Understanding Pan-Africanism

Pan africanism Adebayo Alonge

I usually like to share some of the exchanges between me and my readers to help provide some learning. Recently I received 2 Inbox comments about a recent post on adebayoalonge.com with the following excerpt – ‘Xenophobia in South Africa begs the question of Pan-Africanism- is the liberation from colonialism and end of apartheid of no use if Africans are racist to one another? Certainly not. But we have a huge job ahead of us. The fate of Africa is in our hands. ‘ Read More

The first comment I received is as follows:

Panafricanism is like a nice toy promoted by western ideologists to Africans during the immediate pre and post colonial time. It distracted immensely the new nations from neo colonialism of USSR, France and USA. I have to confess I was attracted by the idea. But let’s face it: do we talk about panasianism ? Nope. Because the economic, social, historical, geostrategic reality of Turkey, Japan, China, Bangladesh or Arabia is too diverse to think to build a coherent group. That’s the same for Africa. Africa has even more diversity. Between Ethiopia, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa or Gabon, the economic, social, historical, geostrategic reality is also too diverse. Let’s focus on building regional coherent entities that works, let’s focus on reconciling economic policies of ECOWAS region for example. Then when it works, we can see if these regional sets can talk together. Nkrumah or Touré were right to promote panafricanism as a tool to fight for independence. Once it was gained, the idea lost its sharpness and collapsed. Since the 1970s, there has not been significant progress apart from endless talks.

My response to this first comment was :

I disagree with you on a number of counts 

1. Your take that Pan Africanism is a toy promoted by the West and then uptaken by Africans is rather condescending and only an extension of inherent prejudice that Africans are unable to create something of their own. Asides this, it also displays ignorance of the history of Pan Africanism and what it is. I will take some pains to provide some education here but I recommend you to read more about it and similar topics.

2. Pan Africanism dates back to the 19th century promoted by Caribbean and Afro-American blacks as a concept to create a homeland in Africa where everyone of African descent may achieve their potential without the limitations of  racial discrimination . Some of the earliest PanAfricanists were- Crummel, Blyden and Delany

3. However many modern PanAfricanists consider W.E.B Du Bois as the true founder of modern Pan Africanism and he really defined the problem Pan Africanism was seeking to solve. You need to understand this problem and then you will realise that your claim of diversity in Africa as a barrier to Pan Africanism is flawed- you are prescribing a problem for a solution that is seeking to solve a completely different problem. The bounds don’t intersect!

4. Pan Africanism aims to solve the problem of global racial discrimination against Africans especially those with the black skin. The Color Line problem as Du Bois put it was not just a US Negro problem but a global problem wherever black people find themselves juxtaposed against other races.

5. Other great Pan Africanists were Marcus Garvey, CLR James, George Padmore, Leopold Senghor, Aime Cesaire, Jomo Kenyatta, Anta Diop and Kwame Nkrumah. The above sufficiently debunks prejudicial claims that pan-Africanism is a western concept 

Now to address the false diversity narrative: I have been to over 20 sub-saharan countries including many Western hemisphere countries with large number of black people. I can tell you for free, that Africans and the African diaspora are not dis-similar as you claim. Our culture is very much similar. And more importantly the racial subjugation they face is the same- whether in Africa or in the Western Hemisphere. This is indeed what unites all African peoples. This is the intersecting bounds! Why is it that Africans despite having the richest continent, have the poorest humans? It is very simplistic to just say bad government. In every society where blacks have been juxtaposed against other races- they have consistently been relegated to the bottom of society. You will see this in Brazil, the US, India and even China. At the root is Negrophobia- a fear and disdain for the black skin that has taken root globally over the last 500 years So this brings us back to the central problem pan-Africanism seeks to solve: to create a homeland where Africans can rise to achieve their fullest potential without fear of racial discrimination . Against this back-drop whilst remaining logical , it is easy to realise that achieving pan-Africanism now- is a most important mandate in order for Africa to rise above its unreasonable national/tribal divisions, achieve continental peace, foster cultural dialogue among its peoples and diaspora, increase the continent’s geopolitical influence and promote economic development in the interest of its peoples by pooling their capital and efforts. No tiny African country as exist today can achieve this goal- not even Nigeria with 200M people. This push and pull between panAfricanism now vs. gradualist panAfricanism as you proffer through the continental blocs goes back to the 1960s with the conflict between newly independent African countries- the Casablanca Group wanting a United Africa immediately (led by Nasser of Egypt, Nkrumah of Ghana, Sekou Toure of Guinea, other countries in this bloc were Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Libya) vs. the Monrovia group wanting a United Africa gradually through national-regional blocs (led by Nigeria, Cameroun, Liberia, most of French speaking Africa)

Given the wide gap between Africa’s potential in the 1960’s and where it is today, it is very clear that the gradualist approach is a tried and failed method for Africa’s development. For Africans to stand any chance, Africa as whole needs annualised GDP growth of 10% over next 30 years. It can only achieve this through an aggressive approach of integration and being in charge of its own interests.

There is no time for the tortoise anymore. Now the antelopes must leap forth. One Africa today and NOW!

The second comment I received is as follows:

In the book, fabulous by the way, named « Ebène » by Ryszard Kapuscinski and published in 1998, the author was suggesting that the frontiers drawn as we know them today has been creating tensions. What do you think? Have you read that book too? Have a nice day #AdebayoAlonge

My response to this second comment was :

No I have not. I will definitely order a copy right away. But yes the artificial colonial boundaries and identities have been cause for tension. But I and other Pan Africanists say that we need to rise beyond these and create a borderless Africa- a Pan-Africa where no African is a foreigner in Africa. 

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