Kigali this week played host to a conference on Pan-Africanism, which took place on the African Liberation Day – May 25.
At the meeting, organised by the Rwandan chapter of Pan-African Movement, participants underlined the importance of mindset change if Africa’s total liberation is to be achieved.
Since Pan-Africanism first swept through the continent more than half a century ago, the struggle to instill a mindset that truly cherishes Africanism and African identity has continued to preoccupy many African leaders and scholars.
However, apart from the attainment of independence and liberation from the shackles of colonialism, Africans have yet to realise the essence of Pan-Africanism as external forces continue to dominate the continent with far-reaching consequences.
For example, research has indicated that the West continues to plunder African’s resources – with only a fraction of this wealth returning to Africa in the form of development aid, which itself is designed to perpetuate dependence – and all indications are that this trend is only likely to continue at least in the foreseeable future as foreign countries increasingly pursue aggressive ambitions on the continent.
Nonetheless, Africans should not expect anyone to give them full independence and self-determination on a silver platter; these are aspirations that every African should be working so hard to earn and for which they should be willing to sacrifice.
Now, meetings on Pan-Africanism such as the one that took place in Kigali this week are crucial because they offer a perfect stage to reflect on the continent’s missed opportunities and articulate its potentials and dreams but they should never be an end in themselves.
For more than 50 years Africans have been soul-searching, trying to pinpoint where it all went wrong and looking for the possible magic bullet to a turnaround.
Yet we cannot afford another 50 years of talking without doing the right things.
To begin with, African leaders should take the lead by domesticating and owning Pan-African aspirations, as articulated in such blueprints as Agenda 2016, and the recently adopted Africa Union reforms.
Two, Africa needs to put an end to the hemorrhage of its resources to the North and instead use its wealth to make Africa a better place for Africans.
Three, Africa needs to open up to Africa and to trade with itself. It would be foolhardy to talk of Africa’s renaissance when the continent is disconnected from itself and when it’s easier and cheaper for Africans to travel anywhere else around the world than to Africa.
Three, Africa needs to urgently invest in knowledge, skills and research that directly address the continent’s challenges. There is need to invest in Pan-African research centres in such key areas as agriculture, security, science and technology, among others.
But to achieve all this, there is need for a deliberate and sustained effort at various levels of decision-making, right from the top, to change the status quo. Unity and common purpose are prerequisites because as long as Africans remain at loggerheads with each other we will remain fragmented and vulnerable in an increasingly predatory world.