, its leaders and people need to protect the continent from the rapacious intentions of western powers and their over desire for resources as their economies hit the buffers. The history of most successful rich nations point to one thing: leadership, leadership, leadership. A leadership with a vision, a leadership which is patriotic and people centered, a leadership which makes the protection of resources its main goal. The sort of leadership which countries like Ghana experienced under Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Building solidarity for progress
In addition to that, Africa needs genuine friends based on solidarity, friendship and genuine partnerships and shared interests. Once again, President Nguema provides us with the way forward. His Excellency reminded the continent that “Africa cannot be content to continue with the current dependence on the economies of the developed world. Africa is sailing upstream against a dependency that prevents them from moving toward sustainable development. Africa should rethink its relationship with the developed world to reduce as far as possible the gap that prevents access to development”.
The total liberation of Arica, as Kwame Nkrumah posited, requires economic independence, and the ability to feed our populations, grow the economy to provide jobs for the youth, and ensure that factors that affect African women and mothers are addressed. Africa cannot claim to be independent and sovereign without taking control of our economic resources. Africa should own and control the resources required to build independent economies. This requires serious transformational approaches in our economic systems particularly, in infrastructure, agriculture, industrialisation, education; and the oil and gas sectors.Mobilising the people as frontiers of protection as revolutionary guards to protect these resources should be the priority of the Africa Union.
Pan African Congresses
Pan African Congresses (from the first to the seventh), have become the avenues for mobilisation f Africans for real independence and liberation. These congresses provide a unique opportunity for the African family to discuss issues that are relevant for the forward movement of the continent. However, these Congresses have not been able to translate the modest successes in “institutional pan-Africanism into a people-centered pan-Africanism in the sense of shared freedoms, shared prosperity and a common political citizenship within and across borders”. To date, the ideal of African integration is at best “a distant goal” while ethnic, religious, sectional intra-state and inter-state conflicts, remain a common occurrence in many African countries.The continuing vacuum of a sense of common citizenship which should underpin nation building and African integration remains a key area of concern to pan Africanists.
The Africa Union and the 8th Pan African Congress
The creation of the African Union is an important institutional effort to give birth to renewed Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance - a pan-Africanism rooted in African people; their images, their memory, their expressions, their ideas, their aspirations and their dignity. However these institutional efforts may not have taken full account of the huge socialisation, cultural and mind-set changes that are required among ordinary Africans to fully achieve these noble objectives.
Undoubtedly, the Africa Union will lead the transformation of Africa by resourcing and developing programmes to bring together African people in a people to people based integration of women, youth, writers and artists, peasant farmers, and scientists. The next phase of the Pan African struggle should therefore aim to empower the people - women, students, youth, and the agricultural sector to defend and promote the interest of the continent against the rapacious rampaging interest of imperialism.
These are some of the challenges that face the Africa Union and the range of Pan Africanists as they congregate for the 8th Pan African Congress in Accra in November, 2014. The OAU/AU Golden Jubilee celebrations that covered a whole year between May 2013 and May 2014 as well as the development of the African Union Agenda 2063 both present an opportune moment to revisit and revive ideals and public discourse on Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. The Africa Union's 2063 plan will remain a pipe dream unless the mass of Africans are involved in its execution.The Africa Union's 2063 plan will remain a pipe dream unless the mass of Africans are involved in its conceptualisation, planning and execution.
The 50th Anniversary celebrations also provided a unique opportunity to rediscover, reinterpret and reconstruct an agenda for the pan-Africanism of the 21st Century especially within the context of the development of the African Union Agenda 2063. The thrust of this Agenda is a programme of social, economic and political rejuvenation that links the past, present and future in order to create a new generation of Pan-Africanists.
This generation of Pan Africanists will harness the lessons learnt and use them as building blocks to consolidate the hopes and promises of African Unity and Renaissance for the next 50 years. The 8th Pan African Congress is an “opportunity to remember our heroes and histories, celebrate our triumphs and take stock of our losses and failures; a period to tell our stories through literature, art, music, film. But more than that, a time to construct a pan-Africanism of the 21st Century – the Africa we want in 2063. – For prosperity, peace and sustainable development.
To this end, a number of institutions, organizations and individuals are collaborating in a process that aims to re-ignite the Pan-African spirit, enthuse commitment to our Africanness, and inject energy into the Pan-African Movement (PAM). This new energy aimed at fostering Afro-optimism will also contribute immensely towards the organisation of the 8th Pan-African Congress (PAC) in 2014. This process was kicked off by a multi-stakeholder dialogue which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the 22nd and 23rd of May, on the side-lines of the celebratory African Union summit of Heads of State and Government. Since then, the Local Organising Committee of the 8th Pan African Congress based in Accra, and chaired by a renowned Ghanaian journalist and Pan Africanist, Mr. Kwesi Pratt.
Africa must confront the challenges with gusto and seriousness as neocolonialism, 'the last stage of imperialism' seeks more territories and areas of influence. The future of Africa lies in its youth and women; their energies must be mobilised and sustained. It is acknowledged that we can inherit the past, but the future has to be constructed. As Frantz Fanon once admonished generations of Africans: “Every generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its own mission, fulfill it or betray it”.Passing the mantle to the next generation of Pan Africanists begins from here. We can build the pan African World we all want.
© Zaya Yeebo ([email protected]) is a writer and Director of the Pan African Institute for Development based in Accra, Ghana.