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Africa re-imagined

The landmass called Africa is too fragmented to thrive and prosper yet it is also too vast and diverse to function as a single unit.

African independence produced infant countries severed from the already established economic and administrative systems, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to whatever adversity that arose.

A simple example of this is how the Rhodesian currency was anchored by both the pound sterling and apartheid South Africa rand.

In the 1990s, ideological variances and subsequent hostilities between Zimbabwe and its previous backers left the Zimbabwe dollar in shreds.

This and other similar situations on the continent resulted in unrest, armed civil conflicts and failing economies.

Even the bigger and relatively stable countries like South Africa have simmering tensions and are plagued with a myriad of unfulfilled post-Independence expectations.

The problem is the political configuration and economic structure that was imposed then left on the continent. Sad to say that post-independence Africa has held firmly onto these weak structures much to its own hurt.

Africa’s only member of Brics, a second tier block of the world’s most influential and powerful economies, contributes a paltry two cents for every dollar in this club. This is even worse for South Africa when you consider how much of that two cents is from the indigenous demographic.

The most successful and prosperous human societies have either been in the form of an empire or federation. These systems allow for a degree of autonomy (for sociopolitical stability) while guaranteeing security within the broader aspect of the union and also harnessing the power of numbers in economics.

There’s hesitancy about federalism in Africa because of the examples set by Nigeria and Ethiopia. The error here was creating a federal structure within a colony and system that has been unitary before.

This emboldens separatists

Africa must adopt federalism, not into a single country, but condense from the current 55 fragmented former colonies to about a dozen or less “super nations”.

The Africa Union (AU) has a debt owed to the African people because the ideals and advocacy carried by the founding fathers of its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) have been reneged on.

Best known among other revolutionary pan-Africanists perhaps is Kwame Nkrumah who said: “We must unite now or perish”.

Patrice Lumumba said: “Since our objectives are the same, we will attain them more easily and more rapidly through union than through division. The more closely united we are, the better we will resist oppression, corruption…”

The first woman to be elected chairperson of the African Union Commission, though criticised for not doing enough and leaving the AU less united, Dr Nkosaza Dlamini Zuma quotes Nkrumah in a speech, bemoaning the lack of progress in uniting Africa.

A leading pan-African voice and scholar professor PLO Lumumba has repeatedly called out African leaders for paying lip service to African unification and betraying a founding principle of the AU.

Today it seems the leadership wants to put off the unification agenda beyond their terms.

In Southern Africa only Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters party have loudly taken a pan-African position, even at the risk of losing votes to Afrophobic formations.

May 25 was set aside to be Africa Day. This marks the formation of the OAU in 1963 and on the eve of its 60th anniversary, the continent remains divided along colonial borders. This should be the starting point for any significant departure from being shackled to neo-colonialism.

Continental delimitation

The AU through its most dynamic creation to date, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), must identify regional capitals to be a type of Washington DC for the envisaged federations, for example Pretoria, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Kinshasa, Yaonde, Abuja, Abidjan, Dakar, Cairo, Tripoli and Rabat.

To illustrate the concept, we will use Pretoria which can be the federal capital of the southern Africa region stretching from Capetown to Lilongwe, Maputo to Luanda and the southern Indian Ocean Islands through Harare to Swakopmund.

This will form a nation with a population of around 215 million people and a nominal GDP estimate of over US$700 billion. It will bring together about 14 former colonies and potentially have over 35 states, based on current internal regional segmentation.

A country of this size will have a sufficiently vibrant and robust middle class to drive domestic consumption, an ideal incubator and anchor for small businesses.

A thriving middle class attracts and sustains large investments, which in turn has capacity to help lift the masses out of extreme poverty.

Conglomerates and large businesses can support or spearhead the building of needed infrastructure projects like schools, clinics, roads and houses in the communities they operate.

The process of creating these big nations out of Africa will work best if it is done voluntarily with adherence to the existing national frameworks.

The most important thing is to agree on the vision, then allow the various countries and regions to develop their own pathway to align with the most appropriate federal government centre in subsequent referendums and popular consultations.

Another priority area for the AU would be to launch a strong gold backed virtual currency managed by the AU central bank (AUCB).

Africa has plenty of high value precious minerals which are sadly currently being given away for printed United States dollars. These US dollars in turn fast track the development of Asian economies that have the numbers and capacity to mass produce cheap goods to dump in Africa for those US dollars. Africa must limit or squeeze out the illicit and negative impact of the US dollar from its shores.

Export receipts for the continent must be in the gold-backed AU currency.

The ideal AUCB shareholding structure should eventually be the reserve banks from the identified capital cities as they each develop their own currencies to circulate, which will all be pegged to a flexible range in value to the AU’s virtual currency.

This way, the values of African currencies can be adjusted periodically to suit the prevailing domestic environment, giving federations sufficient control of their own currency supported by the AUCB.

Existing administrative bodies
There’s an element of flippancy and lack of sincerity, exemplified by the AU staging elaborate ceremonies to adopt Agenda 2063, a half-century-long plan for things that should be done within a decade instead. Long-term vision is good but if it can be done now, why prolong it?

There’s also a problem of scapegoating current challenges and putting emphasis on past emotive issues, the sovereignty gospel and anti-West rhetoric.

Apart from the AU, there are regional groupings such as the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc).

It is not very clear to see what purpose particularly Sadc serves except protecting incumbent politicians and issuing solidarity statements for the beleaguered.

These bodies were constituted largely to entrench the current structure of nations. It would be very helpful to disband all institutions that seek to sustain the status quo.

Justifying reconfigured jurisdictions

It’s highly unlikely that even without all the colonial external influences, all of Africa was going to unite into one big nation.

It is also not probable that the continent was going to disintegrate into over 50 powerless nations.

There’s plenty of history that shows that smaller chiefdoms were allied to bigger kingdoms that were in charge of certain territories that transcend current borders both directly and by proxy. Totems unified people, not tribe or language.

Colonisation took that away and that has handicapped Africa.

Current leadership has a duty to reverse it or at the very least mitigate its effects.

In pre-colonial Africa, social order was organic in nature but everyone in the various communities also subscribed to the principle of Ubuntu.

Outsiders took advantage of this seemingly docile, yet most noble social virtue to wreak havoc and plunder Africa.

Should Africa abandon Ubuntu and adopt a more hostile stance?… Not ever, Africa must rediscover and increase this humble virtue especially towards fellow Africans and not allow themselves to be separated by colonial borders and ideologies.

The incidents of Afrophobic attacks sometimes described as xenophobia and other variations of it like Operation Dudula are a shame to Africans.

The many issues troubling southern Africa today from immigration, land reform conflicts and democracy strengthening can be solved through this idea of federalism. It would increase economic competitiveness and give Africa an opportunity to engage with the world from a position of strength.

Ambition

Middle Eastern countries like the United Arab Emirates, Dubai in particular, have proved that mind boggling developmental growth is possible, within a short space of time, backed by a single natural resource. Africa has all the needed natural resources in abundance.

The difference is political leadership, vision and imagination. Many people cannot imagine an African region reaching G7 economic status in 50 years.

If high levels of economic growth and transformation are our objective, then IMF and World Bank designed and supervised programmes are not the go-to place. They are useful to avert crises and give semblance of dignity but not for explosive growth.

African leaders must have ambition and vision that surpasses symbolism and is not limited to surviving their domestic tenure.

Post-independence Africa is not a dress rehearsal for some utopia.

The time to start is now. The time to operationalise African unification and live it is now, not 2063.

  • Tshuma is a Pan-Africanist proponent and social commentator from Bulawayo —  Twitter @TaisaPT

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