Law, Social Justice & Global Development

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Law, Social Justice & Global Development
(An Electronic Law Journal)

Pan-Africanism or Imperialism?

Unity and Struggle towards a New Democratic Africa

Issa G. Shivji

Professor of Law

University of Dar es Salaam


This is a non-refereed feature article published on: 11 December 2008

Citation: Shivji, I, ‘Pan-Africanism or Imperialism? Unity and Struggle towards a New Democratic Africa’, 2008 (1) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD).


This article largely constitutes the keynote address delivered by Professor Shivji at the Second Billy Dudley Memorial Lecture held at the University of Nigeria, at Nsukka on the 27th of July 2005. Dwelling on Pan-Africanism and its anti-thesis, Globalisation or, as Shivji describes it, Imperialism, the lecture is an impassioned plea for the initiation of the coming insurrection of African Nationalism. Identifying some of the important tensions in the thought and practice of African nationalists of the independence period, focusing on the ideology and practices of Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere, the author draws the historical links between the ideas of Pan-Africanism and African Nationalism and the repressive effects of post-independence African Statism. Towards the insurrection of Pan-Africanism Shivji enunciates how it must be reworked and modified in order play its role as the ideology of national liberation at the continental level in the post-cold war era.


African Nationalism; Globalisation; Imperialism; Pan-Africanism;

  1. Introductory Remarks

I am honoured and humbled by your invitation to deliver the Second Billy Dudley Memorial Lecture. Memorial lectures are no doubt occasions for us to celebrate the lives of our colleagues and comrades and learn from their contributions to the causes that we hold dear. I take it that they are also an occasion to reflect critically on our intellectual discourses and what they mean for the societies we live in. So I wish to take this opportunity to reflect with you on one of the most important of such discourses - African Nationalism.

In this “era” of the so-called globalisation of the world into a global village, to talk on nationalism must sound anachronistic, if not foolish. But I shall be a fool, and you, I am afraid, have no choice but to bear the brunt of it!
I will talk of African Nationalism as an anti-thesis of globalisation. For me globalisation is imperialism. So I shall call it by its true name – imperialism – and henceforth imperialism shall mean and include globalisation.
I will talk about African Nationalism from the vantage point of a village; not Kivungu in the district of Kilosa in a country called Tanzania, where I grew up. No! I am talking of the village called Africa, the African Village. I am quite sure when I mention names like Kivungu and Kilosa you do not recognise them nor do you emotionally feel any affinity to them; but shrug them off as some administrative spaces somewhere – where? - in Africa, an African village. It is the Africanness of my village which binds us emotionally and arouses the whole bundle of perceptions, convictions, emotions and feelings associated with the phenomenon called nationalism. Thus African Nationalism is Pan-Africanism. There is no, and cannot be, African Nationalism outside of, apart from or different from Pan-Africanism.
True, after 40 years of flying “our” flag and you being turned away from “our” airports for lack of visas (I am told Nigerians have great difficulty in getting Tanzanian visas!), you did recognise the name Tanzania but it did not quite strike a chord in you. But if I had said I come from the country of Julius Nyerere, it would have immediately stuck and you may have even felt some kind of affinity to it. Why? May I venture to say because of Nyerere’s Pan-Africanism?
African nationalists like Nkrumah and Nyerere, Nasser and Azikiwe, Modibo Keita and Amilcar Cabral, Hastings Banda and Houphouẻt-Boigny (yes, even them!), Albert Luthuli and Jomo Kenyatta and Ahmed Ben Bella and Patrice Lumumba were all Pan-Africanists. With varying degree of commitment to the cause or even out of political expediency, as African nationalists, they could not be anything but Pan-Africanists. As Nyerere said: ‘African nationalism is meaningless, is anachronistic, and is dangerous, if it is not at the same time Pan-Africanism’ (Nyerere 1963a in Nyerere 1967, p. 194).
No other continental people feel the same affinity, emotional bondage and political solidarity as do the people of Africa. Not only is our self-perception African, rather than Tanzanian or Nigerian or Chadian, even others perception of us, whether positive or negative, is African. Again Nyerere expresses well what many of us have often experienced: In a lecture in Accra on ‘African Unity’ to mark 40 years of Ghana’s independence, he observed:
When I travel outside Africa the description of me as former President of Tanzania is a fleeting affair. It does not stick. Apart from the ignorant who sometimes asked me whether Tanzania was Johannesburg, even to those who knew better, what stuck in the minds of my hosts was the fact of my African-ness. So I had to answer questions about the atrocities of the Amins and the Bokassas of Africa.

Mrs. Gandhi did not have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Marcosses of Asia. Nor does Fidel Castro have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Samozas of Latin America. But when I travel or meet foreigners, I have to answer questions about Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, as in the past I used to answer questions about Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia or South Africa. (Nyerere 1997)

Territorial nationalisms, signified by our 53 flags and anthems and mini-states and trigger happy armies, can hardly be described as expression of African nationalism. Outside Pan-Africanism, territorial nationalism tends to degenerate into chauvinism at best, racism and ethnicism, at worst, all compounded by utter subservience to imperialism. Nyerere in his characteristic simple but picturesque language described what he called ‘exclusive nationalism’, meaning territorial nationalism, as ‘the equivalent of tribalism within the context of our separate nation states’ (Nyerere 1965 in Nyerere 1967, p. 335).
It is not my intention to go into the history of African nationalism but I want to put forward a thesis that in this Second Phase of the Second Scramble for Africa, (which I shall explain in due course), Pan-Africanism is more important than ever before. Elsewhere I have talked about the coming insurrection of African nationalism (Shivji 2005). Today I want to go further and urge you to make it happen. Before I do that, let me identify some of the important tensions in the thought and practice of African nationalists of the independence period. This should provide us with the building blocks for a new discourse on African nationalism and Pan-Africanism as we struggle to construct a New Democratic Africa (NDA).

  1. Tensions in African Nationalism

African nationalist thought of the independence period had two major strands, Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism. African nationalism, almost by definition, was an anti-thesis of imperialism whose synthesis was African Unity. The Pan-Africanist idea was developed in the Diaspora towards the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th century by such great Afro-Americans and Afro-Carribeans as Henry Sylvester Williams, George Padmore, W. Du Bois, C.L.R.James, and others (Legum 1965). The early Pan-Africanist thought revolved around essentially cultural and racial issues whose main demand was for equality and non-discrimination (Pannikar 1961). This was reflected in the resolutions of various Pan-African congresses before 1945 (Legum op. cit. Passim). The Manifesto of the 1923 Congress, for instance, proclaimed, ‘In fine, we ask in all the world, that black folk be treated as men.’ (Legum, p. 29).

The turning point was the Second World War; in 1944 some 13 welfare, students’ and other organisations based in Britain came together to form the Pan-African Federation which was to organise the most famous Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester in 1945. The Manchester Congress was most political, with clear demands for independence and whose rallying cry was ‘Africa for Africans.’ It was also for the first time attended by young Africans from Africa. Its two organising secretaries were Kwame Nkrumah from Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta from Kenya. Some 200 delegates attended the congress; among them were representatives of trade unions, political parties and other organisations.
The resolutions were unambiguously political demanding autonomy and independence; sounding warnings that the age-old African patience was wearing out and that ‘Africans were unwilling to starve any longer while doing the world’s drudgery’ (Legum, p. 32); condemning and discarding imperialism while proclaiming in its own language a kind of social democracy. One resolution said:
We condemn the monopoly of capital and the rule of private wealth and industry for private profit alone. We welcome economic democracy as the only real democracy. (Legum, p. 155).
Significantly, the Fifth Pan-Africanist Congress already signalled, albeit in an embryonic form, the idea of African Unity in the following words: ‘... [T]he artificial divisions and territorial boundaries created by the imperialist Powers are deliberate steps to obstruct the political unity of the West African peoples.’ Nkrumah, who organised the West African National Secretariat at the Fifth Congress, followed up the idea of African Unity at its conference in 1946. The conference pledged to promote the concept of a West African Federation as a path towards the achievement of a United States of Africa. This resolution was formally endorsed by Azikiwe. Thus was born Nkrumah’s life-long passion against balkanisation and for African Union which he pursued single-mindedly until the end of his life (Legum, pp. 32-3).
Armed with the Pan-Africanist ideology, Nkrumah returned to Ghana, then the Gold Coast. His organisational genius soon yielded results as he reorganised the existing Convention Party led by the intellectual petty bourgeoisie into a mass organisation and called it the Convention People’s Party. The insertion of the word ‘people’ was not an empty boast. Nkrumah was able to mobilise lower middle classes and the youth and draw into the fold of the party trade union leaders. Ghana became independent in 1957, the first African country to break off and throw away the shackles of colonialism. This was a great triumph for African nationalism. The African had reclaimed his/her dignity and self-respect. In the words of that great historian, C.L.R. James, Nkrumah ‘led a great revolution’ and he ‘raised the status of Africa and Africans to a pitch higher than it had ever reached before’ (James 1966 in Grimshaw ed. 1992, p. 356).
Nkrumah was no petty nationalist. For him the Ghanaian flag and anthem were a means towards building the African Union. Just as African nationalism could only be expressed in Pan Africanism so, for Nkrumah, Pan-Africanism could only be expressed in the formation of a political union of Africa which he variously called the United States of Africa or the African Union. With passion, and sometimes overzealousness, Nkrumah set to organise the independent African states and African people towards realising the vision of African Unity.
Between 1958 and 1964, two sets of conferences took place: the Conference of Independent African States, and the All Africa People’s Conference, pursuing African independence and African unity. In April 1958, Nkrumah with the help of his Pan-Africanist mentor George Padmore, organised the conference of independent African states in Accra. Eight states – Ghana, Liberia Ethiopia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan and Morocco – attended. In the same year, Accra organised the All African People’s Conference of delegates from national political parties and trade unions.
The Second Conference of the Independent States took place in 1960 in Addis Ababa. Fifteen states attended it including Nigeria and the Provisional Government of Algeria. In the same year again there was the All Africa People’s Conference held in Tunis. The Third All Africa People’s Conference was held in Cairo in March, 1960. In the same year in May, 32 independent African states met in Addis Ababa and adopted the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
The resolutions of the Independent States invariably declared their allegiance to the United Nations and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the African states and mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. While affirming the need for solidarity and co-operation among African states, the goal of African unity is posited as something in the future. Interestingly, though, neither the term nor the concept of Pan-Africanism finds any mention in their resolutions while anti-imperialism is confined to demanding independence of African countries still under colonialism. This showed the limits of the ‘pan-Africanism’ of the African states. The limits were later to become shackles around Nkrumahist Pan-Africanism as the consolidation of the state proceeded apace under the guise of nation-building.
On the other hand, the resolutions of the All Africa People’s Conferences militantly express the idea of Pan-Africanism leading to the union of African states. They resolutely condemn imperialism in both its forms, colonial and neo-colonial. They urge the mobilisation and education of the masses in Pan-Africanism and anti-imperialism. The People’s conferences were organised under the auspices of the All Africa People’s Organisation (AAPO) which fell into disuse after the formation of OAU. The potential of the bottom-up people’s organisations for Pan-Africanism was thus suppressed under the weight of African statism.
During this period fundamental differences between Nkrumah’s position on the need for a political union of African states as an urgent task and those who continued to counsel caution and gradualism, became crystallised. Gradualism was finally inscribed in the OAU Charter. Nkrumah inscribed Ghana’s readiness to surrender its sovereignty in the interest of African Unity in the 1960 republican constitution of his country. Nkrumah’s passionate advocacy of Union Government earned him many enemies among his fellow Heads of State inviting personal hostility and accusations of personal ambitions. The head of the Nigerian delegation to the 1960 Conference, for example, made this biting remark: ‘... if anybody makes this mistake of feeling that he is a Messiah who has got a mission to lead Africa the whole purpose of Pan-Africanism will, I fear, be defeated.’ (Legum, p. 192) Even an otherwise passionate, albeit pragmatic, advocate of African Unity, Julius Nyerere, clashed with Nkrumah at the 1965 OAU Assembly of Heads of State in Accra. The background was Nkrumah’s criticisms of regional groupings and associations such as PAFMECSA (Pan-African Freedom Movements for East, Central and Southern Africa), including the proposal to form an East African federation in both of which Nyerere was an active and a moving spirit. Nkrumah believed, not unreasonably, that regional groupings and associations would make continental unity even more difficult while Nyerere seemed to subscribe to the gradualist approach holding that any form of unity among any number of African states was a step in the direction of African unity.
With the wisdom of 40 years of fruitless ‘territorial nationalism’ and the pursuit of power by Africa’s pseudo-bourgeoisies and compradors, Nyerere perhaps came to regret his vitriolic 1965 attack on Nkrumah. Speaking at the 40th independence anniversary of Ghana in 1997, Nyerere admitted that his generation of nationalist leaders had failed to realise the objective of African unity. The OAU, Nyerere said, had twin objectives: to liberate the continent from colonialism and unite Africa. They succeeded in one but failed in the other. Yet some of them, with Nkrumah, believed that colonialism and balkanisation were twins which had to be destroyed together. They had a genuine desire to move Africa towards greater unity, he asserted. Why did they fail then? Nyerere, in his figurative, albeit apologetic language attempts an answer. It needs to be quoted in full:
Kwame Nkrumah was the greatest crusader for African unity. He wanted the Accra summit of 1965 to establish a Union Government for the whole of independent Africa. But we failed. The one minor reason is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow Heads of States. The major reason was linked to the first: already too many of us had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided...

Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats at the United Nations, and individuals entitled to 21 guns salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, Prime Ministers, and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanised. That was what Nkrumah encountered in 1965.

After the failure to establish the Union Government at the Accra Summit of 1965, I heard one Head of State express with relief that he was happy to be returning home to his country still Head of State. To this day I cannot tell whether he was serious or joking. But he may well have been serious, because Kwame Nkrumah was very serious and the fear of a number of us to lose our precious status was quite palpable.

But I never believed that the 1965 Accra summit would have established a Union Government for Africa. When I say that we failed, that is not what I mean, for that clearly was an unrealistic objective for a single summit. What I mean is that we did not even discuss a mechanism for pursuing the objective of a politically united Africa. We had a Liberation Committee already. We should have at least had a Unity Committee or undertaken to establish one. We did not. And after Kwame Nkrumah was removed from the African political scene nobody took up the challenge again. (Nyerere 1997)

In this Nyerere is no doubt vindicating Nkrumah’s position. Is he also critiquing his own position of step by step unity, any unity? Nkrumah himself had much earlier held the gradualist position but was quick to learn from experience. In Towards Colonial Freedom written between 1942 and 1945, his ideas on unity were limited to West African unity as a first step. ‘Since I have had the opportunity of putting my ideas to work, and in intensification of neo-colonialism’, he said, ‘I lay even greater stress on the vital importance to Africa’s survival of a political unification of the entire continent. ‘Regional economic groupings,’ he argued, ‘retard rather than promote the unification process.’ (Nkrumah 1973, p. 14)
Nyerere is laying stress on local vested interests as an impediment to the unification of the continent. Nkrumah is reminding us that local vested interests are allied with imperial interests to keep the continent balkanised. Unlike Nyerere, Nkrumah is acutely aware that not any form of unity is necessarily a step towards greater unification. In particular, economic co-operation or economic associations may, as a matter of fact, act as a hindrance rather than facilitate political unification. In this Nkrumah is refuting the oft-heard argument that economic association should precede political unification, the trajectory of European unification being used as an example (see for instance the arguments of the secretary general of Malawi Congress Party, Chisiza 1963 in Luthuli et. al 1964, pp. 38-54). The two situations are not analogous though.
Colonial economies inherited by independent Africa are woefully incompatible with each other; rather they are competitive. Each of them, separately, voluntarily or otherwise, seeks association with metropolitan economies. African economies are not only incompatible but exhibit extreme uneven development. The result is that in any economic association some countries are bound to be in disadvantageous position, giving rise to perpetual acrimony and irresolvable contradictions (Nnoli 1985). The only way to overcome these contradictions would be by a deliberate act of political will. This is the lesson to be drawn from what was once hailed as one of the most successful economic associations, the East African community. Services and even currency in the four East African countries were integrated. This worked so long as there was a single political overlord, the colonial state. But with independence the respective sovereign states set on very different trajectories, each wanting to maximise its advantage. Only a political decision in the interest of African Unity could have addressed and resolved these issues. In the absence of a single political centre, the East African Community floundered and was dissolved in 1977. Recent attempts at reviving East African economic co-operation have been difficult and are fraught with problems, not the least of which is, for example, the multiple memberships of the member states in different economic associations such as COMESA and SADC. A couple of months ago the East African heads of state postponed the fast-tracking of the proposed East African federation ostensibly to get people’s views. In reality, the economic contradictions of the association and the underlying competition among member states to get aid and investment from erstwhile donors is proving formidable to political unification. So much so that even the attempt by President Museveni to get a third term in Uganda is being seen by some Tanzanians as a proof of his ambition to become the President of the proposed East African federation. True or not, these arguments sound like the echoes of the arguments against Nkrumah. Unashamedly wedded to imperialism as he is, Museveni is of course no Nkrumah.
Be that as it may, my point is simply that these experiences have proved both Nyerere and Nkrumah right. Nkrumah’s dictum, ‘Seek ye first political unity and the economic union shall be added thereunto’, held true then and holds true now. Nkrumah’s fear that a delay in political unity would expose individual African states to neo-colonialist manipulations and Nyerere’s fear that sovereignty, flags and state power would be too sweet to surrender, have all come to pass, and tragically so. The Congo crisis of the 1960s then, and the DRC crisis of 1990s now, in which five African states went to war, express in the most extreme fashion all the woes of the continent and the tensions of African nationalism: dismal disunity among African states, utterly cynical manipulations of imperialist powers; rapacious exploitation of the resources of one of the richest countries of the continent, war, oppression, dictatorship and looting and pillage.
The trajectory of the Congo from Belgian Congo through Zaire to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) is really the story of the last 40 years of independent but disunited Africa. Pan-Africanism was buried with Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. “Statist nationalism”, more correctly compradorialism, in cohort with imperialism has wreaked havoc on the continent since. But Pan-Africanism shall resurrect, who knows, perhaps in the DRC. That brings me to the second part of my lecture.

  1. Towards the Insurrection of Pan-Africanism

I said earlier that in this second phase of the Second Scramble for Africa we need Pan-Africanism more than ever before. I owe you an explanation of what I mean by the second phase of the Second Scramble. The first Scramble for Africa was of course the colonial carving up of the continent; the first phase of the Second Scramble was what Nkrumah called neo-colonialism and Nyerere defined as ‘Africans fighting Africans’ (Nkrumah 1965, Nyerere 1963b in Nyerere 1967, p. 205 et. seq). The second phase of the Second Scramble is what we are witnessing today under the so-called globalisation. The local manifestation of globalisation is the neo-liberal package enforced by imperialism through the IMF-WB-WTO triad and donor policies and conditionalities on aid, debt, trade. Let us provisionally call this phase the compradorial phase.

The first and second phases of the Second Scramble more or less correspond to the cold war and post-cold war phases of neo-colonialism. In the first phase, Pan-Africanism was ‘nationalised’, or more correctly statised, under the rhetoric of territorial nationalism. This is the period of military coups, dictatorships, one-party governments, and cold war manipulations. True, a few African countries managed to maintain relative autonomy, thanks partly to superpower rivalry. True again, that this was the period when the liberation of the continent was completed. Internationally, Third World nationalism in which at least some African countries played a significant role was on the ideological offensive and imperialism was on the defensive. Then the Berlin Wall fell; the bi-polar world collapsed. Reaganomics turned into war-mongering Bush-politics.
In Africa the second phase began with structural adjustment programmes or SAPs of the early 1980s. The point about SAPs was not simply the imposition of neo-liberal economic conditionality. The point was the loss of political self-determination in making economic decisions that it signified. Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall imperialism mounted a frontal ideological attack on Third World nationalism (see generally Furedi 1994). Whatever was left of African nationalism, even of its territorial variety, was discredited, if not destroyed, in the rhetoric of globalisation. African states, which had in fact hardly departed from the policy prescriptions of the erstwhile international financial institutions or IFIs, were now made villain of the piece: corrupt, inefficient, patrimonial, and undemocratic. All of that may be true but all of it happened under the hegemony, and with the connivance of the same imperialist powers. New prescriptions were handed down on good governance, human rights, transparency, multi-party, democracy and so on. SAPs moved from the realm of economics to politics, from policy to ideology, from adjusting our economies to accommodating theirs. Masses, who, we once said, are the prime subject of history became the object of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers or PRSPs. Country SAPs combined with PRSPs became the continental NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development). Forward looking African nationalism, which traced its genesis to Pan-Africanism, was displaced by African Renaissance, a spurious echo of European history. African states and leaders joined in the chorus of their own condemnation and in the condemnation of their Pan-Africanist predecessors, if not by words then by deeds. Peer review committees replaced liberation committees; our presidents queued to have tea with G8s at Davos instead of joining their Asian counterparts at Bandung. The Blair Commission replaced the South Commission while Geldofs with their guitars led the procession of begging presidents from Africa. The mantra of the chant ‘Make Poverty History’ is supposed to make us forget not only the history of poverty and the political economy of imperialist pillage of our continent but, and this is even more crucial, .it is meant to demean our national liberation straggles.
But enough of humiliation. Everywhere Africans are harking back on the self-respect and dignity that the struggle for independence gave them. Our young intellectuals are writing PhDs on Nkrumahs and Nyereres, albeit in foreign universities, because our own have fallen victim to the dictates of structural adjustment programmes. African masses, in their varied ways and idioms, are censoring their leaders and evaluating their weaknesses. In my country when the president says “utandawazi” meaning globalisation, people echo “utandawizi” meaning ‘a network of theft’.

Globalisation chickens are rapidly coming home to roost while neo-liberal eggs are cracking up one after another. SAPs and subsequent privatisation and liberalisation policies have severely undermined the welfare of our people. The indices of education, health, sanitation, water, life expectancy, infant mortality, literacy have all fallen. Privatisations have thrown thousands of people out of work and increasingly privatisation projects are being exposed as big scandals. In my own country, all the four big privatisations – bank, water, electricity, telecommunication and mining – have proved to be utterly one-sided in favour of MNCs, if not outright fraudulent, costing the country billions of shillings.

The imperialist ideological offensive is losing steam. After the unilateral Iraq war, Guantanamo and Abu Gharib it has lost its last veneer of legitimacy. Increasingly, not only in its backyards but even at home it is resorting to coercion, force and wars in the process provoking resistance of all kinds from the oppressed. In the absence of a global, coherent ideology with a vision, the oppressed, the marginalised and the disregarded fall back on the only ideological resource available – racial, religious ethnic and chauvinistic prejudices.
I want to suggest that Pan-Africanism is the ideology of national liberation at the continental level in the post-cold war era just as nationalism was the ideology of liberation in the post-World War II era. For Pan-Africanism to play this role we need to modify and rework it in several directions. I can only suggest a few:
Firstly, Pan-Africanist ideology must give primacy to politics. It must be a political ideology, not a developmentalist programme. It must provide a vision, not simply set out a goal. It must inspire and mobilise. While African Unity is undoubtedly the rallying cry it must unite us to struggle and inspire us to struggle to unite.

No doubt Africa needs economic development. But as the Lagos Plan of Action, which was shamefully rejected by African states because of lack of endorsement by their imperialist masters, argued, such development cannot be self-reliant or sustainable unless African economies and resources are internally integrated (see Adedeji, A. in Nyong’o et. al 2002). This in itself requires a political decision.

Secondly, Pan-Africanism in its theory and ideology, in its programme and strategy must be anti-imperialist and pro-people. It must totally and uncompromisingly distance itself from the position that globalisation offers opportunities and challenges and that we should use the opportunities. The fact that in your struggle you may wrench the master’s weapon and turn it against him, does not mean that the master has given you an opportunity to do so. Globalisation, as all serious studies show, is a process of further intensification of imperialist exploitation through deepening the integration of the world economy in the interest of international finance capital
Thirdly, Pan-Africanists must think continentally and act both continentally and regionally. By regionally I mean to refer to spaces beyond single countries, whether this is East African or West African; North African or Southern African or Central African. Pan-Africanists must price open spaces to expand the spaces of struggle beyond regions because regions are only battlefields, the war is continental.

Here we need to recall the debate among the African nationalists on the step by step as opposed to continental approach to unification. Nyerere argued that unification at regional levels would enhance the process towards continental unity because you would have fewer units to unite. This would be so provided, he argued, we did not lose sight of the ultimate vision of African Unity (see Nyerere 1966). Experience however has proved that in practice so long as such processes are led by states, the very vision of larger unity tends to disappear as state leaders get embroiled in the pragmatism of power politics. These dilemmas, to a certain extent, may be overcome by the conception of Pan-Africanism as a people’s ideology of struggle and a vision of liberation as opposed to the statist pan-Africanism of leaders.

Fourthly, therefore, Pan-Africanism must be a bottom-up people’s ideology putting pressures on their states and monitoring their actions rather than a top-down statist programme or plan. People’s Pan-Africanists must be wary of African states and their imperialist backers who wrap up their “nepadisms” in the garb of Pan-Africanism.

NEPAD, which underpins the African Union, is in line with compradorialism rather than Pan-Africanism as a number of African scholars have shown. (See Adedeji, Nabudere, Mafeje, Olukoshi, Mkandawire, Tandon and others in Nyong’o et. al 2002) Adebayo Adedeji succinctly sums up NEPAD’s objective as strengthening imperialism’s hold ‘by tying the African canoe firmly to the West’s neo-liberal ship on the waters of globalisation (Nyong’o et. al 2002, p. 42). And one may as well add that South African capital provides the rope painted in the colour of African renaissance. As two South African authors have put it:

The pinnacle of Mbeki’s Renaissance Africa has been a drive for the virtues and dictates of the free market in Africa. Essentially, this boils down to making Africa safe for overseas multinational investment and private capital...This, above all else, may be why Washington supports the thrust of a Mbeki-articulated renaissance. This could also account for why Mbeki is clearly liked by America’s Corporate Council on Africa, as well as western European investors (Landberg & Kornegay 1998).
Fifthly, unlike the times of African nationalists, today’s Pan-Africanist face another challenge and that is the rise of regional hegemons. South Africa seems to be moving in that direction. Africa is the fourth largest export market for South African goods with the trade balance heavily tilted in favour of South Africa. South African corporations have rapidly moved into many African countries taking hold of banks and mines; telecommunications and energy; retail networks and hotel business. Even cultural exports in the forms of TV networks and shows are a daily diet of African urban (fortunately so far only urban) homes (Daniel et. al 2002). South Africa’s active role in the so-called peace-making in the DRC has paved a way for its corporations to take hold of that rich country. South Africa is also known to supply arms to a number of neighbouring African countries. No wonder some have wondered whether the renaissance is not Pax Pretoriana thinly disguised as a Pax Africana [ibid.]

New Pan-Africanism will have to evolve new strategies to deal with this development so that Pan-Africanism does not fall prey to the ambitions of stronger African states.

Sixthly, the new Pan-Africanism must find an organisational home in the movements of African people as opposed to state (political) parties. It should walk in the footsteps of AAPO, All Africa People’s Organisation. Pan-Africanism should be an explicit credo of our All-Africa research and professional organisations; All-Africa trade unions, All-Africa peasant associations, All-Africa women organisations. I would say even our regional people’s organisations should be branches of All-Africa organisations.
If we truly want an All-Africa Federation of People’s Republics, we have to start with an All-Africa Federation of People’s Organisations (AFPO).

  1. Conclusion

No doubt in this lecture I have only set out in broad strokes some of the elements of a new vision. This requires a lot of further discussion, debate and struggles to realise the Pan-Africanist vision. And that is where we should begin. We should consciously place Pan-Africanism on the agenda. For example, in our various debates on constitutionalism and federalism, like the one which is currently going on in your country (Nigeria), Pan-Africanism could have been, and ought to be, one of the central issues.

We, intellectuals, have to generate a deliberate, consistent and protracted continent wide discourse on new Pan-Africanism. It is in such a discourse that we can debate and agree and debate and disagree on many and varied aspects of new Pan-Africanism. We shall discuss and debate on the motive forces of Pan-Africanism and the social character of our states. We shall analyse and struggle over who are the friends and who are the enemies of Pan-Africanism. We shall begin to chart the type of New Democratic Africa we want. We shall go beyond the Pan-Africanist liberation of the continent to the social emancipation of humankind. It is in such debates and dialogues that we will nurture our new George Padmores and Du Bois, Nkrumahs and Nyereres, Fanons and Cabrals. A Pan-Africanist discourse will, in the words of Nyerere, ‘link our intellectual life together indissolubly’ (Nyerere 1966 in Nyerere 1968, p. 217). It is through such discourses that we shall evolve our All-Africa People’s Organisations
Remember: ‘Insurrection of ideas precedes insurrection of arms’
A spectre is haunting Africa - the spectre of Pan-Africanism. We, Africans, have been exploited a great deal, humiliated a great deal, disregarded a great deal. Now we want to make a Revolution, a Pan-Africanist Revolution so that we are never again exploited, humiliated and disregarded.1
People of Africa Unite,

You have nothing to lose but your drudgery

And a whole Continent to gain.


The second sentence is adapted from Tanzania’s Arusha Declaration, the socialist manifesto of the country adopted in 1967 under Nyerere. It has now been abandoned.
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