Rising Africa – Myth or Reality?

By Fatma Mohamed Alloo
Addis Ababa was a busy hub with the Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue on Pan Africanism and African Renaissance in the 21st Century that took place on 22-23rd May, 2013, prior to the Heads of State meeting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of African Union.
Some eighty members of civil society mixed with former heads of states, U.N. agencies, to reinterpret, assess and set our agenda of what is to become of our Pan-Africanism. Sixty percent of the participants were women.Those who came from the era when Pan-Africanism came into being reminisced its birth.
As DuBois would say “Shall we put on our beautiful robes of Pan-Africanism and fight?”
Africa awake, put on the beautiful robes of Pan-African Socialism.
You have nothing to lose but your chains!
You have a continent to regain!
You have freedom and human dignity to attain!
Hon. Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique (1986 to 2005) recalled how the Africanness of the movement steeled with fierce spirit of nationalism. Political independence was the cry of the continent, as was agreed by other activists of that era in the room.
The UNECA Executive Secretary, Carlos Lopes, reminded us of the originality of pan-Africanism though the diasporic contribution of people like W.E.B. Du Bois and many others-an identity birthed through pangs of Africa with slavery as a historical fact. No other continent can pride itself of such a bonded historical identity of its people. “African Unity then was a symbol of our dignity” chided Professor Horace Cambell, Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in the USA.
When the activists of the era faced an ideological confrontation between the Monrovia and the Casablanca school of thought, it is to Addis Ababa they headed and under the leadership of Emperor Haile Selasie and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was born in 1963.
Political liberation was the agenda and the cry of the continent then. OAU spent its energies towards this end and if one is to assess, it has been successful enough to justify celebrations of 50 years of African Unity (AU), the forum discussed. The 7th Pan African Congress which took place in Kampala, Uganda in April 3-8, 1994 bears witness to a committed unity of Africa as a strong pan-Africanist, the late Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem used to state– “Don’t agonize, organize!”
The former President of Republic of Mauritius, Hon. Karl Auguste Offman reiterated that “If small Mauritius, not endowed with natural resources and prone to hurricanes can arise, so can the rest of Africa. It just needs a mind-set of dignity of peoples and political will to do it.”
From a Doomed to Rising Continent: Whose Agenda?
A strong debate ensued in the forum on where then did we go wrong. Was it that leaders then did not involve citizens in its political and economic path? “As leaders, we accepted to be neo–colonized” chided Hon. Chissano.
But now we are said to be analyzed by the Economist as the rising continent when a decade ago we were a doomed continent. What do we say about ourselves?” We are being organized for other peoples’ agenda? With our internal corruptions we have become easy prey to deplete our natural resources. The west has hit a hard wall in their quest for a capitalist oriented economic system. Africa is a rich and virgin territory where the world’s powers know that they can get away with much at the expense of the people of Africa. “With this wind of change, we have to be cautious” warned a veteran journalist Jenrali Ulimwengu from Tanzania. When they say Africa is rising they mean the fruit is ripe, come and pick it” agreed Ebrima Sall, Executive Secretary of CODESRIA while Charles Abugre, Africa Regional Director of UN Millennium Campaign lamented on the need for transform the production system.
Real stories must be told now. Who is immigrating to where? It is the west who are now coming to our land for greener pastures, participants observed. And when they meet systems that resist them they do move in force and destroy the system that exists which is the sad story of Libya. Total and full unification of Africa is but a necessity now, warned Prof. Horace Campbell who also called on the need to honour the Racism Conference resolution held in Durban on the issue of reparation of Africans taken from their motherland so as the dignity that is Africa is publicly restored.
As the debate raged over the position of women, and as younger generation wondered if AU has the capacity to regenerate Pan Africanism and Renaissance in its true spirits, the forum was once again reminded that movements are born out of dreams of the impossible. The ones making it possible are the people themselves. The fact that this forum was already a network of organized forces is a step forward. The fact that majority of the participants were women is another step forward and the fact that youths also not only participated but used cultural expressions to generate passionate commitments within the forum was a very positive sign that times are changing. Africa Unite. Let there be no borders to cross amongst us. The fact that we remain within the parameters drawn for us in the 1884 Berlin Conference shows that we do have a long way to go to decolonize our mindset.
As the two day meeting drew to a close, one could not help but recollect a deep thought to ponder on. Demographically, as Lopes observed, we in Africa are the youngest continent. The west is an aging continent with dwindling young population. In 2063, 50 years on, we are going to be even younger. As we negotiate our own intergenerational contract the continent, how do we take the positioning of our rising continent-AFRICA. As DuBois would say “Shall we put on our beautiful robes of Pan-Africanism and fight?”
Africa awake, put on the beautiful robes of Pan-African Socialism.
You have nothing to lose but your chains!
You have a continent to regain!
You have freedom and human dignity to attain!

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