By Eriya Kategaya
On April 1, during the official opening of the Pan African offices in Kampala, Rt. Hon. Eriya Kategaya delivered a paper focusing on the relevance of Pan Africanism today. Below is an abridged version of his speech
Pan-Africanism started as a reaction against the oppression and exploitation of black people.
It initially served as advocacy machinery against the enslavement of the black people but later evolved into organised forces with cultural and political claims. After the Second World War, the movement took on a continental dimension. It came to represent the quest for continental unity and enhanced the struggle for national independence.
It continued to dominate the realm of ideas long after Ghana, under Kwame Nkrumah, became a sovereign state in 1957. Thus, from 1958 onwards, the notion of Pan-Africanism moved from the realm of ideas to the formulation of practical policies and programmes.
The national liberation struggles made Africans realise they faced common challenges and that cooperation and unity had become a necessity.
On May 25, 1963, 32 African Heads of State and Government came together in Addis Ababa to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a crucial step in the movement towards African integration.
The current context
The vision of African integration has played out at two levels: At continental organisation where there has been an unequivocal political tone; and at sub regional levels, where several economic sub-regional arrangements have emerged.
The sub-regional institutions have predominantly focused on intra-regional trade promotion through preferential arrangements; establishment of common currency areas and harmonisation of macroeconomic policies to achieve convergence.
The idea of strengthening and deepening African regional integration picked a new impetus in the mid 1990s as African leaders became deeply convinced that regional integration was the only effective vehicle for addressing Africa’s problems and for the acceleration of Africa’s integration into the world economy. In this way, the regional economic institutions were conceived to spearhead a new development philosophy beyond structural adjustment.
Role of Pan-Africanism
Pan-Africanism has, first and foremost, institutionalised the principle of ‘oneness of view’. Africa’s success in the liberation struggle was made possible mainly by its oneness of view and unity of action.
We should, therefore, ensure that the same type of unity is preserved and strengthened as we tackle the economic challenges facing us.
Some skeptics and detractors of Africa have continually cast doubt about Africa’s ability to sustain unity in economic matters. Indeed, this assertion is based on the misplaced notion that Africans, by nature, disagree on all other issues except liberation. But the reality is that Africa has demonstrated strong unity.
Second is the principle of subjugating narrow parochial interest to the greater common good. This principle has enabled compromise to prevail where differences of opinion have emerged.
Thirdly is the principle of collaboration with like-minded institutions.
Fourthly is the principle of strategic integration. There was consensus that the smallness and fragmentation of post-colonial African national markets constituted a major obstacle to sustaining sizeable economic operations.
Thus from the beginning, the need for economic cooperation was identified.
The future context
A review of the current African situation as well as the projection of the future must, of necessity, take into account the international situation and environment. Africa is part of the global community.
The transformation of the world from a multipolar to a unipolar one has had adverse consequences especially for Africa. What stands out clearly is that we will need to position ourselves strategically to address the myriad of contemporary as well as emerging issues.
It is important to focus what we ourselves need to do.
What are the shortcomings that have faced our countries and are within our means to resolve? What have we done to address them? What have we done to create the enabling environment for economic and social transformation in the continent using the continent’s immense potential both human and material?
Have we done enough to confound our critics who consider Africa as a continent where conflicts are rampant, human rights abuses tolerated and corruption including in high places the order of the day in some societies; where some of its people are forced to vote with their feet; and where everything that can go wrong has gone wrong?
Evidently, Africa is changing and this change is essentially due to the fact that our people demand and expect changes. This is not to suggest that there is no resistance to such changes.
Africa is a continent in transition both in political and economic terms. The process of democratisation is gradually but firmly on course. This process is irreversible.
Indeed, the people of our continent are determined to control their destiny. They want to have a say on how they are governed. They are also becoming increasingly assertive in demanding a scrupulous observance of human rights. In all this, the role of civil society, including the pan-African movement, has been pivotal.
Closer at home, the East African Community region has a lot of virgin fertile land with a lot of fresh water sources, plenty of oil, gas, coal, iron ore and many others which are yet to be fully exploited. The solution is in coming together so that we develop capacity to collectively secure and manage these resources.
The foundations that are laid down today are what will determine tomorrow’s Africa. Africa’s success in the liberation struggle was made possible by its oneness of view and unity of action. This definitive trend has been given concrete substance in the formation of the African Union and the strengthening of the regional economic communities.
Africa will continue to evolve into a more united continent, which will not deviate from the imperative of unity and cooperation in the economic, social and political dimensions.
In re-framing the vision of the forerunners of Pan-Africanism, I foresee a continent that will take giant steps in multidimensional fields.
A continent where the practices of democracy and good governance will be a given and thus releasing the energies of our people for meaningful development;
A continent which will see to it that its immense resources are used to benefit its own people;
A continent which will be competitive in the world stage and whose immense resources properly utilised;
A continent where the scourge of conflict especially perennial intermittent intra-conflicts will be history; and
A continent where the powerful force and voice of the women and other marginalised groups will be fully recognised at every level.
But to realise these goals and objectives, we as Africans must think and act beyond tribe, clan or religion. We must use our cultural, ethnic, religious and other diversities not as a source of division but as assets for our common future.
As we reflect on the relevance of pan-Africanism in the period ahead, it is important that we ensure that our people survive to be part of the future. Nothing constitutes a greater threat to the very survival of our people than the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance.
The continued survival and functional relevance of Pan-Africanism underlines the validity of the political, economic and strategic consideration that drives its programmes.
First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for E. African Affairs
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Africa’s success lies in unity