By Spy Uganda
Kampala: When the idea of Pan Africanism surfaced, Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana thought that the best way to achieve the common interests of people of African descent was to have Africa unified into one country. This idea urged all African countries to be united in pursuing the goals of economic development and democracy in Africa as a whole but unfortunately, it was rejeted.
Why United Africa Remains Essential?
Firstly, many African countries have similar problems but to varying degrees (e.g. bad infrastructure, famine, high levels of poverty, weak institutions, instability, corruption etc).
As we have seen since the end of colonialism, some progress has been made in a few countries, but not enough. By virtue of having more brainpower and resources, as a result of collaboration, the chances of each country resolving their issues should increase significantly.
Secondly, a unified and well-organized Africa has a lot of economic and political potential. Africa’s median age is 19.7 years old, which shows that the continent has a large youth population ready to be equipped with skills needed to be a part of a productive labor force.
Once African countries use these advantages, they could become economic powerhouses. Once economic prosperity is achieved, Africa would be able to exert more of an influence on world politics and this could support cooperation with western countries on more equal terms.
One potential challenge that Pan-Africanism faces is the continued meddling of western countries, specifically the old colonial powers and the US, in the economic and political affairs of the continent.
There is a long history of interference, from the overthrow of Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s to the more recent overthrow of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and countless acts of economic interference through unilateral and multilateral means. This could be overcome by strength in numbers; if enough African countries stand together and do not fall prone to outside interference, Pan-Africanist policies will have the desired effects.
Another challenge is the crippling amount of external debt accumulated by African countries. China, in particular, is guilty of the neo-colonialist the practice of debt trapping.
As of 2018, around 20% of all African debt was owed to China. Once these debts are repaid or forgiven, African leaders should try to manage and restructure any the future debt they have in such a way that it will not limit the budgets they set for each year or put them in a debt trap.
A unified approach in development is essential for the future prosperity of Africa. If this is fulfilled, Africa can overcome all of its structural challenges and become a real powerhouse. Agreements such as the AfCFTA give hope that Africa as a whole is starting to take this approach seriously, but the key is to make sure that the rules created in these agreements are binding and respected. The benefits of this may not come immediately, but they will definitely be seen in the long run.
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