Updated: Feb 11, 2018
By Dr. Sunday-Joseph Otengho, Phd., PhD., 01/31/2018
The Constitutive Act of the African Union, (AU) adopted on July 11, 2000, was a groundbreaking victory in the history of modern Africa. The Act included provisions for economic and monetary union and specified that the Union shall have the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Fund, and the African Investment Bank (Art. 19). The significance of the Act is rooted in the futuristic but true aspiration and need for Africa’s Unity and consequent hegemony. It is therefore conceivable that, within a very short time, we will see the formation of one government in Africa. This will create the most needed dominant political and economic power on the continent that can form the core for the development and advancement of the continent.
Economic Integration and Political Hegemony
There is a real economic integration going on at an informal level. It has been recognized for many years that for many countries’ “real” economies on the continent, have been mostly informal, and much larger, more dynamic, and more regionally integrated than their official economies. Informal border trade has continued unabated because the merchants involved share common values and traditions even though separated by artificial colonial boundaries.
The joint African-led initiative, the NEPAD, is designed for making formalized economies dynamic. The political process of creating the African Union, therefore, represented and still represents, a high-level reflection of a much deeper social, economic, and cultural unification across Africa. The real processes of integration may be invisible to political scientists and diplomats, but the NEPAD initiative spells a united vision for a political hegemony. Understood or not, the process in place must not be underestimated; African masses no longer want the continuation of colonial borders that have restricted and curtailed their mobility and development. Open boarders will indeed allow the vast African Human resource to impact growth on the continent and reduce unemployment.
United States Example
Economic integration in the Americas is marked by the undisputed hegemony of the United States. The domestic politics of the U.S. have been central to the development of economic integration in the Americas and are not influenced or founded on the preferential treatment of one state over the other. The hegemony has not diminished each state’s ability for self-identity, but in practice the two ideas of state sovereignty under federal unity have been complementary. This is what our forefathers who sought political independence had in mind. The most famous and influential of these was the Pan-Africanism of President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. Nkrumah insisted that Africa must unite and that the independence of Ghana was meaningless without the liberation and unification of the entire continent. Many other African leaders from the independence generation shared these views, though some of them took a more incremental approach to unification, e.g., Julius Nyerere. There was remarkable coherence of political vision across the continent and a strong sense of idealism. Africa’s unity did not fail but was curtailed by Cold War politics. The Cold War is over; it is time to focus on Africa and the interests of Africa.
What is the Common Threat in Africa?
The existence of a common external political threat was a powerful impulse toward regionalism in both Europe and East Asia. In South Africa, the common threat of apartheid in the 70s and 80s pushed the independent countries toward economic and political cooperation, notably in the creation of the SADCC. With the advent of democracy in South Africa, no such threat exists. Threats to the security and stability of the African continent stem, largely from within due to faulty economic, military, and political schemes that we borrowed from Europe and those that are created by kleptocrats.
Additionally, a lack of a unifying African ideology that undergirds Africa’s distinct identity within itself and from the outside world, has impeded our efforts in creating political and economic hegemony. These internal threats, are often associated with poor governance rather than attempts to destabilize effective governments. Nkrumah warned fifty years ago that, if we did not unite, we would begin to cut each other’s throats as the imperialists and colonialists steadily supplied the wires to aid us in doing so. We look back over the past fifty years, and we see that it has borne witness to his prophecy. Our forefathers turn in their graves as they see the misery we have placed upon our people under the guise of liberty by aligning Africa with foreign and divisive ideologies of the Cold War. How long must Africa wait to realize economic, political, cultural and social autonomy? Now is the time to Unite.
The Colonial Legacy
Africa has also engaged in extra-regional economic cooperation projects. Most former French colonies have had preferential trade relationships with France, which for some time retained a hegemonic role in ensuring monetary stability more for the benefit of France and not of the African countries. Francophone governments in Africa are still paying Colonial Debt to the French government. African countries are members of the Commonwealth and the League of Arab States, and some have special relationships with the EEU. However, these mostly count as special aid relationships or economic cooperation arrangements to guarantee continued principles of mercantilism. Indeed, if NEPAD is an African initiative whose vision is entrenched in PanAfricanism and Renaissance, then why place its success in the hands of external support from the very organizations whose funding policies have caused havoc to African’s economy and politics?
The NEPAD cannot be heavily dependent upon external funding for development and expect different results from what has happened in the past. Instead, the NEPAD must create its own home grown funding base to stay autonomous. Pandering to outside funding from organizations such as IMF and World Bank, only shows that the NEPAD is devoid of an authentically African economic or political philosophy to undergird its initiative towards autonomous development. In order to successfully maintain and sustain the NEPAD as an African home grown initiative, pertuation of dependent development philosophies that have crippled our past, as we have engaged with the West, must be abandoned. Autonomous implementation of all facets of the NEPAD ought to be undergirded by an operating philosophical framework that is authentically African.
The trade in Africa, based on European policies, has been on unfair terms because we produce what we do not consume and consume what we do not produce, and both prices are determined by the so-called industrialized economies that have become stronger at the expense of Africa. Is Europe a member of anything African like EAC, COMESA, PTA, ECOWAS, etc.? Must we not create the Commonwealth of Africa? Do we not have the tools to create our own Monetary Systems and Equitable Fiscal Policies for the betterment of our people? Actually African wealth is more common than that of Europe; that is why you find it all over the world, including BRAIN wealth. The NEPAD must therefore succeed autonomously as we prepare for a, one currency, a one monetary system, a one military, one official language and best of all, a hegemony of Africa’s governance.
The Utility of NEPAD
I considered and still consider the NEPAD to be a precursor to Africa’s political unity. What makes the NEPAD different is the African political commitment behind it. It is a sovereign process, driven by African governments, that brings together pre-existing initiatives, including the OMEGA Plan of Senegal, Nigeria, and Algeria, and the Millennium Partnership for Africa’s Recovery, led by South Africa. It is composed of several components, including governance, peace, security, and economic development. In principle, I hope that the NEPAD is, in fact, an exercise in bringing together existing proven best practices of partnerships and governance to address the long awaited economic needs of Africa. With the redefinition of Africa’s Unity, through the tenets of the AU, PanAfricanism and the Absence of Cold War politics, Africa is at the cross-roads of success. These initiatives can only succeed under a united political Africa. Otherwise they will simply become a recycling of old economic schemes that have worked to further the interests of Europe in Africa.
Furthermore, the leaders involved in designing the system must include and draw upon the expertise and human resources of the Africans of the Diaspora. Africans of the Diaspora are a Brain Gain for Africa’s development. Africa must redefine its relationship with its sons and daughters who happen to live abroad. The experiences they have acquired are an asset to Africa’s development. Even though there is no blueprint for solving Africa’s problems, yet there is increased effort put into place of what already is working. Our duty is to avoid the past loopholes of letting poor economic, monetary, fiscal and political principles influence implementation. Unlike our forefathers who embarked on Africa’s political land scape, without any unified political, economic or cultural ideology, we wallow in a history and blueprint, albeit only 60 years old, to draw our understanding from. We know more today how the Western World works and views Africa than we did at the turn of the 21st century. The NEPAD is easily becoming the modality for assisting Africa to form its own commonwealth.
The Role of the African Diaspora
Political and economic integration in Africa is an imperative if the continent is to achieve its potential and to participate on equal terms in the global economy. Africans of the Diaspora must participate in making this potential a reality. African countries suffer from the blights of poverty and dependence in excess: absolute levels of poverty are growing, countries are relying on exporting primary commodities and labor, levels of domestic and inward investment are low, and recent world trade agreements are not bringing any appreciable benefits to the continent. Most African countries are exporters of raw materials, especially agricultural and mineral products, and compete with one another for markets. Industrial production is concentrated in a relatively small number of countries, and is not significant on a global scale. For a continent that owns 45% of the world’s resources to be worth .01% on the world market is a crying shame and an embarrassment to all children of Africa who continue to allow this to happen. Africa’s economy must attain respectable rates of growth and poverty reduction in order for integration to succeed. Africans of the Diaspora must reorient their support for Africa with the goal of allowing their acquired knowledge to impact development on the continent. Africa must unite.
Furthermore, because the NEPAD is a pan-African initiative, the prospects for success depend upon all governments cooperating and ensuring that the weakest performers are enabled to overcome their problems. The only way these weak performers can be empowered is through a political hegemony in Africa. Most of these colonial wards--countries--have systems that have reached levels of diminishing returns and can no longer support their people. Their governments have clearly failed the governance test and are not merely harming themselves but are damaging the prospects for the whole continent. In the end, disenfranchised groups fall prey to violence and instability within their countries and to foreign liberation (Terrorist) groups such as ISS, Boka Haram and Al-shabab. Africa must unite; it is an imperative.
An African Initiative
The African Union has adopted the historically unprecedented approach of incorporating all the states on the continent at one time rather than basing its regionalism on a core or hegemonic state or states. Good governance aims at the creation of a capable and effective state. That is, a state in which the civil service (executive), the legislative, the judicial and statutory bodies are, dependently and autonomously empowered to provide an enabling environment for the private sector and civil society to play their respective roles in a mutually reinforcing manner. For such an enabling environment for investment by the private sector, both national and international, to exist, it is essential to have good legislation, the rule of law, effective regulatory institutions, sound fiscal management, sound monetary policies, formidable political and a range of other governance tasks.
Additionally, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is the most significant continent-wide economic initiative to emerge in contemporary Africa. The basis of the NEPAD is a commitment by African governments to put in place,good governance preconditions for economic growth, including strengthening democracy and the rule of law, achieving peace, security, and reducing corruption. These measures, in and of themselves, will help create an enabling environment for development. However, without a political agency that has the power to enforce good governance, such partnership and measures might prove a failure. There are many countries right now in which governance is just a mirage. Somali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and a number of others are in turmoil. The AU does not have the needed political power to force these countries to adhere to good governance. Almost 50% of the African governments do not have the elements of an enabling environment to foster economic development. Which agency in Africa will be able to force or empower such governments to adhere to elements that NEPAD is requiring? Africa must unite to become that agency.
Therefore, there must be one federal government that will have the capacity to create an enabling environment. In response, the international community is expected to provide fairer market access for African products, debt relief, and increased high quality aid flows to enable Africa to meet the International Development Goals. For over forty years the International Financial community has been more than happy to engage Africa in its degraded position without mention of the corruption or the lack of respect for law and order. Why do we think that that same community that has and continues to pilfer resources from Africa this long will now abandon their tactics? International and bilateral agencies will only respect Africa, if Africa creates the capacity that demands respect in order to forge meaningful and equitable relationships.
We are ushering a call to anyone who considers himself African and anyone who considers himself or herself a friend of Africa to rise and be counted. Everyone should do his/her part. Each participant should exert their will to usher in progress on the continent. Whatever your condition and whatever the resources, you do occupy a very important part in this vision. Africa must arise, and Africans of the Diaspora must unite.
Now that the continent is standing on its feet, we will transform it from a haven of booty hunters to a continent of free people. From kleptocratic civil servants to ethically and fiscally responsible governors. Economic slaves now have the opportunity to become free. Jobless and frustrated graduates can now find employment across open-boarders. Our struggles have been our schools to help us redefine our own democracy, autonomous development, equitable relationships, good governance, and human rights. We must therefore hasten to create an Africa that values the following:
v A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
v An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideas of PanAfricanism
and the vision of African Sovereignty
v An Africa of sustainable governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice
and rule of law
v A peaceful and secure Africa
v An Africa with a strong universal cultural fabric, common heritage, values and
v An Africa where development is people-driven and people-centric, unleashing the
potential of its women and youth
v Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner
v An Africa devoid of corruption in all its form.