The day was Tuesday, 27th July 2010. The African Union had convened for the 13th AU summit in Kampala, Uganda. The rotational Chairman for the year was longtime brother leader of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the supremo Col. Muammar Abu Minyar Gaddafi (معمر محمد أبو منيار القذافي). When he stood up to speak of course there were murmurs but his charisma that has eternally enamoured him to a great section of that audience ensured they lent him an ear. He spoke about the need for a United States of Africa. Some thought that it was just a digression from his topic for the day but on he rumbled. As a political theorist, he had run the scenario through his mind several times and was convinced of its practicability. Not just that. He had personally commissioned a study of the government structures, the needs of the populace there and basically a feasibility study on the practicalities of a United African State. He spoke passionately as only he could on an ideal so dear to his heart. Listening to that speech almost a decade later prompts the question: Is a United African State practicable or was Muammar Gaddafi still the nice but terribly naïve boy as described in 1969 by his political hero and mentor – Gamal Abdel Nasser, Former President of Egypt? Were these just the rantings and ravings of a madman whose credibility as a statesman was slowly being eroded? Maybe! Naïveté was excusable in the autumn of 1969 as he was only a 27 year old Bedouin lad of humble extraction, newly graduated from the Libyan Royal Military Academy in Benghazi with hardly a few years’ experience under his belt when he usurped power. Achievability is in conjecture but the need for United African state is without a shadow of a doubt.
Besides, he was merely echoing the sentiments of great leaders of the negritude movement in years gone by Léopold Sédar Senghor, Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkrumah. Though humble and unassuming men, these men only sought to search for some appreciation for the black man whose boundless energy and unbridled wit had been the cornerstone of many a civilization. Looking at the Pyramids of Egypt, the temple at Aksum, the University at Timbuktu and no doubt the enlistment of our slave labour at the peak of the industrial revolution, you can never doubt the Blackman’s contribution to global civilization. But the question here is: where does the black race rank among the shareholders for this great initiative? The black race was enlisted as labour when the white men ‘discovered’ new lands and conquered the natives, of course after weakening them with previously unheralded infections like yellow fever and bubonic plague they were ill accustomed to recuperate from. The point Gaddafi was hammering home was that as Africans, we could form mutually associative states headed by one president. This is because we all share a common heritage of strife against soul-sapping slavery, bone-crushing colonization and the expropriationate regime of political and pecuniary uncertainty birthed by the post-colonial epoch. This all stems from the need to right all wrongs and make up for the lost time, natural resources and basically stand toe to toe with the rest of humanity with regards to what we have been taught to be civilization. Precolonial Africa had no boundaries, where travel, intermarriage, trade and pilgrimage was conducted across open borders. The incursion of European powers playing their divide and rule game muddled up our equation for unity and for their benefit. Not only were artificial frontiers drawn up to demarcate the particular European power’s spheres of influence as nation-states, ethnic divisions were also made rife by the introduction of capitalism as opposed to our traditional way of life.
Though already resisted by many of the so-called African ‘strongmen’ who cite issues of sovereignty as their major remonstration to a united African front. However, most of these are the same characters who run to European and Southern Asian powers with begging bowls to fund projects without feasibility studies, after which they are left with white elephants having been ‘blessed’ with kickbacks from the same. That an African president has the audacity to wear crocodile-skin shoes worth $100,000 when his populace majorly consists of starving women and children, people using logs as bridges across rivers, unemployment is rife and men are drowning in the flash-floods immediately after a famine-inducing drought speaks volume about a leader that has lost not just credibility but the commonsensical nous to still be taken seriously when they voice any reservations. Some had been the principal benefactors of the instability in their countries and as expected will want that situation to continue ad-infinitum. What is sovereignty, when that only means allowing grown men to kill each other over livestock in the 21st Century?
But to see the benefits of an intercontinental concord you only need to cast your eyes across the ocean to the United States of America. Needless to say, the U.S.A achieved modern day superpower status on the back of its states unity. This status was not achieved by happenstance, hell no! It is a consequence of concerted and deliberate action towards unanimity of purpose that is now bearing fruit. Before the unilateral declaration of independence in 1776; USA was just an ordinary conglomeration of colonies, an inadvertent victim of white greed and their supremacist agenda. Britain, Spain, France and to a small extent the Netherlands had taken up spheres of interest in the region. The settlers who had made the long trip from Western Europe no doubt spoke different languages. But the descendants of these initial settlers gradually began feeling disenfranchised by the selfish agenda birthed in Europe that not only failed to resonate with their best interests but also sucked the rhetorical udders of ‘Mother North America’ dry with nothing in return. They decided to wage a war of independence against their kinsmen from across the big pond. After successfully driving out European powers, they found themselves a group of 50 odd, disparate regions straddling their continental landmass. The Northern states were the first to see the need for unity and formed a confederation. The Southern states that were previously viewed as backward, conservative and rural were initially reluctant. But ultimately the need for unity was backed by the merits of it and ultimately it was attained. Other states were actually coerced into the union as a consequence of defeat in the American civil war and purchases other territories from Spain and France but that may be a story for another day.
Additionally the States of America united as they tapped into their collective identities. Harsh winters are definitely at a premium and the annual hurricanes are now an annual fixture too wreaked havoc intermittently onto the continental North America even then in the 19th Century. Woe on you if you are a coastal community! Assuming that those states devastated by hurricanes annually stood as independent nations, it is beyond a shadow of doubt they would inimically have suffered financial ruin to add to the crippling loss of human life and morale. In the absence of the cushion that is the unified federal government, they would each individually have had to face the vicissitudes of their circumstances.
Looking at G.D.P figures of the individual states, some fare worse than many African countries! Collect your jaws from the floor as I am also equally stupefied. Some of these states are large rural communities that depend entirely on agriculture for revenue and hewing lumber for building material and fuel. It is no doubt whole houses are usually uprooted by the vagaries of foul weather. The State of California has arguably the biggest G.D.P of the United States that is 14.5% of the national total. This is incomparable with the trailing states like Wyoming, Mississippi and Vermont. In 2018 these less capitalized states had an annual contribution to the US economy according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis of 39 billion, 115 billion and 34 billion US dollars respectively. These compare almost favourably with middle income African countries like Kenya who according to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics had just under 75 Billion USD. This means that if for instance lowly Kenya was part of the confederation as an individual state we would have ranked at a slightly impressive position 45 out of the 55 States considered as territories of USA. Not to be underestimated in the absence of their concinnity, would have been the potential shortfall in revenue generation required to fund an individual American state and probably its attendant burgeoning numbers of state officers. The overarching lesson from this is that America has benefited from the divergent contribution of its individual states to enjoy a total G.D.P of 21 Trillion USD. This is a valuable pointer as to the great value Africa would glean from unity.
This stratification according to states has enabled the USA to have states that specialize in the various facets of life i.e there are those with the best institution of Higher learning like Massachusetts that hosts both M.I.T & Harvard. Others have the best Medical institutions, the biggest oilfields, gold mines and resource specific zoning. Consequently, U.S.A has primed itself to become the most advanced individual nation on earth to the extent of even playing the prefect role over others. Their strength in numbers not only afford the U.S a greater purchasing power but the propensity for influence over other nations. The United States currently boasts arguably the strongest army of any nation ever on earth. Diabolically, this power has been used to disproportionately hold countries to ransom, arm-twisting them and even enforcing embargoes that have proven crushing to regimes that are majorly dependent on the might of the Stars and Stripes.
But the question here remains, what benefits could Africa actually glean from a United Confederation of African States:
- Perhaps the greatest benefit of an African Federation would be dealing a death knell to the culture of dependence on hand-outs and conditional grants that has consistently impoverished Africa. Despite bringing Christianity, cloth and rum to us, the European is not by any measure of the word a ‘good man’. It is a tragedy that the continent of the proud and the strong is held in so much subservience and derision in foreign missions as merely one of experts in holding the beggar’s bowl then fritter the collections in vain shows of ostentatiousness. We have also laid ourselves vulnerable to acts of malicious sabotage. It should not be lost on anyone, the retribution that France inflicted upon Haiti consequent to Toussaint Louverture’s & J.J. Desalline’s embarrassing victory over the French and slavery leading to subsequent emancipation of the black population on that Island. Emperor Napoleon in a murderous rage swore vengeance upon Haiti and cut off commercial ties with the nation. He also broadcasted his malevolent propaganda against everyone else so that the whole world virtually shunned the small island nation. As a direct consequence, what was once the epicentre of the world sugar trade crumbled into nothingness such that Haiti is now more renowned as a dust-pan than a once-upon-a-time theatre of the biggest triumph that any slave community in the world has won against their master! This story is poignant to Africa as Haiti is more or less an African nation in the diaspora wholly consisted of populations that were extracted from the plains of Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Congo and Niger into a life of hardship and servitude in the cane plantations of a region formerly referred to as San Domingue. The fear of similar treatment has for eon coerced former colonial territories of European powers into MOUs and trade deals that only benefit our neocolonialist Caucasian overlords.
- For many years our relationship with our trading partners abroad has been majorly exploitative. They avail us some financial bail-out funds but in return cart away our pristine and valuable natural resources including precious minerals namely gold, diamonds, iron, rubies, copper, oil and coltan among others. We also lose our natural forests, marine life, fresh water lakes and ancestral land for virtually a song! In recent years the old colonial masters are slowly being replaced by the Chinese who glean our fields bare after availing loans ostensibly for infrastructural development. The loans are quite stringent and the uninitiated and greedy leaders often find themselves in a deer-in-headlights situation where they end up defaulting on loan repayments and ultimately have to handover their national resources like ports, train tracks and other important infrastructure. What if we did not take exploitative loans from the Chinese but instead mobilized funds from our respective appendages? Gaddafi had the idea of abandoning the strictures of international trade using dollars and pounds and instead trade in Gold! Yes, Gold. How about that to cripple capitalism that is dealt to the vulnerable without a human face? Such a closing of ranks will help secure our sister the Democratic Republic of Congo from the utter farce that has been her lopsided relationship with Belgium and France cavorting as international cooperation. DRC on its own merits has the potential to be by far the richest nation on Earth and even generate energy that can sustain all of Africa were its resources harnessed by a congenial consortium of African nations who understand the practicalities of being here. All that Coltan that is irregularly spirited out of Congo by scummy connivers to Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Ideos and other phone manufacturers is enough to be a massive boon to our collective economy, if only the revenue acquired was repatriated back to our coffers. I will not belabor how much is made in mobile telephony and its penetration worldwide in spite of my professional expression as a Telecom personnel. An African Federation will fix the DRC crisis once and for all. DRC has a resource potential to power and enrich all of Africa if only its compatriot states helped shield it from external exploitative interference. We must open our eyes to the possibilities of what a bright future awaits us if only we could throw down the age-old shackles on our wrists and ankles and instead take up intercontinental trade on a massive scale. Imagine what we can do!
- A Pan-African System for Justice and constitutional affairs will ultimately be one of the fruits of this union. In the words of current Kenyan President; Uhuru Kenyatta, “never again must a son of our soil be taken to foreign climes for trial by agents of neocolonialism and malice.” This was an overkill on his part but a Pan-African Centre for Judicial adjudication that takes into account our cultural heritage and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms will actually be a panacea to many of the ills that bedevil Africa. Africans have over the years not covered themselves in any sort of glory, portraying themselves to the world albeit incongruously as barbaric and blood-thirsty brutes. Methinks African unity will clean up this image as united we will have the power to push an agenda that casts us in positive light. Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commissions make reports on systemic abuse in many an African country but the results of these processes usually come a cropper, sacrificed at the altar of preserving the status-quo with national legal systems inexplicably explicating themselves from having the jurisdiction to deal with matters within the purview of their territorial boundaries.
- In the backdrop of colonialism many of the disparate African nation States began viewing each other with unwarranted suspicion. A melting of national boundaries will surely sort out this conundrum. Also the primitive culture in many nations that promotes nepotism, clannism and tribalism will be buried and in its place sown the seeds of meritocracy, ethical practice and progressive singularity of thought.
- An African Confederation will safeguard homegrown investments and industries. Moreover it will enhance effective use of shared resources, infrastructure and technology. It is deemed more feasible to engage a greater entity for trade rather than the small outfits that many of the current individual African republics are. For the risk of denigration, I will mention no names instead reiterating that as a bigger body we will effectively harness our lines of supply and also have that market to make trade a worthwhile venture for us all. Also discrimination will be a thing of the past as the youth will no longer have to travel abroad for the American dream as within the borders of our tropical climes will be availed our very own African nirvana. We have witnessed incidences of companies with majority foreign ownership like SportPesa just on a whim deciding to pack up and leave in absolute disregard to the quagmire they leave behind. How is homegrown enterprise to ever take root if eternally we will be treated to imported goods and services?
- Unity will realize a stronger GDP per Capita and enhance the cost of living for the citizens of Africa. Nigeria and South Africa individually enjoy much better GDPs of 444 Billion and 371 billion respectively but with South Africa enjoying a better GDP per Capita ratio. As aforementioned, many of the individual states of the United States are economically feeble. In echoing the derogatory parlance of greatly revered American comedian Eddie Griffins, “Many of those singular states are on their own merits broker than a mother-fxxxxx! People don’t live in Woodstock houses for nothing.” And it is true. This will unfortunately continue to be our individual fates as African nation states if we fail to forge this joint front.
This initiative will no doubt run into headwinds. One of those is goodwill to allow for a unified currency. Also we must eternally strive to avoid a ‘Tower of Babel’ situation where lack of a common language prevents us from a noble endeavour. The leader of the federation will need a judicious mind to be fair and altruistic which is a foreign concepts to many of our longtime strongmen. However, this is one concept that if properly handled will improve African bargaining power at the table of the big boys of the world power structure. Unity is strength. And Americans will none be the wiser as they already think Africa is a Country anyway!