Introduction When Kwame Nkrumah joined the ancestors on 27 April 1972, the world was a very different one from that of today. Apart from Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique, most of the African continent had attained flag independence by 1972, but the problems of realising economic independence were becoming more pronounced. Nkrumah had warned at the Conference of Independent African States (CIAS) held in Accra in April 1958 of the “new forms of colonialism which are now appearing in the world with their potential threat to our precious independence.”1 This theme of a new form of colonialism later developed into Nkrumah’s theory of neo-colonialism, which continues to have profound relevance to Africa’s current condition.
This paper discusses some critical questions and issues facing Pan-Africanists at the close of the first decade of the 21st century and as we enter the second decade of the century. It raises questions centred on Africa’s future economic, political and social development, in the context of the unfolding international crisis of finance capitalism.
The central questions examined are as follows:
1. What lessons does the current international financial crisis have for African economies? What would Nkrumah have made of the current economic crisis and the unfolding “globalization”?
2. Can Pan-Africanism operate within a global capitalist context?
3. What concrete manifestation should Pan-Africanism of the 21st century adopt?
4. Given the disintegration and export orientated nature of African economies due to the legacy of colonialism, what is the role of politics or the political in promoting the economics of Pan-Africanism?
The current international financial crisis Much ink is being spilt on diagnosing the root causes of the current international financial crisis in the West. Very briefly, it has been attributed to general disregard for the warnings from the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and more directly to the crisis of sub-prime mortgages and hedge funds as a consequence of the greed of Western bankers. Thus it is of interest that the former head of the Federal Reserve of the USA, Alan Greenspan, admitted on 24 October 2008 that he found a “flaw in the free market theory.” When asked: “You mean that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?” Greenspan replied:
“Absolutely, precisely. You know that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with the very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”2
This can be regarded as an honest disclosure from Greenspan with profound implications for the future legitimacy of globalism.
However, it is not the intention of the paper to analyse the root causes of the present financial crisis, which others have cogently explicated.3 As has been noted by several authors, the roots of the crisis lie in the anarchic system of capitalist production that is based on the exploitation of ordinary people in the interests of a minority. This has created a system of gross inequality, political, economic, and social injustice in which fictitious money – which is money being used to create more money in stock markets – and production are divorced from production as the central driver of capitalist production. Walden Bello identifies the root causes as “overproduction” and the under-consumption of goods.4
From the rise of mercantilism, feudal trade and states in Europe to the emergence of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism, Africa has consistently played a critical role in the provision of essential raw materials and markets for Europe and the Americas. Capitalism – or globalization, the current term – has constantly allocated a particular, subservient role to Africa, and it is this political economy that Nkrumah understood clearly and brilliantly outlined in his book entitled, Neo-colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. Pan-Africanists of today have to understand the tasks ahead within this framework of the political economy of neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism.
It is important to emphasize that for many African countries, the economic and social effects of the present international financial crisis had already been emerging and experienced over many decades, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, prior to the 2007-2009 period when the crisis struck the heartlands of globalized capitalism in the UK and US. Specifically in relation to Africa, these early effects were largely as a result of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that were imposed on African economies. The SAPs resulted in: increasing poverty; deindustrialisation; poor infrastructural development and declining health and educational systems as a consequence of the rollback of subsidies which relegated the cost of healthcare and education to African people. Another consequence has been, “a steep rise in unemployment from massive privatization and destatization associated with steep rises in unemployment, devaluation, and a wage freeze.”5
In short, as Claude Ake aptly argued, there has been “no single case of unambiguous success,” for SAPs,6 but instead, a severe undermining of the welfare of African people. This should be a profound wake-up call to African leaders and African policy makers, civil servants and economists.
The present international financial crisis of capitalism will simply deepen. It will continue the economic impoverishment and immiseration of African people if African leaders and people do not adopt a radical vision and policies to reorient their societies and economies within a Continental Pan-African framework. However, the reorientation of African economies within a Continental Pan-African framework is also linked to arresting Africa’s further integration into the global capitalist system. A conscious political decision is needed to achieve this.
In seeking to address the underlying causes of the global crisis, both Yash Tandon and Dani Nabudere have argued that the G20 Summit of April 2009 came out with a programme that fell very short of doing so.
Nabudere writes: “The failure of the political leaders of the developed industrial countries to understand the dynamics of the current global economic crisis is a reflection of their loss of vision of the system that has been in place in their countries for over three hundred years.”7
Similarly, Tandon contends: “Western leaders do not pretend anymore that they comprehend the nature of the present financial crisis. They talk about removing ‘toxic’ or cancerous paper from the system. The whole system, we argue, is metastasised, has become cancerous. It is thus not simply a question of ‘market failure’: Western leaders are facing a crisis of cognitive paradigmatic failure. They simply do not know what has hit them and how to get out of the mess.”8
Nabudere concurs that: “Now we are faced with a mega-crisis, which few of the world’s leading capitalist countries know how to overcome.”9
It should be emphasized that the current financial crisis is a phenomenal opportunity for progressive and radical forces of the Left in Africa and in the South, to push forward a more equitable economic and political programme for the majority of people of the world. Now is the time for such forces to patiently educate and mobilize ordinary people towards envisioning a new world, to seek alternative paradigms. It was the late Thomas Sankara who once said, “We must dare to invent the future.” The international financial crisis has eroded the credibility of the neo-liberal economics has provided the intellectual underpinnings of the capitalist system. Despite the ongoing crisis, neo-liberalism continues to exercise a strong influence on economists in Africa (and the South generally) and in the global North particularly, (e.g. in the International Financial Institutions of the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organisation and other multi-lateral donor organisations).
Lessons for Africa The first lesson to be learnt from this current financial crisis is that African leaders who believe that there is no alternative but to integrate into a globalized capitalist world, and those who advocate some notion of a “fair globalisation”, must critically review their positions.10 Tandon proposes that countries of the South should pursue “decoupling” or “selectively disengage from the contagious effects of Western financial and speculative markets.”11 He claims: “Decoupling, if it has not happened, is now an economic and political imperative for the South”.12 This cannot be done overnight but must be on the agenda of the African Union and of all ministries of economic affairs within Africa.
Second, Tandon points out that “contrary to mainstream thinking, the market does not have a self-corrective mechanism” – as Alan Greenspan confessed. This should be seriously heeded by African leaders, economists, policy makers and those wedded to the holy trinity of the Bretton Woods system (i.e. the IMF and World Bank) and the international aid community. The admission on the part of Greenspan and the cosmetic tinkering of reforms of the economic system by the G20 demonstrates that they do not have solutions. It calls for a new paradigm of Pan-African development that will be revisited later.
The final lesson to be learnt from this current financial crisis is that African leaders must consult with their people in building a Pan-Africanist society, a Pan-Africanist economy and Pan-Africanist consciousness because the system of capitalism has failed. We cannot return to business as usual. Pan-Africanism is the only long-term panacea to Africa’s myriad problems.
The vision of Pan-Africanism has to be a peoples’ Pan-Africanism that leads to the political unification of Africa, a bottom-up Pan-Africanism, instead of a state-led Pan-Africanism.
Can Pan-Africanism operate within a global capitalist context? In the aftermath of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the decomposition of the Soviet Union, there was a triumphalism of liberal capitalist democracy in the West reflected in Francis Fukuyama’s belief in the “end of history.” However, as the late Joe Slovo once said: “The Soviet Union may have failed with communism but capitalism has failed mankind.” Therein lies the answer to the question: “Can Pan-Africanism operate within a global capitalist context?”
For Africa to continue to ape the development paradigm of the North – as the continent has been doing since the flag independence of the late 1950s and early 1960s – is to continue on a path of neo-colonial development in which the gulf between Africa and the North continues to widen whilst at the same time the chasm between the African neo-colonial comprador bourgeoisie and the masses also deepens. In addition to this, the continued adherence to the development paradigm imposed on Africa can only lead to the unsustainable yet continuing rape, pillage and plunder of the Earth’s finite resources. If there was another continent for Africa to enslave and colonize as Europe did from the 1500s onwards, perhaps Africa could catch up with the West. This means that Africa has to depend on its own resources and look inwards for its development cannot be mirrored on capitalist development models. Unity and political education of the African people is a key to achieving this.
The SAPs of the 1980s imposed on many African countries arose from a commitment to what Ake characterises as a “market theology” and it is the vulnerable “who bear the burden of the ideological catholicity” of the market fundamentalism imposed by the North on African countries.13 Since independence, every African country has framed its economic development needs on the basis of seeking to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
Rather, Africa needs to build a system of economic production that utilizes the productive mineral and agricultural resources, energy, skills, talents, knowledge of its people. Such a system must validate and give its people a sense of their own human worth and dignity. It needs to ensure that the vast continental resources (i.e. oil, mineral wealth of various kinds and agricultural potential) are utilized for the benefit of the majority rather than being benefiting foreign interests. According to Ayi Kwei Armah, it requires “that our planners approach Africa not as a jumble of disconnected sovereign states, but as a unified field”.14
Capitalism is an innately unequal system and the invisible hand of the market cannot be left alone to redistribute wealth to the financial bandits whether indigenous to Africa or external. Nkrumah considered capitalism to be a wholly exploitative system and therefore his vision of a future Africa was wedded to a socialist system. He envisaged a Continental Union Government of Africa under what he termed “scientific socialism”. At the Second Conference of Non-Aligned States, in Cairo in October 1964, Nkrumah stated that: “Socialism does not belong to the Soviet Union or China, or for that matter to any other country; it is an international idea.”
Another important characteristic of the implementation of the prevailing right-wing economic orthodoxy is that “they always require a strong dose of authoritarianism”. 15 Therefore, such neo-liberal economic policies are antithetical to democracy. In short, they are anti-people and anti-democratic in their very nature for the vast majority of Africans did not consent to the SAPs of the 1980s and 1990s. Their opposition was manifested in many protests and the food riots of 2008 in several African countries that spoke of the economic hardships of the majority.
Building a Pan-Africanism for the 21st century in Africa The Africa envisioned by Nkrumah, i.e. a Continental Union Government of Africa, as outlined in Africa Must Unite and many of his other works, may be alluring, but it will remain a vision without a rational strategy for realising it. Integral to that strategy must be the deliberate dismantling of the old paradigm of development centred on export-led growth, liberalisation, trickle-down growth through free trade, etc., or in short, the neo-liberal policies implemented by many African countries that are inimical to the interests of African people.
Tandon’s seven steps to ending aid dependence provide a necessary guide or map to reorienting African economies on a medium- to long-term basis, in the interests of African people and for genuine continental development. This reorientation is fundamental for Africa’s reconstruction and for halting the current re-colonisation of the African continent in the name of globalization. The latter is an uneven, multi-linear process of transnational, political, economic, cultural, technological developments involving contradictory and simultaneous processes of integration and fragmentation of large parts of the periphery. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem argued in his “An African Perspective on Globalisation” (1998) that,
What Africa is going through now is a re-colonization, not by individual European countries anymore but under the aegis of IMF/World Bank and the supportive and collaborative service of Western bilateral/multilateral aid increasingly run and channelled through Western NGOs16.
Thus, the unfolding globalization processes operates as a Trojan horse for subjecting Africa and the rest of the South to transnational corporate interests, but within a new global context following the demise of the bi-polar Cold War order.
In order to arrest the ongoing re-colonization of Africa and create a Pan-Africanism for the 21st century, African people and a progressive leadership must push for the following seven steps advocated by Tandon:
“Step 1: Adjusting the mindset”
This is the necessary and fundamental first step for African leaders, officials, experts and ordinary African people, to accept that the neo-liberal policies as conceived by the West have not and do not benefit African people; that “development is our responsibility, and not that of the donors.”17
“Step 2: Budgeting for the poor, not the donors”
The approach to budgeting that gives priority to pleasing outsiders rather than addressing the needs of the citizens of African societies has to be turned on its head.18 Budgeting has to start at the lowest level of social and productive organisation, i.e. placing the needs of the people of the villages and the urban poor first.
“Step 3: Putting employment and decent wages upfront”
For the last 50 years of alleged independence, the fixation with African governments on securing foreign direct investment to create jobs has not created mass employment nor an adequate living wage for the masses of Africans. Creating meaningful employment with adequate enumeration on which human beings can live decent lives and provide for their families must be central in the creation of a new society and economy in which the basic needs of the majority are satisfied.
“Step 4: Creating the domestic market and owning domestic resources”
The domestic market has to be planned and envisioned within a regional and continental market, a framework which is missing from Tandon’s perspective. The creation of the domestic market should be established not on the basis of an “export-led growth strategy” but a domestic, demand-led strategy. In practical terms, such a strategy would seek, for example, to coordinate the production of essential food and energy resources within a nation and must extend to the region and the continent. This would lead to greater intra-African trade and the harnessing and coordination of Africa’s human, mineral and agricultural resources as outlined by Nkrumah in Africa Must Unite.
Shivji correctly points out in his book Where is Uhuru? that:
The 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.19
These two factors – incompatible economies and uneven development – necessitate a conscious political act of unification because these factors are obstacles to economic integration. It is only conscious political action that can address challenges that include:
• Uneven development, which means the fears and interests of smaller or weaker states have to be allayed.
• Incompatible economies, whereby African countries cannot conduct simple trade with each other, as they produce similar unprocessed cash crops and minerals for export. Thus, unification has to be at the level of co-ordinating production.
In addition, realising a Pan-Africanism of the 21st century requires a strengthening of South-South economic and cultural relationships in order to fundamentally reduce Africa’s dependence on the West. In his Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare, written in 1967, Nkrumah called for the creation of the Organisation of Solidarity for Africa, Asia and Latin America (OSPAAL). This remains a necessity. Practical examples of economic alternatives that Africa can learn from in order to create a more equal economic order within the southern hemisphere include the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) in Latin America, spearheaded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan leader also took the initiative of establishing the Bank of the South in December 2007 as not only an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank but as a path to independent development in conjunction with ALBA. Another example is that of the World Social Forum that provides an important ideological platform of solidarity among peoples of the South.
“Step 5: Plugging the resource gap”
By this, Tandon refers to arresting the haemorrhaging of national income due to squandered by ruling elites on cars, planes, prestige projects such as palaces and public monuments, or on fuelling wars. This drain of resources needs to be plugged and re-directed to basic public provision i.e. schools, roads, and hospitals.
“Step 6: Creating institutions for investing national savings”
This requires a reorientation of national economies from over-reliance on the private sector to ensuring that national savings are properly invested through state and community institutions. Tandon argues that “what is necessary to state is that there has to be a balance between the state, private, and the community sectors.”20
“Step 7: Limiting aid to national democratic priorities”
Finally, in reorienting African economies along Pan-Africanist lines (i.e. that are centred on the economic and social needs of the people), foreign aid will be limited in its contribution to social and economic development. It will no longer be considered to be the engine of economic development, for such a perspective obfuscates aid’s real role as a perpetuation of the neo-colonial dependency of African countries on the former metropole. It is a crutch that facilitates Africa’s continued subservience to the North. Aid to Africa always comes with political and economic chains. It is often aid given on condition of bondage.
In realising and implementing a Pan-Africanism of the 21st century, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. To concur with Ake: “The one thing that looks promising in all this is that Africa no longer has the choice of not taking self-reliance seriously, an option that it should have taken all along. It is a very difficult option and is likely to make things a lot worse before they get better, if they improve at all”21 (italics mine).
Nkrumah was of the uncompromising view that regional economic groupings retard rather than promote the unification of the continent. It is necessary to pose whether this continues to remain the case today? How does the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) fit into the African Union’s continental economic plans? Are such regional economic groupings the new forms of balkanisation that Nkrumah warned against? Or are they stepping stones for Continental African Union? These questions will undoubtedly be thrashed out by policymakers in the AU but genuine democratisation of the AU requires ordinary Africans participate in these debates to forge answers to these questions.
Pan-Africanism in the 21st century Africa needs Pan-Africanism more than ever before to solve the acute socio-economic and political problems confronting the continent. Africa requires a progressive Pan-Africanism that is propelled by ordinary people from the villages to the cities in support of a progressive leadership to implement the following policies and positions that will give African unity tangible meaning in the lives of African people:
• It is fundamentally necessary to dismantle the inherited colonial borders derived from the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference in order to permit the genuine free movement of African goods and people without the prevailing corruption that continues to harass ordinary people.
• Central to a Pan-Africanism of the 21st century is the redefinition of citizenship. The lack of a genuinely Pan-Africanist concept of citizenship lies at the heart of many of Africa’s current conflicts, whether they are in Jos in Nigeria or in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or in the attacks on other Africans such as Somalis that took place in South Africa’s townships in 2008. As Abdul-Raheem correctly states:
The solution is very simple: accept Africans as Africans and treat them with dignity anywhere they may be as legal African citizens, from Cape Town to Cairo. If we are all Africans and recognised as such then we can stop “foreignising” people who disagree with us, or referring to other Africans as aliens, or discriminating against fellow citizens as “indigenes” or “settlers”, and other forms of xenophobia that are so rampant across Africa.
He observes that citizenship entails rights and:
Rights should derive from our being human beings and the state has an obligation to protect all of us as citizens regardless of the circumstances by which we come about our citizenship which may include, ancestry, birth, settlement, marriage, migration, naturalization. Conferring African citizenship on all Africans may not solve all our problems but it provides an important legal and political basis for us to hold our governments accountable and enjoy the full rights of political and socio-economic participation wherever we may be without fearing expulsion and statelessness.22
• Establishment of a continental cartel for the oil, diamonds and other valuable minerals of the continent, so that Western multinational companies can no longer pick off African producers one by one. Such a cartel would speak with one voice in dealing with the global market and global buyers and be replicated for coffee, cotton and other agricultural products.
• The provision of first-class roads and railways that link Africa from Cape Town to Cairo and from East Africa to West Africa alongside a system of self-sufficiency in food production. For example, African countries would end the importation of rice and achieve self-sufficiency in rice production.
• Vociferous denunciation of and sanctions against Western governments when people of African descent are killed by racists in European capitals such as London and in the US. Pan-Africanism should mean the rights and lives of African people in the Diaspora are defended by African leaders and African people on the continent of Africa.
• Financial compensation and reparations for slavery and colonialism (including justice for the Land and Freedom Army (otherwise erroneously referred to as “Mau Mau”) veterans, for example, as well as the return of African “artefacts” that remain hidden in the vaults of many European museums.
• Support for the African descended people of Haiti in their demand for reparations. The Haitian people have for too long been described as living in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere when history demonstrates that the origins of that poverty lie in the financial compensation Haiti paid France from 1825 to 1947. Added to this has been the neo-liberal policies that have created impoverishment in the local economy alongside sweatshops that produce goods for Walmart and Disney that earn Haitians no more than a pittance of $2 a day. Haiti is simply an extension of Africa in the Diaspora.
A progressive African leadership, with the support of African people would:
• Immediately cease servicing African debt and harness all African economic, technological and scientific activities in the interests of African people, particularly increasing intra-African trade and South-South trade in order to lessen Africa’s dependence on the West.
• Dictate the terms of trade for African products on world markets and ensure that Africans began to manufacture goods i.e. cocoa would no longer be made into “Belgian chocolates” but “African chocolates” in African factories, so that one day “Made in Africa” finished goods will be common across the world.
• Provide free education from nursery to university level for all Africa’s children.
• Provide full employment, constant electricity, hospitals stocked with medicine and functioning equipment, a decent minimum wage for urban workers and farmers.
• Seize from Africa’s corrupt dictators all monies looted from the people of Africa and siphoned into Western banks. Ensuring that the funds are returned to Africa and used for the development of the people would be an objective of this leadership that is overseen by ordinary people.
• Forge closer cultural and social relations with people of African descent in the Caribbean, North and South America as well as in Europe. Economic and cultural links would be strengthened in these relations for the development of the continent.
• Remove all Western military personnel and military bases in the guise of AFRICOM and its French, British, Portuguese, Belgian variants from every inch of African soil.
• Provide prostheses for the millions of Angolans, Mozambicans, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans made amputees by civil war and landmines.
• Provide psychological counselling to the thousands of women of Rwanda, DRC, Darfur and elsewhere in Africa who have been victims of rape, as well as all those who have witnessed crimes and brutalities against humanity.
• Eliminate the stigma of HIV and AIDS; greatly increase the provision and distribution of anti-retroviral drugs for those living with the disease so their lives are prolonged and alleviated of physical pain. Those who take on the burden of caring with people with HIV and AIDS would be assisted by the state.
• Ensure that children made orphans by war or HIV/AIDS receive love and a home.
• Develop a gender-sensitive education system from primary school to university level to overturn centuries of patriarchical cultural and social conditioning that girls and women are second-class citizens.
• Ensure that all African schoolchildren read Cheikh Anta Diop, Garvey, Nkrumah, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Fanon, Rodney, Cabral, Sankara and Machel, and also know their local heroines and heroes. Africa’s children must also be taught the Pan-Africanist history of both Africa and the Diaspora in their primary and secondary school years.
• Uphold the system of 50% of women parliamentarians that exists in Rwanda and South Africa and replicate this level of representation across the rest of Africa.
• Instil in public servants across Africa the ethos that they are there to serve the people and not to loot and exploit ordinary men and women.
• Ensure that African cinema, theatre and other arts are vigorously promoted and exchanged around the continent so that Africans know themselves. It is currently still the case that Africans, whether from North, South, West, or East, know more about the culture of Europe than the culture of their brothers and sisters on the other side of their borders. Pan-African satellite television stations would assist in educating all Africans about the history and cultures of other Africans.
• Promote intra-African tourism in a Pan-Africanist Africa, so that people consider taking a holiday not in Europe but in another African country, thereby learning more about the beauty and history of another region of Africa.
• Ensure the establishment of a Pan-African Farmers’ Union, Pan-African Teachers’ Union, Pan-African Students’ Union, Pan-African Women’s Union, etc., so that ordinary people from all over the continent can communicate their interests and issues in solidarity with one another, creating a Pan-African consciousness among the people of Africa.
This is the vision and task of Pan-Africanists today.