Pan Africanism origins are stemmed from the struggles of the African people against enslavement and colonisation” Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (Pan Africanism: Politics, Economy and Social Change in the Twenty-first Century) to the first resistance on slave ships – rebellions and suicides – through the constant plantation and colonial uprisings and the “Back to Africa” movements of the nineteenth century.
Pan-Africanism as an ideology and movement that encourages the solidarity of Africans worldwide is based on the belief that unity is vitally important to economic, social, and political progress and aims to unify and uplift people of African descent.
The ideology asserts that the fate of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core Pan-Africanism is “a belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny.
After the Pan-African congress (PAC) held in Westminster Hall, London UK in 1900 by the Trinindadian barrister – Henry Sylvester Williams to protest stealing of lands in the colonies, racial discrimination and deal with other issues of interest to Blacks, several conferences were held.
Early conferences appealed to colonial masters and slave traders to end their barbaric acts and grant independence to their colonies. Their efforts resulted to the 5th congress which is regarded as the most fundamental of all.
The 5th Congress was held in Manchester in 1945 and attracted the largest number of Africans from the Continent and around the world. It set a good precedent to many post-war independence movements.
In 1958, Kwame Nkrumah, first leader of independent Ghana called a meeting in the capital city, Accra, of all the independent African states – Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Liberia, Morocco and Ethiopia – in order that they should recommit themselves to supporting independence for the rest of the Continent.
By 1963, there were 31 independent nations. Some were agitating for immediate Continental political union while others favoured slower steps towards unity. The two factions shortly agreed to form Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in May, 1963.
During the 6th congress in Tanzania Julius Nyerere inspired attendants with his famous principles of self-reliance which motivated fresh prospects for a new Africa but the immediate plan was to support the new wave of independence movements in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe and South Africa. However, the plan was barely effective since no action was taken to create the structures.
After 38 years the OAU was transformed into the African Union, loosely modeled on the European Union.
The architects of AU said the creation of the African Union would bring the dream of a common African currency, foreign policy, defense structure and economic program closer to reality. It would create a pan-African parliament, an economic community, a central bank and a court of justice.
After a decade of existence the AU is struggling with financial problems. It is dependent on people and countries it intended to run away from; to put it better, it is funded by western countries and organizations that don’t share the same vision with it.
The promise of a common African currency, foreign policy, defense structure and economic program closer to reality remains largely unachieved.
In 2013 during the 50th anniversary of OAU/AU, the union set agenda 2063 which assures Africans of living in the Africa they want after 50 years.
IS IT STILL PAN-AFRFICANISM OR IT IS NATIONALISM/INDIVIDUALISM?
Nkrumah in his book; “Africa Must Unite”; writes “we in Africa who are pressing now for unity are deeply conscious of the validity of our purpose. We need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning to colonialism in disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched forces dividing our continent and still holding back millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total African liberation. We need it to carry forward our construction of a socio-economic system that will support the great mass of our steadily rising population at levels of life which will compare with those in the most advanced countries”
According to Nkrumah the situation in which Africa remains the richest continent on the globe whilst its people are counted amongst the poorest is untenable. He saw Pan-Africanism as the ideology and activism of Africans everywhere united in the battle against their under development as a redeeming force. Pan Africanism was not just an intellectual exercise, for Nkrumah it was the ideology for the liberation of the African from the clutches of oppression and exploitation.
What we see today is total opposite of what Pan-Africanism and its architects embraced. Several years after independence, Africans are still wallowing in poverty, wars, diseases, systemic dependency, human rights abuse, rampart corruption, bad governance among other things Pan-Africanism sought to end.
During the day African leaders discuss and agree that Africa has to be integrated socially, economically and politically but at night they practice nationalism. Traveling and transporting goods in Africa by Africans is one of the most frustrating things an African would not wish to go through yet it is very easy for non Africans to travel and transport their goods in Africa. Practically there is hardly anything suggesting that Pan-Africanism is still happening but theoretically a lot is depicting pan-africanism.
We should respect the principles of Pan-Africanism for Africa to prosper!
*President African Youth Union Pretoria South Africa