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Africa: Do We See Unity?

Since 1963, specifically on the 25th of May, various countries in Africa and around the world have commemorated the “African Freedom Day, – a day set aside each year to mark the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to also symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. As an unapologetic Pan-Africanist, I have actively participated in this commemoration for many years now and continue to expressly declare that as Africans we cannot afford to keep “crying over spilt milk”, thus we should rise and start taking deliberate and systematic steps towards curing and completely ridding ourselves of the indelible woes of the “Scramble for Africa” by the Europeans between 1870 and 1900.

Being traditionally communal as a society, I think that one of the major woes that Africa suffered from, continues to suffer from, and that we need to quickly rid ourselves of, is the disunity amongst its peoples occasioned by the haphazard way that the continent was partitioned during the “scramble for Africa”. 

Going by the historical precedents laid by our founding fathers, there are several schools of thought and several suppositions, but my humble submission is that the continent was blessed with some very patriotic, selfless, and intelligent individuals such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Sékou Touré of Guinea, and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia to mention a few, all of whom took up the cause of advancing the Pan-African ideals.  

A series of Pan-African Congresses were convened to further the collective interest of African peoples and to discuss methods of achieving unification. The fifth of such Congresses which was held in Manchester, England, was attended by Nkrumah, amongst other ardent Pan-Africanists, where several significant aspirations and concerns were voiced.  The Congress advocated for the “complete independence of the African continent and total rejection of colonialism and exploitation in all forms,” calling for the unification of Africa through regional blocs. This led to the formation of what was then known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on the 25th of May 1963, which was subsequently renamed the African Union (AU) in 2002.

Unlike our founding fathers, and going by the way we have chosen to relate with and transact business among ourselves in Africa, and also the way things have continued ‘panning out’ on the continent as regards interconnectivity on all fronts, it seems to me that the current leaders of Africa don’t see or understand how pivotal unity is to the liberation of Africa. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which is an agreement between 54 of the 55 African Union nations initialed by the leaders is said to be the largest in the world in terms of numbers of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa was also very optimistic that the agreement would boost intra-African trade by about 52 percent by the year 2022, unfortunately, without wanting to sound unnecessarily pessimistic, I don’t see this happening. Africa still lacks what I consider one of the most important ingredients to make this happen, which is – ‘unity’. In my opinion, we all have repeatedly paid lip service to this all important ingredient and this is rather unfortunate.

Just six days after we celebrated ‘Africa Day’ 2021, chaos broke out at a meeting of the African Union parliament held on Monday, 31st of May 2021 in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. It is difficult to describe how shocked I was, when I watched the report of the incident on television. The scuffle was said to have been a result of disagreement over the process of electing a new president for the AU’s legislative body. My conclusion thus is, what one does not see, one cannot aspire to have; we don’t see the good in unity of Africa, so we can’t aspire to possess this all important ingredient of progress called unity. The cover story of this edition is essentially dedicated to examining the significance of celebrating Africa Day across the continent annually. The question on our minds at the Editorial Board of IWA is: Can Africa be truly free, if it is not united? As we have steadfastly done over the years, we have again put together for your reading pleasure another exciting and refreshing edition of Inside Watch Africa (IWA). Please, do enjoy!