Written by SOLOMON MEKONNEN
It is repeatedly heralded that Pan-Africanism has played a great role in liberation of the oppressed, humiliated and segregated people of Africa in particular and the world in general. It has also great contribution to the rise of struggle for the peoples rights in the world. Now a days, it aims aims at bringing economic ties and integration among the African countries.
According to sources, Pan-Africanism is an ideology and movement encouraging the solidarity of Africans worldwide. It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social and political progress and aims to “unify and uplift” people of African decent.
The ideology asserts that the fates of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core, Pan-Africanism is “A belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny.” International Leadership Institute in collaboration with International Alert recently organized a day long seminar with a theme: ”Pan Africanism in the eyes of Ethiopians.” The seminar focused on raising public awareness about the issues of Pan Africanism within the Ethiopian historical context emphasizing the particular role that Ethiopia has played so far.
In an exclusive interview with The Ethiopian Herald Professor Mekonnen Haddis,the 50th Year African Union Golden Jubilee Anniversary Secretariat Office Head said that in this era, Pan Africanism would have indispensable role in creating a very strong economic integration among the countries of Africa.
He said that the value and importance of Pan- Africanism to the 21st century has to do with economic progress, democracy and transparency. “The organization of African unity was formed based on the idea of deco lonization and anti apartheid movement. And the organization of African unity and the governments and people have successfully gotten rid off colonialism and apartheid from Africa in general and from South Africa in particular. Now the struggle is for economic freedom and integration,” he added.
Asked about the role of the youth in fostering the ideas of Pan-Africanism, he responded that the youth have to focus on economy; how to better living conditions to citizens of Africa; how to benefit from the economic progress of the continent where seven out of 10 of the countries in the world that are really progressing economically are in Africa. “So, the focus for the youth should be economic integration, improvement for the masses of the African people and at the same time transparency and democracy,” he added.
He also said “Historically, Ethiopia has been really the guiding light of Pan Africanism. Not only for black people but also people who have struggled for freedom and indep endence elsewhere have seen Ethiopia to be the guiding light of freedom. This shall continue in terms of economic progress within Africa. Ethiopia is going through tremendous economic progress in the continent. This should also be guiding light for the rest of Africa.”
According to him, Pan Africanism is the term and philosophy used in unity. “And African Renaissance has to be based on unity. Everything that progresses Africa as a people and continent has to be all rounded. Economic and political African renaissance is also tied to Pan Africanism because Africa would be totally free and economically independent. Whenever you do in unison, you are talking about Pan Africanism. The original mandate of Pan Africanism has been acco mplished. Now what we have to accomplish is the economic integ ration, economic independence and transparency for the rest of Africa. And I have no doubt it would be done.”
Youth Activist, Eyob Balcha also told this reporter about the importance of Pan-Africanism especially for the current and on going generation.
He said that Pan- Africanism doesn’t have a single perspective rather it changes along the historical lines. “In the past, it was mainly located on the issues of racial equality, abolishing colonialism and the like. In the recent years, Pan- Africanism is mainly related to the issues of democracy, freedom, equality and development. So, it is all about knowing the main reason why we are in such a position of not having the aspired developmental position.”
He also said that the idea will help particularly the youth know their past history and current position within the global context and to inform its ideological lines along creating solidarity and brotherhood among African youth in particular and African people in general. “ It can be used as a glue that unite African youths irrespective of their racial and religious background,” he added.
He further said that the main issue should be how should African trade be organized because most of African countries are producing primary commodities and most of them are agricultural products that are not necessarily needed to trade among themselves.
He also said that what African states and even African Union is promoting is to add values on the products rather than producing something only for the sake of exporting. Adding values on the agricultural products and natural resources has a paramount importance in boosting the so called economic integration. “Then producing for the sake and for the consumption of Africans should be prioritized because most African countries trade relation is directly linked to most context to their previous colonizers and mainly to Europe or Asia not among themselves. But if we specialized on specific value added elements, non durable consumer goods and the issue of integration would come to be valuable,” he added.
As to him, the economies will not necessarily be outward looking rather be inward looking for the sake of consumption and needs of our people. “Our people are not consuming what African countries are producing but most of the production is exported and we imported them again in more changed and value added form. So, I think that is the most important thing that Africa has to do,” he added.
The challenges facing Pan-Africanism are both internal and external. “Internally, Pan -Africanism still remains to be an elitist perspective. Most of the time it is the political ,social and economic elites that are talking about Pan-Africanism. Externally, Africa is still considered as the pole of the global growth for the coming 50 years. There are a number of discourses around that. And still Africa is considered as resource wealth continent which can support the upcoming economic development across the globe. So, such kind of intentions which have mainly driven by external actors and still propagated by them will necessarily challenge the position of Pan-Africanism,” he added.
Pan-Africanism is a movement founded around 1900 to secure equal rights, self-government, independence, and unity for African peoples. The largest Pan-African organization is the African Union. Historically, sources show that Pan-Africanism grew out efforts to end slavery and the slave trade at the time blacks worldwide were being oppressed. Slavery existed in America, South America, and the Carribean.
The belief that people of African descent throughout the Diaspora (meaning spread throughout the world) share a common history, culture, and experience and should stick together. This belief is the principal idea behind Pan-Africanism. Bringing black people throughout the world together because of common culture.
Sources indicate that the objectives of Pan-Africanism has changed over time, but not the essence. For instance, while the Pan-Africanist Movement was once concerned mainly with anti-colo nialism, it is now mainly focused on the actual economic unification among African countries. Furth ermore, Pan-Africanism has a very definite economic component. Economic Development has always been a major concern of the new African states emerging from long periods of economic exploitation.