As we have argued elsewhere, there is a thread of continuity which runs through the history of the last 600 years, which reflects the consistent
marginalization and impoverishment of African people.
That thread is the unequal world division of work and market, weighted against the African people and their vital interests, and records the story of imperialism, neo-colonialism and contemporary globalization.
That thread is the story of enslavement of African people during the era of slave trade and slavery, the story of Africa becoming a source of raw materials and a market for manufactured goods, the story of the colonial conquest and subjugation of Africa, the story of Africa becoming a source of cheap labour. It is the story of the production and reproduction of a debilitating poverty, of cyclical conflict and crisis.
African people must work to dismantle that disequilibrium in favour of their own vital interests – starting with building a critical awareness of the problem and of its sheer enormity. African patriots have reacted in diverse ways to the reality discussed above. The sense across the ages was that an energetic and multifaceted response from the African people and their diaspora was an objective necessity.
The fight for the abolition of slave trade and slavery, the ‘Back to Africa Movement’ of the Garveyites, the Pan African Conferences series associated with Dr WEB du Bois, the later 6th and 7th Pan African Congresses – were all important nodal points in the epic journey and struggle.
They all dovetailed into the thought of “Ubuntu”, the African Renaissance and the Second Liberation of Africa ... Contemporary pan-Africanism has emerged out of the practical experience associated with this long march. It is a practical, hard-headed and hard-nosed pan-Africanism. It is a practical response to contemporary challenges, in the era of globalization.
If it did not exist, we would have had to invent it! Its greatest strength, even for one who is not emotionally involved, even from the point of selfishness, is precisely because it helps resolve internal problems of African states – precisely, again, because the problems are interrelated.
At the heart of contemporary pan-African- ism lies the theory and practice of regional integration. This refers to a process of co- operation – usually amongst neighbouring countries – involving some degree of “border deregulation” and harmonization of macro- economic policies, programs and structures.
This would cover, very broadly, elements like abolition of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade, establishment of a common external tariff, the free movement of persons, goods and services, harmonization of monetary and fiscal policies, etc.
Regional integration has to be clearly differentiated from the broader concept of ‘regional co-operation’. Regional cooperation would, for instance, cover any economic agreement be- tween two states for mutual economic benefit. It could cover even a single commodity treaty. It would not necessitate geographical proximity.
Regional integration in our circumstances serves four main purposes. First, promoting the development of the integrating states. The idea is that the pooling of the human and material resources, and other capacities – with the attendant economies of scale – of integrating states would accelerate their development.
Second, building (and related to the immediately foregoing) the competitiveness of the integrating states in the global economy. Third, building strategic research capabilities, as well as consolidating collective defence and security with formidable militaries, advanced weaponry and delivery systems.
Fourth, imposing good internal democratic behavior on member states. The Constitutive Act of the African Union, in this connection, imposes certain extra-national and pan-Africanist standards of behavior, with attendant sanctions.
Regional integration arrangements vary greatly in objectives, structures, etc. From the simplest to higher levels of integration, the following elements are present: Preferential Trade Area (PTA), Free Trade Area (FTA), Customs Union; Common Market, Economic Community, Confederation/Federation.
The African Union is about pan-Africanism – just like the East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), etc. Professionals, academics, businesspeople, civil society, artistes, etc, are all converging, and that is as pan-Africanist as they come.
The East African Community is a regional inter-nation organisation of six states: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, with its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. Somalia and the DRC might join one day...
The EAC is home to some 150 million citizens, of which 22 per cent is urban population. With a land area of 1.82 million square kilometres and a combined Gross Domestic Product of $147.5 billion (EAC Statistics for 2015), its realization bears great strategic and geopolitical significance for the people of Eastern Africa.
Afrika Mama Yetu!
The author is a private secretary/political affairs at State House.