Commemorating the 2022 Africa Day - The past, present and future of Africa - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Commemorating the 2022 Africa Day - The past, present and future of Africa

By Dr Tapiwa JG Mashakada, Maji-Marefu Institute of International Relations and Security Studies

1. Introduction

Africa will on May 25, commemorate a special day in its calendar that marks the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963 by Africa's founding Fathers among which we remember Sekou Toure of Guinea, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and  Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia. The historical significance of Ethiopia being that it was never colonized. The Italians tried to invade her but were repulsed. This is the land of the Queen of Sheba one of King Solomon's many wives. Hence the Rastafarians up to now consider, Ethiopia a holy land. The Rastafarians have adopted the flag of Ethiopia as their regalia.  It was therefore not surprising that African icons chose Addis as the venue for launching this political outfit called the OAU with the aim of promoting African Unity and the decolonization of the Continent.

2. Background

In 1884, France, Belgium, Britain, Portugal and Spain met at the Berlin Conference to partition Africa. They were tempted by Africa's rich resources discovered by the likes of Vasco da Gama and Jan van Riebeck in 1662. 

The partition was done as follows:

Britain got the following territories: Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Rhodesia, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Tanzania, Sudan, Mauritius, Seychelles Egypt, Lybia, South Africa (after the Anglo-Boer War), Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho

The French got Mauritania, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Mali, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Central Africa Republic, Gabon, Comoros


King Leopold of Belgium got the whole of the rich Congo basin as his private property.

The Germans got: Cameron, South West Africa (Namibia)

The Portuguese got: Mozambique, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde.

The Spanish got: Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Saharawi.

Sierra Leone and Liberia were established for repatriated slaves from America and the West Indies. You can see from the aptly named Sierra Leonian Capital "Free town".

Colonial conquest had begun in earnest. 

3. Decolonization

Thanks to the OAU, the first African country to become free was Ghana (1956) just before the launch of the OAU. The last to be free was South Africa in 1994. Decolonization did not come on a silver platter. Wars of liberation were fought especially in the Portuguese colonies where the struggle was bloody. Talk of Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique. 

France negotiated with most of its colonies and gave them Independence Charters but with the exception of Algeria which fought a bitter war of independence. The British resisted independence in Rhodesia, Kenya.

Through the OAU, a Liberation Committee chaired by Tanzania was established to help nationalists with arms, military training, logistical support, diplomatic support and moral support. Tanzania became host to most of the liberation movements from Southern Africa while Guinea Conakry played host to most Portuguese nationalists like Amicar Cabral of Guinea Bissau and liberation movements in Cape Verde. 

The OAU finished its mission with the independence of South Africa in 1994 and thereafter transformed itself to become the African Union (AU) in 2001 through the Abuja Treaty. However, the OAU agreed to respect the colonial borders, which in itself is a major problem for African integration.

4. Post Liberation

Post independence, the AU's mission was to see a united, integrated, prosperous continent playing an influential role globally. The focus for Africa is now economic integration. Many milestones have been achieved by the AU starting with Agenda 2063 which identified 10 key priority projects for integrating the African Continent. These projects include:

1. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

2. The African Single Air Transport Market 

3. The African Fast Rail Train

4. The Pan African University

5. The African Central Bank

6. Free Movement of People, goods and service

7. ICT

8. Etc

The roadmap to the African Monetary Union is as follows:

1. Regional Economic Communities

2. Customs Union

3. Free Trade Area

4. Common Market

5. Monetary Union 

The 8 Recs are the building blocks of integration. Progress has been made. The AfCFTA has been established and launched in 2018 in Niger. Its HQ is in Accra. The main objective of the AfCFTA is to boost intra-African trade which currently stands at 12% compared to trade with Europe which stands at 60%.

The Pan African University was established in Cameron.

 In terms of regional integration, Comesa, EAC, ECOWAS and Igad have achieved milestones. Free trade has been achieved with free movement of people and trans- humans. Sadc and The Association of Central African States {ECCAS) are still in the woods.

Today Nigeria is the biggest African economy in terms of population and GDP suggesting there is a nexus between demography and economic growth. South Africa comes second followed by Egypt and Kenya. But in terns of growth, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Kenya are the fast tigers. These fast tigers have registered a record 8% average growth rate for the last 15 years. 

Africa is blessed with abundant resources but still poor. With a huge market of one billion people, A GDP of 1.4 trillion USD, and a bulging young population, Africa is set to scale new levels. 

5. Challenges

Democracy and good governance are still difficult propositions in Africa.  Of course this is subject to the caveat that Africa must not be lectured by the West on democracy because the Western variant itself is full of hypocrisy. Africa must be measured against its own progressive tenets of democracy and human rights which converge with those if modern democracies. Africa must embrace its culture and traditions. But this should never be dictated by Europe and America. They are hypocrites. For example how many European leaders have been taken to the Hague? Compare this with African dictators.

Corruption is an albatross for Africa. Illicit financial flows are rampant. Africa has lost over $100 billion in illicit outflows according to the Thabo Mbeki Report (2010). The other serious challenge is the resource curse. Africa has very little to show for its vast natural resources. Africa still depends on donors. Yet another challenge is the new dependence on China for mega infrastructure projects in exchange for minerals and raw materials. Africa must watch out for this new oriental imperialism. The resurgence of military coups is a huge problem for Africa. West Africa is notorious for military coups. To date, the AU is helpless as Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are in turmoil. Africa has failed Libya. Africa has failed many little Indian Ocean islands which are still under direct French rule. The growing political and military influence of France in West Africa should be a cause for concern. What is happening there is a euphemism for neo-colonialism. 

Africa faces challenges of language and currencies. At some stage it was proposed that Swahili be adopted as Africa's official language. I guess this is still work in progress.

The proliferation of foreign military bases on the African soil is an indictment. Djibouti is now host to American military basis, Chinese, French, Russian, Japanese, Italian and British military bases. What is the AU doing about that?

The other challenge is related to peace and security on the African Continent. I have already referred to countries under military junta. But there are perennial conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Central Africa Republic and the Sahel region.

Finally, Africa faces the challenge of a growing informal sector, de- industrialization and growing unemployment. The covid 19 pandemic has plunged Africa into a public health nightmare amidst a collapse of its health care systems.

6. Conclusion 

The future of Africa is a big guess. The war in Ukraine has raised global energy and food prices. Africa is catching the cold. 

As we celebrate Africa Day, let us not forget the mounting challenges Africa is facing. 

Happy Africa Day!!!

One Africa, One Voice.




Asante Sana



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