Pan-Africanism: What Changed All These Years?

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To almost every African and people of African descent in the diaspora, Pan-Africanism is a socio-political and cultural movement that spurs unity and cooperation to act as a single entity.

Looking back at its origin as a socio-cultural movement, it can be traced back to the agitations of Africans against colonization and enslavement by the Europeans in the 19th century.

Since then, various movements, bodies and individuals have risen to champion the cause at different times through Pan-African congresses, all aimed at uniting Africans with Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and co at the forefront.

Pan-Africanism represents an intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of unity between the entire people of African origin. Its ideology is grounded on the doctrine that unity is essential to economic, social, and political progress and seeks to bring and uplift people of African origin.

The Movement recorded notable successes, prominent among which was the development of African nationalism.

There was also the resulting decolonization of the continent, just as the breakdown of apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s can also be regarded as one of the critical successes of the pan-African Movement.

However, with the attainment of independence by African countries in the decades after World War II, the promotion of Pan-Africanism evolved in other dimensions and has largely been restrained to the continent.

While the cause remained confined to the continent, unlike before, its focus remained the same: to solidify the brotherhood among Africans and ensure unity of purpose.

Along the line, in the course of most African nations finding their feet and aiming for growth after their independence, the Pan-African Movement became silent such that even its secretariat in Kampala, Uganda, went into hibernation.

It was brought back to life in 2013 after a gathering of some great Africans who sought the revival of the great Movement by reactivating its secretariat and activities.
Later that year, an Africa Union/UNDP event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which brought together various stakeholders from across the continent, gave momentum to the revival of the Movement once again as issues relating to the resurgence of the Movement and the relationship between the Movement and the African Union were brought to the fore and a new path charted.

The meeting allowed African youths to air their opinions and voice their clamour for a more precise definition of pan-Africanism, its purpose, and a generational leadership
change. Unfortunately, the rhetorics, brilliancy and intellectual vibrancy displayed at that gathering were not matched with actions by leaders on the continent. As such, the Pan African movement couldn’t rise to its expected targets of new directions to advance their cause and address the problems facing the continent.

It’s been decades since the Pan-Africanism movement was initially conceived and several years after various efforts to revive the Movement and carry on with its course. However, there are doubts as to whether the Pan-African Movement is still alive or long forgotten, and if it is still valid, what form does it take?

On a positive note, it can be said that Pan-Africanism is alive today across the world and in Africa mainly through activities of bodies such as the African Union ( AU), which was initially the Organisation of African Unity (OAU ) and also recently through activities brought about by the digital revolution.

The Movement continues to find expression in the AU’s organs and structures, such as the Pan-African Parliament, and AU partnership with the United Nations, the European Union and China, among others.

The AU, as an intergovernmental organization, aims to promote unity and solidarity among African states, stimulate economic development, and facilitate international cooperation.
Its Agenda 2063 attests to the Pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom and progress of the African dream.

On the other hand, as change remains a constant factor in every aspect of life, change can not be disassociated from a movement such as Pan Africanism; hence, the coming on board of the Digital revolution with the use of the internet and other new media tools has enhanced the growth and popularisation of the Pan-Africanism principles thereby strengthening the bond among Africans in Diaspora.

With social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and the likes, Africans, especially youths, are now more aware of their political, cultural and economic environment and can connect easily irrespective of distance and location.
In addition, these platforms have served as meeting points for Africans to share their African ideas and principles.
Through these platforms as well, African youths have been presented with opportunities that do not subject them to pass through ideological fights or political organizations like their mentors years back. However, they still have the strength and bond to shake off tyranny and injustices against themselves and Africans.

Also, as the world continues to evolve into one big global village, boundaries are being weakened and new opportunities explored across the African continent, giving rise to more enlightened young African minds whose political and economic reasoning are being awakened.
It is as a result of this that pan-Africanism has found a viable niche for renewal in the 21st century among an educated grouping of middle-class Africans.

In the era of social media, the Movement is now presented with unique opportunities and challenges to use these platforms to improve communication, re-brand itself in a progressive light and help to create a new Africa.
Then if we must know what changed along the line, it is the reasoning of Africans and how and how they pursue set goals.

Today, Pan-Africanism is seen much more as a cultural and social philosophy than the politically driven Movement of the past.

This is evident in the current pursuit of Pan-Africanism because rather than focus only on political emancipation and unity alone, the new pan-Africanism stands as a call for cultural identity for Africans, equity and fairness to Africa and Africans through good governance, as well as a call for political and socio-economic development.

These new principles are manifested among Africans through various means such as exchange programmes, economic partnerships, music, financial support and boosting of intra-African trade as exemplified by the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement ( AfCFTA ), which seeks to create an integrated continental market for goods and services and to support the Movement of capital and natural persons.

The AfCFTA is the first Pan-African trade deal expected to generate a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion for the continent. It raises new hopes as a flagship project that promotes Africa’s transformation and development agenda.
So also, there is the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, among others integrating the African development plan and promoting Pan-Africanism.

As all efforts are being geared to make the best use of available means to propagate the African story, defend its unity and match towards continental integration, the role of the Africa Union can not be overestimated.

The African Union, among other things, through its gatherings, can re-awaken Africans to give them a better and clearer understanding of the Africa Project to get a clearer vision of why the Pan African Movement is a leading force for change and reasons why it must be carried on with utmost dedication.

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