It’s been interesting to hear what’s been coming out of the African Union summit… The call for a united Africa – a United States of Africa if you will – appears to be at the top of the agenda. Colonel Gadafi has been pretty vocal on this, calling for the creation of a federal Africa right now (which he also seems to want to run – ooh err).
I love the sentiment behind the idea of a United States of Africa, but I don’t think it is something that could, or should, happen now or in the short term future. It is naive of Gadafi to call for a federal Africa now when the present day reality is that various countries are still violating their citizens’ basic human rights, democracy is still being violently suppressed in some countries and leaders (some, not all) are still actively damaging the economy of their own countries. That’s not even all of it.
A United States of Africa is a great thing to aspire to, and to use as a target in order to galvanize African leaders to improving their countries, but there are still many troublesome issues that individual African countries need to sort out first. You cannot have unity as a continent if you do not even have unity in your own backyard.
I think it would be great to see a consortium of African leaders who are able to present a positive, united and forward thinking front to the rest of the world. Is that not the point of the African Union?
To be honest, I think the idea of a USA (A for Africa) is simplistic at best and does not allow for the massive diversity that is within Africa as a continent; the diversity that exists within the various tribes, religions, languages and ethnic groups that exist in each country. Many of the problems that came after Europe’s ‘scramble for Africa’ were as a result of the European’s lumping together (whilst simultaneously carving up) of totally different groups of African people without taking into account their differences.
Using America – which is made up of states, not drastically different countries – and Europe – which is quite homogenized in terms of politics, society, religion and ethnicity – as models for a federal Africa is unwarranted. They bear no similarity to Africa in any way, shape or form and should not form the basis upon which to build a central African government, if there is to be one.
Furthermore I ask, what would be the point of uniting 53 countries? Who would preside over the United States of Africa? Would having a central currency even benefit the continent? Does Pan-Africanism even have a place in modern day Africa? Is it even necessary? Maybe – and hopefully – these are questions that are being addressed and will yield some good answers. I look forward to hearing them.
The African Union’s chairman apparently gave a good telling off to those in attendance at the Summit, calling the AU “ineffective” and “powerless”. His answer to the AU’s failings is to create a United States of Africa with more legislative power. This just makes no sense to me whatsoever. It’s like saying, for example “Hey! the Liberal Democrat party is crap and ineffective, so how about we make them run the country?!”?! I think he might have done better to call for African leaders to solve their own country’s problems first, and for the African Union to take actions which would result in them becoming more effective and powerful!
As I said, I think aspiring to a United States of Africa is great. But in 2007, where Africa stands today, it is not feasible. I don’t believe it is the answer to Africa’s problems. The answer to Africa’s problems is (amongst other things) better leadership, fairer political systems and improved economies. This is something that can be done locally. Change must start at home, with each and every African president improving the lots of his own people, first.