Next week, the African Union will issue e-passports that would allow recipients visa-free travel between all member states. Beneficiaries will initially be limited to heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives of the African Union member states in Addis Ababa. The ideal is to eventually roll it out to all 1 billion Africans, although that might take years, or even decades.
A goal in the ''2063 agenda'', a document in which the African Union members have laid the proposal, includes the free movement of goods, services and people around a continent whose borders were drawn by colonial cartographers at the end of nineteenth century with little thought to geography or ethnicity.
In the beginning, the aim of the African Union was to present a united front in international affairs and speed up the development of the continent, to help spur industrialization by facilitating deeper economic integration and building much needed infrastructure, including roads, railways and telecommunications systems.The African Union hopes to finally achieve this aim, goal, with the help of China's investments in infrastructure and industrialization projects.
However, there is a lot skepticism in the West whether the African continent has the political and economic background to achieve its goal. this school of thinking is based on the African Union track record of failed promises. In fact, the African Union has achieved spectacularly little in its decade and half of existence; the body has yet to solve a single conflict diplomatically; the body cannot even seem to agree on a definition for democracy, certifying all elections as free and fair; the body has proved equally inept on the economic front;
In order to achieve this futuristic Pan-Africanism project of closer economic integration, the free movement of goods, services and people around the continent, the African Union must overcome many obstacles: the mindset that Africa cannot solve its own problems; Africa's dependence on the West; Transparency and accountability to fight corruption, poor infrastructure, political stability and security within Africa continent. In the first part of this article,( the second part will be published next week in this blog), I will concentrate my attention at the first set of obstacles: the mindset that Africa cannot solve its own problems, Africa's dependence on the West and poor infrastructure.
Africa's dependence on Imperialists
Africa has had the bad luck to be over-run by European soldiers of fortune that had neither moral fibre nor humanity. Slavery played its shameful role in depopulating Africa. Capitalism denuded Africa of its wealth. Colonialism deprived Africa of its birthright, and Imperialism emasculated its will to live as human being and enjoy its share of bounties of the earth.
Imperialist countries have psychologically conditioned Africans to think that they cannot live without the crumbs from Europe or America or from any other imperialist country in this world. They have not only behaved as if Africa's riches belong to them, they have also made Africans believe that they cannot do anything for themselves unless they totally depend on Western countries, in particular their former enslavers and colonisers. Africa leaders must exorcise this demon of helplessness and inferiority complex in order to move forward.
Imperialist countries have made Africa their hunting and looting ground for many years through various forms such as slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism. The West exploitative relationship to Africa has stripped Africa's people of their riches and continues to strip them. The West no longer needs standing armies in Africa to strip its resources because it can do so more effectively with multi-national companies.
Global Financial Integrity has researched and revealed that a cumulative sum of $814.9 billion was swindled from Africa between 2004 and 2013 by Western multi-national companies, through tax avoidance, corruption and bribes: South Africa $209 billion, Nigeria $178 billion, Tanzania $191.77 billion, Senegal $8.03 billion, Uganda $116.76 billion, Tunisia $154.5 billion, Egypt $39.83 billion, Lesotho $3.41 billion, Swaziland $5.82 billion, Botswana $13.68 billion, Ethiopia $25.83 billion, Mauritius $6,09 billion. Other research institutions on this illicit flow of money out of Africa such as Christian Aid and Tax Justice Network have quantified the illicit flow of money out of Africa as between $1.2 trillion and $1.4 trillion. This is said to be four times the size of Africa foreign debt. The West economic exploitation of Africa goes on unabated.
Embarking in this futuristic Pan-Africanism project of closer economic integration, single market and political and economical emancipation, the Africa Union needs to re-assess Africa's relationship with the West. Pan-Africanism is an anti-injustice and continued stealing of Africa's resources by the West while Africa's children wallow in the quagmire of poverty, ignorance, short life expectancy, and high child mortality.
In many ways, Africa remains deeply fragmented. Poor roads, red tape and clogged borders are among the obstacles to closer economic integration in Africa. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind other developing regions on most standard indicators of infrastructure development, prompting African leaders to call for greater international support in this sphere.
Therefore a closer economic integration in Africa will not be feasible without regional integration,
because many African states are too small to stand in their own feet, particularly in manufacturing, or have poor infrastructure and that much closer co-operation is indispensable for industrial take off.
China is emerging as a major ''financier'' of infrastructure projects in Africa. This is very welcome development because Africa has an infrastructure deficit. The West abandons Africa in that respect because they thought the private sector could fill this void. However private sector met much of the demand in telecom, a sector that is very amenable to private delivery. However, in power, expressways and rail, it has proved harder to attract private finance. The result is the current hard infrastructure deficit in Africa.
Because of its size, (Africa is actually the size of Europe, America, China and India combined) and its immense wealth and resources ( almost every kind of mineral is found in Africa: Vanadium, chrome, uranium, cobalt, tantalum, platinum, gold, diamonds, iron, coal, oil, to name just a few), Africa can fulfil economic potential, particularly in the power, transport, and water and sanitation sectors with a very good infrastructure. It is therefore imperative for African leaders to seize the opportunity that China's investments bring to the continent.
In fact, China's infrastructure project is probably the factor behind Africa's growth. Chinese institutions are the largest single source of funds for African infrastructure, accounting for $13.4 billion in 2013. The Chinese investment has been weighed towards transport facilities such as railways, roads, airports ans seaport. The African Union ''2063 agenda'' is, could be, the best way, if not the only way, to make China's infrastructure very productive.
Pan-Africanism is imperative
One African country independence is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa. Political independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle. African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous and anachronistic, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism. To advance victoriously to rebuilding the broken walls of Africa, Pan-Africanism is the key and the most powerful weapon.
The mammoth task of liberating Africa economically can be brought about only through Pan-African unity in a united Africa. Pan Africanism is not a wishful thinking. It is Africa's weapon to survive the onslaughts of Imperialism. Not a single African country can stand on its own without perishing. Pan-African unity is not a choice, It is an imperative.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
African Affairs Expert