African Union Commission
17 July, 2012
A Pan-African Appeal
African leaders must first and foremost recognize that unity in Africa is in our best interest and the only option we have if we want to attain peace, stability and economic development. We all must recognize that we can only make progress if North, South, East, Central and West Africa come together as one, act together as one and speak with one voice. Lord Aikins Adusei
Madam Chairperson, before I proceed, let me first take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election into the office of the African Union Commission, the highest political office on the continent. The African people especially the women and children are proud of your determination to lead us to the promise land: a land of unity and prosperity where Africa’s vast resources will ultimately benefit the African people. The African people wish you all the best in your new job.
African leaders, time is running out. The talk must be over. It is time to take real action. The business of the AU should NOT be about fighting malaria, tuberculosis and promoting sanitation. These should be the task for the World Vision, WHO and organisations such as USAID. The business of the AU should only focus on working towards the total liberation of Africa, promoting unity among Africans especially unity among our governments as well as fighting for Africa’s economic independence. We must focus on removing the borders, ensure free trade among ourselves and promote the free movement of Africans on the continent. These should be our major focus. The talks and the distractions have been too much. It is time for real action. Some of these steps that require immediate action are as follows:
1. Industrialization and Economic Integration
“So long as Africa remains divided, it will therefore be the wealthy consumer countries who will dictate the price of its resources”. -Kwame Nkrumah (Neo-Colonialism, page11)
As a matter of fact, the whole of Africa’s economy is geared to the interests of the foreign capital that dominates it. Currently, processing plants for Africa’s resources are still held in Europe and Asia but not in Africa. This arrangement ensures that, Africans cannot at any time disrupt operations while they (the producers) continue to hold monopoly over the price for the finished products. This must change if we as a people are determined to exert some control over the price of our resources. It is very humiliating that, Africans continue to import a lot of soap, steel, iron rods, plastic, rice, sugar, chicken etc. But as you know, we have all the raw materials right here and a very fertile soil.
The 21st century has no place for the African people if we continue to serve as the “producers of raw materials” for Western and Asian industries and the “dumping ground” of European, American and Asian commodities which often come at cut-throat prices. African countries must focus on industrialization. We must make all effort to produce what we use and use what we produce.
We must focus on building more industries, and expanding the power grid to sustain these industries. It is completely imprudent for Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Niger, Guinea, Mali among others to continue exporting ‘raw’ uranium and other strategic resources to power the nuclear reactors of Europe and Asia at a time when many African countries do not have reliable electricity. If nuclear and solar energy are good for Europe and Asia, then they must certainly be good for Africa. The African countries with these resources must also consider producing nuclear energy and exporting it overseas. We must not allow the future of our economy to be determined by decisions in Europe, America nor Asia. We must strategize so that we can determine the future of our own economy.
We must first pursue the technology by sending our youth overseas for training and also creating the platform for them to return and lead the charge. African leaders must unite and focus on shifting the industries from overseas back to Africa and get the African youth to work. We have all the resources. What is needed is for us to focus on putting the industries in place so that we can make the products right here and sell it to the outside world. The time when Africa was seen as the supplier of raw materials must end.
Today, Asia and Latin America are rising. Europe and North-America are in deep financial crises. Yet, Africa still remains a sleeping giant: very confused and doesn’t to seem to know the way forward. It is time for economic integration among African countries. Africans must begin to focus on trading among themselves. For instance, Ghana has a huge stockpile of salt which goes wasted every year. Yet, it is very sad that every year, Nigeria and many African countries, import salt from Brazil for their textile industries (which are gradually collapsing because African leaders themselves have abandoned African fashion for suits and tie all the time).
Oil producing countries in Africa are shipping their oil to Europe, America and Asia at cheaper prices, while many other African countries turn to the Middle East for oil and gas! West Africa has wide savannahs, ideal for the growing of cotton, with the right irrigation. Yet for many years we spent millions of dollars importing richly-patterned cloths from abroad. The whole situation in Africa is like waging trade and economic war among ourselves. Africans, please come together and protect your collective interest!
2. Movement of People, Goods and Services Across Borders
Artificial borders were meant to divide Africans, making them weak and easy to conquer.
Perhaps, the major challenge we have in Africa which affects our ability to trade freely among ourselves is directly as a result of the lack of trade agreements and also the current restrictions we have imposed upon our people. African citizens have been limited from travelling to Europe and America with tough visa restrictions. Unfortunately, travelling within our own continent too has become another burden. On the average, a Ghanaian visitor has to go through a period of 2 to 3 months visa routines, before he can travel to Zimbabwe or Uganda! Meanwhile, as a matter of fact, the Ghanaian can travel to Nigeria, Mali or even Kenya without needing a visa. Now the question we must ask the African leaders is: what are the differences between Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe? How can Zambians travel to South Africa without visa but this same people have to wait for a period of 2 months for a visa before they can travel to Kenya, Togo or Ivory Coast? Why can’t we break these chains of visa restrictions which prevent the African citizen from feeling free on his motherland? Something seriously has to be done about these travel restrictions to allow inter-African trade. The African must be allowed to travel freely on the African soil so that we can experience our diversity in order to foster unity. The current visa restrictions must be removed and allow the African people the freedom to explore our beautiful continent.
Another challenge we face on this issue is the cost of transportation itself. It is very difficult to travel from one African country to the other due to the fact that Africa’s road and rail infrastructure still remains underdeveloped. Air transport has therefore become our major option. This is however too expensive. According to the current estimate, the cost of flying from Abuja to London is at least US$700. At the same time, the cost of flying from Abuja to Accra is more than US$800. It is even more expensive to fly within the ECOWAS region than to fly to Europe. Meanwhile, the cost of a flight from London to Paris or anywhere in Europe could be as cheap as US$100 and below. If in doubt, check www.easyjet.com and find out how cheap it is to travel by air within Europe. All these are happening to Africans because “our leaders” have not taken the issue of industrialization very serious. For how long can poor Africans afford to pay ten times the cost of the same services offered to their European counterparts?
The current exorbitant cost of air tickets in Africa is similar to what Africans had to pay for telecommunication and internet services few years ago. It is a fact that the charges for internet and mobile phone services in Africa were the highest on the planet. Today, thanks to Gaddafi and a few African leaders’ initiative. The introduction of RASCOM (Regional African Satellite Communication Organization) has paid off. This joint African project is expected to lower the continent’s dependency on international satellite networks such as Intelsat, saving Africans a whooping US$500 million every year.
Consequently, telecommunication services are now affordable in Africa. This is a clear indication that if African leaders take similar bold steps and solve the challenge posed by the huge cost of transportation in Africa we can save more billions of dollars every year on transport. We only need the political will to do this and our burden will reduce.
Gervais Djondo, a former industry minister of Togo has recently set himself a mission to create a pan-African airline serving for the continent. Like other Pan-Africanists, Djondo believes the way forward is for African carriers, instead of trying to compete with each other and jealously guarding their national markets, should rather combine their resources and create a consolidated service/network of a strong African airline company owned and managed by Africans. This idea must be welcomed and supported by the African leaders. African governments must invest in this project to help ease the burden.
3. African Central Bank
It must be understood that the less developed world will not become developed through the goodwill or generosity of the developed”. –Kwame Nkrumah (Neo-Colonialism, page xviii).
This is the reason why we must be determined to put Africa’s future into our own hands. The West may pretend to be helping Africa. But we must be ready to map out our own strategies to facilitate our own development. The future of Africa cannot continue to remain in the hands of donor countries, the European Central Bank, the World Bank and IMF.
The existing African Development Bank has finally been hijacked by the West. African governments must come together and establish an African Central Bank or a Bank of Africa where all African governments will deposit part of their national reserves. I must however stress that; this bank must be under the control and management of Africans. Instead of Francophone African countries to deposit their foreign reserves in France to later loan this moneys to the Africans at a huge interest rate, all such moneys can be deposited in the African Central Bank where it can be used for our own benefits. If each African country were to deposit about $2billion (or more) of our national reserves into this fund, we could mobilize for ourselves more than $100billion in a matter of months.
African leaders or the millionaires could also be encouraged to save with this bank. When this is done, the interest that will be generated on this money will belong to the African people instead of giving this lucrative opportunity to the Western banks year after year. At the same time, African governments and the AU itself could have this reliable source of funds to finance their projects without the need to depend on aid from the West all the time.
Money does not grow on trees. The West has always generated money out of thin air and is using this system to enslave African nations into debt. African leaders please wake up! Our destiny is not poverty. We only need to take these bold decisions today. The EU has got its central bank. Asia and Latin America are recently following suit. This has saved some of them from selling their sovereignty to the World Bank and the IMF. Currently, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are also considering such an idea. Therefore what are the African leaders waiting for? How long must we continue to wait because we believe the time is not right? If the African leaders of today think they cannot do it, whom are they looking up to come and do it? Is it the youth they expect to be able to solve the challenges they themselves feel they cannot solve?
Our African politicians are piling up billions of African money in European and American banks while poverty continues to enslave our people because our own banks do not have the money to loan out to African business investors. Why can’t we set up these banks and encourage our politicians to deposit part of their moneys there?
4. Africa’s Security
Nkrumah held that, no single part of Africa can be safe, or free to develop fully and independently at a time when any other part is torn up in conflict; remains un-liberated or under the control of puppet regimes.
As a result, Kwame Nkrumah wrote:
Unless we meet this obvious and very powerful threat with a unified African front, based upon a common economic and defence policy, the strategy of the imperialist will be to pick us off and destroy us one by one”, (Africa Must Unite, page xvii).
African leaders need to establish a joint security force whose major responsibility will be to defend the African people from terrorism and foreign aggression. We must also commit needed resources to equip this security force to be able to defend our security and our sovereignty. We cannot continue year after year to put our security into the hands of the UN. What happened in Mali and Ivory Coast recently, clearly shows the urgent need for such an idea.
5. African Court of Justice
Today, the whole world bears witness to the fact that, the current International Criminal Court is only a tool that targets African leaders. Many more serious war crimes have been committed by leaders of Western countries. Notably among them are George Bush and Tony Blair. Yet, for many years, the ICC has paid a blind eye to crimes committed by the West. African leaders must therefore take immediate steps to establish for ourselves a court of justice which will deal with crimes committed by our people. The current form of imported justice must end. We must boycott the ICC and set up our own courts. Time is running out because sooner or later, any of you African leaders could become the next victim of this “kangaroo court” which is seen by the African people rather as the “International Court of Criminals”.
6. The Educational Sector
According to Kwame Nkrumah: (Africa Must Unite, page 49):
We were thought to regard our culture, our norms and values as barbarous and primitive. Our text-books are books that tell us about English history, English Geography, English ways of living, English customs, English ideas.
These are past mistakes that must urgently be corrected. Instead of focusing on English customs, Arab and Western ideas, our educational systems must be integrated with African culture, norms and values. We must begin to implement educational policies that harness our cultural heritage, be determined to sell African value to the outside world and to promote unity among Africans. We cannot lose our African fashion and our way of life for the sake of meeting the economic interest of the West. The current theory-based courses, with little or no practical models are not helping. Today, many Africans have all the paper knowledge but they lack the practical knowledge to solve real-world problems. We must create the conditions for the youth to learn to be able to build our industries. We must henceforth focus on technical education, science and technology and do more on practical courses.
“It is time for us to nurture our own culture and history, if we are to develop that African personality which must provide the educational and intellectual foundations of our Pan-African future”. -Kwame Nkrumah, (Africa Must Unite page 49).
Therefore our educational system must also focus on training Africans in areas that will enable us to directly manage our resources and be able to resist neo-colonialism and the imperialists who often come in the form of “advisers”, “consultants” and policy makers, working at our expense. We must device educational systems that are aimed at fixing our political and economic challenges by ourselves instead of always taking orders from foreign capitalists.
“To allow a foreign country, especially one which is loaded with economic interests in our continent, to tell us what political courses to follow, is indeed for us to hand back our independence to the oppressor on a silver platter.” (Kwame Nkrumah, “Consciencism” pg.102).
Africa has invested so much to help develop the educational systems abroad while ours are falling apart. For many years, Africans have been paying so much money to European, Canadian and American educational institutions. According to a UNESCO report, more than 200,000 tertiary students from Africa studied abroad in 2006. Currently, it is estimated that more than 500,000 Africans study abroad every year. The average African student pays more than $15,000/yr for his/her studies abroad. By a simple calculation, Africans spend at least $7.5billion to study abroad each year.
“…Today, an international student who leaves [the United States] with a good feeling is a life-long advertisement for the [U.S. business] community. For purely economic reasons, the U.S. should protect this market share. With over 500,000 foreign students and more than $11 billion per annum at issue, American education as export industry has become our chasse gardée”, -Robert Scott.
Europe and America are benefiting because our educational systems are not receiving adequate resources and infrastructure. But for how long must this cycle continue because we do not have confidence in our educational institutions?
There is no doubt that the Western educational institutions were some of the best in the world. However, it must be pointed out that they currently have their own issues which to some extent affect their integrity as well. Just visit: http://www.ukessay.co.uk/ and find out for yourselves how thousands of students in Europe have been buying degrees online with impunity. All they have to do is to pay some £300 to these agencies; email them their courseworks/dissertation topics and bingo, the work is delivered at their door steps as soon as possible.
I was very fortunate to have had my education (up to degree level) in Africa, and I must say by my practical experience abroad, I can confidently say that the educational institutions we have in Africa are very good. Though not perfect, they are not as bad as we’re often made to believe. African leaders must invest enough resources into developing our educational systems to the highest standard so that we can attract more students to study in Africa and reap its economic and the cultural benefits. We must encourage foreigners to study in Africa to be able to appreciate our culture and our society.
In conclusion, we must always strive to remember the struggle of our founding fathers and their dedication to Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism cannot be seen as irrelevant in our political future. For it is this pillar which forms the basis of our political independence, and gave us the freedom we enjoy today: freedom from slavery, and freedom from colonial rule. It is this same idea that can provide the key to our economic challenges in the 21st century. We must therefore work hard to teach the African youth this concept. Copies of all books and speeches by our founding fathers such as Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara and many other Pan-African books must be provided to the African youth to study and be able to think and act in this direction. This will help create millions of of their kind, to take Africa through the next stage of our economic independence. We at Project Pan-Africa (PPA) are willing to cooperate with the AU in this regard.
To succeed, we must seek first the “political kingdom” (African Unity) and all the freedom and the economic emancipation shall follow. We need political unity to be able to fulfill the dreams of our founding fathers and meet the aspirations of our people. Time is running out. Every single day counts. We must act now.
I am therefore appealing to the African leaders to take immediate decisive steps to alleviate our people from poverty in order to avert any imminent revolution from the youth, which may ultimately target the AU itself.
“The great millions of Africans are growing impatient of being the hewers of wood, the providers of unskilled labour, the drawers of water, and being the dishwashers and the cleaners of Europe and America”. Kwame Nkrumah, (Africa Must Unite page ix).
Long live Africa!
Long live the African Union that must be!!
All African Leaders
The President, Pan-African Parliament
Executive Secretariat, Africa Forum
The President, African Youth Union
•Kwame Nkrumah (1964) “Consciencism”. Panaf Books: London
•Kwame Nkrumah (1963) “Africa Must Unite”, Pana Books: London
•Kwame Nkrumah (1965) “Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism”. Panaf Books: London
(Coordinator, Project Pan-Africa)