AU leaders debate Pan-Africanism as waves of turmoil sweep continent
As the African Union summit drew to a close in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, amid the crisis in Mali, leaders from more than 50 countries contemplated what Pan-Africanism has meant to the continent over the past five decades and what role it can play in Africa’s future.
The theme of the summit, held at the start of the African Union’s jubilee celebrations, was “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”.
Pan-Africanism as a political philosophy that stresses the united power of the African continent, played a vital inspirational role in liberating and achieving independence for Africans in North America and the United Kingdom in the early 20th century, and on this continent in the 1950s and 1960s.
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairwoman of the AU Commission, said it was the unity of purpose, sacrifice and solidarity by Africa that led to the decolonization of the continent and the dismantling of apartheid.
The reason to review the topic after 50 years is that “the spirit of Pan-Africanism and ideals of the African Renaissance delivered us to where we are today and must propel us toward an integrated, people-centered, prosperous Africa at peace with itself”.
Where is Africa now? It’s in the worsening world financial crisis, but some African countries retain a steady growth rate. Meanwhile, it’s in the front of another wave of regional conflicts and violence. Countries such as Mali, Somalia, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others are still trying to get peace and stability.
Along with the integration of the continent, not only the people and markets are connected, but the violence could quickly spread to neighbors as Mali’s fighting continues. The country’s neighbors, including Algeria, Mauritania and Libya, are all threatened.
In other parts of Africa, as turbulence continues, essential development in the country and the continent in general remains far away.
A regional integration requires peace and stability, “development is critical to peace – and peace is essential for development,” as said by Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, in the opening ceremony of the summit.
But in combating turmoil across the land, indigenous forces need to take a bigger role as Western intervention remains controversial, and it’s Africans, and only Africans, who can determine its future.
African leaders at the summit vowed to cooperate with the UN to send troops to Mali as AU forces have played a positive role in Somalia and other regional crises.
Another challenge the AU faces is how far and how deep the economic integration could go and how much compromise those leaders sitting in the conference hall would make under a pan-continental framework.
“We expect a full integration around 2030, in which the economy would be amalgamated, Africans are using one currency, and goods could be flowed within the continent freely and the market will have only one tax rate for all outsiders,” said Rene N’Guettia Kouassi, director of economic affairs at the AU Commission.
He said Africa is already slowly but steadily moving to the goal, although regional integration is moving at varying rates. For instance, economic integration in West African countries is proceeding better than it is in East Africa.
A larger market and single tariff are attractive to foreign investors. But the experiences of more sophisticated united economies like the European Union remind Africans of the complexity and risks of regional integration.