Africa Needs Her Farmers The Conference Of The Farmers Of Africa
Legon, March 19, 1962
MR. CHAIRMAN, RESPECTED DELEGATES AND FRIENDS,
I am happy to be with you this morning and to have the opportunity to bid the distinguished delegates, welcome to Ghana. For the first time in history, African farmers and peasants from all parts of our great-continent are meeting here in Accra, to discuss and deliberate upon the welfare of farmers and peasants, and upon the progress and prosperity of Africa.
The importance of agriculture in the African economy and, consequently, the vital role of farmers and peasants in the general economic reconstruction and the rehabilitation of our people after years of colonial devastation and ravages, cannot be over emphasized.
As I see it, your major task is the creation of a complete revolution in agriculture on our continent — a total break with primitive methods and organisations with the colonial past which tied the African down to subsistence farming, cultivated mono-cultural crops all over the continent, created scarcity in the midst of abundance and kept our masses at a very low ebb of nutritional and sub-economic standards. Now that we are our own masters and now that the end of colonialism in Africa has become a fact, the world would show us little sympathy if we made no endeavour to do our own planning to mechanise and diversify our agriculture and introduce new forms, ways and methods to revitalize our farming society.
There must be a new African farmer who understands the needs of the new Africa and who looks beyond the limits of his own requirements. He must be imbued with a keen sense of pan-African nationalism and determination to banish hunger not only from his own territory or state, but from the whole of Africa.
This is a mighty undertaking which can only be achieved by united effort. Agriculture must not merely provide food for our people: it must create industrial strength by providing raw materials both for exports and for home manufacture. The new hold on Africa by neo-colonialism, which is fighting desperately to control our very existence and development, must be shattered. But our only hope of succeeding in this is by a united mutual effort. That is why we must constantly think, speak and work towards African unity. Whether it comes today, tomorrow or the day after, it must come, if Africa is to survive.
As I said some time ago, enemies of African progress and prosperity have a vested interest in misinterpreting our motives in order to confuse African nationalist leaders on this question of African unity. The fact that farmers and peasants of so many African countries have, by their own initiative and free will, gathered together here today with the idea of forming a united continental organisation which would advance your interest and cater for the welfare of Africa as a whole, is incontestable proof of your belief in African unity as being the only means to our future. Similarly African trade unionists have already noted the urgent necessity for coming together and have formed the All-African Trades Union Federation. These and other examples of unity in some aspects of our African activity point clearly and unmistakably to the overriding necessity for African unity.
The political and economic unification of the African continent is the key — the master key to Africa’s future. It is natural that each one of us should be proud of his own states, its national flag and national anthem, we of this generation shall never forget the price that we had to pay in order to hoist that flag and to sing that national anthem in our own free and independent territory, even though the barriers between our territories are artificial and not of our own making. Those who come after us will read about it in their history books, will share our pride, will applaud some of our actions and criticize others.
By all means, let us respect each other’s sovereignty and independence, let us fly with love and pride our national flags and sing with joy and thankfulness our national anthems. But we cannot afford to be smug and we cannot blind ourselves to the liability side of our balance sheets — the cost of keeping our flags flying.
Socially, economically and culturally we are interconnected. None of us, for instance is economically independent. As things stand, three possibilities are upon us: to look to each other and pool our resources, to look to one or other of the foreign powers and become dependent upon them, or to isolate ourselves and regress. There can be no question in the mind of any African that an overall economic, industrial and agricultural planning on a united continental basis would increase the industrial and economic power of Africa. But this cannot be achieved until we come together in a political union to give political direction.
Then there is the question of our armed forces. Here we are, in our independent states, spending millions a year to train and equip our men for our defence forces. But if the worst came to the worst, what chance would our armies have, standing alone, individually, against the force and might of most foreign armies today? How much more sensible and realistic it would be, if we formed a joint military command, an African army, an African navy and an African air force. Not only would such a force be effective and equal in strength and efficiency to any other in the world, but the cost of maintaining it, compared to what we are each paying for our individual armed forces at the moment, would l be infinitesimal.
And apart from this aspect of it, if we do not unite and combine our military forces for common defence, some African states, out of a sense of insecurity, may be drawn individually into making defence pacts with foreign powers which will endanger the unity and security of our continent.
If we set up a common economic planning organisation and joint military y command, then we must also adopt a common foreign policy and a common diplomatic representation abroad. How will our small and young states, for instance, find the resources to staff embassies in the independent States of Africa, let alone foreign countries abroad? The financial burden will be great and the people will be the sufferers.
It should be possible for us to devise some constitutional structure which preserves the sovereignty of each state and at the same time make it possible for us to have a political union on common economic and agricultural planning, a common army, navy and air force and a common foreign policy and diplomacy. I envisage that countries in such a union will maintain their own constitutions, continue to use their own national flags, their national anthems and other national symbols and paraphernalia of sovereignty. No union states need surrender any of these things. Yet when we speak of political union, and decry the balkanization of Africa, detractors and enemies of Africa are quick to observe and attempt on our part to impose leadership and abrogate sovereignty. They use this as a screen to hide their deep fear of African unity. They would stop at nothing to undermine its attainment.
Mr. Chairman and Delegates: Africa’s salvation lies in a continental national union and we who have the responsibility of leading the people must hurry and come together, if we are to prevent the catastrophic devastation of our continent by the activities of neo-colonialists.
Mr. Chairman and Delegates, by noon today, the cease-fire agreement signed between the Algerian Provisional Government and French authorities at Evian will come into force. With this comes an end to the seven-year struggle of the Algerian people for peace and independence. We welcome the cease-fire agreement as a basis for the total emancipation of Algeria. The struggle has been long and bitter, but it has given the Algerian people the right to govern themselves, and placed Algeria in a position to march fully with us in our struggle for the freedom and unity of Africa.
We salute our brothers in Algeria today and wish them well in the years that lie ahead.
And now Mr. Chairman, l have great pleasure in declaring open this Conference of All African Farmers’ Organisations. I wish it every success, and hope you will feel at home and fully enjoy your short stay here with us.