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The African Unity Agenda: Past, Present & Prospects

I agree with Prof PLO Lumumba on a new, more determined and collective movement for a United States of Africa by first re-demarcating Africa into only five (5) political regions namely, North Africa, South Africa, West Africa, East Africa and Central Africa. Several factors account for the current dependency syndrome, fragmentation, poor governance and lack concerted effort toward unity on the African continent.

The process of decolonisation only involved a change in regimes. The political legacy bequeathed at independence was at best uninformed and uncertain. The new leaders of political parties had their positions as a result of their ability to organise and capitalise on colonial protests. They had very little or no experience in actual governance when they assumed power. African leaders were confronted with the paradox of operating pluralist institutions of alien derivation whereas their own understanding of politics was based on centralised and authoritarian structures.

So just like the colonial state, the post colonial state in Africa concentrated political power at the centre. Political participation and competition were drastically curtailed, dominant political parties were strengthened and decision-making became increasingly centralised.

Consequently the post colonial African state became marked and marred by mismanagement, bribery and corruption, nepotism and favouritism. Issues of providing better conditions of life for their people in the form of shelter, food, clothing, education and health care remained largely unattended to, because of lack of funding.

In their helpless bid to alleviate the plight of their people, Africa leaders have had to resort to the IMF and the World Bank for financial assistance, that have been characterised by conditions like, massive retrenchment of labour, trade liberalisation, cumulative devaluation, privatisation of public enterprises, free entry of multi-national corporations, abolition of exchange rates and wage control, withdrawal of subsidies, credit squeeze and decentralisation of power.

These conditions have further compounded the plight of African countries by further opening them up for neo-colonial exploitation in the name of finance assistance.

This predicament has further been aggravated by the structure of the political economy of most African countries. Most African countries are characterised by predominance of subsistence and commercial activities, narrow and disarticulate production base with ill-adopted technology, neglect of the informal sector, degraded environment, lopsided development due to urban bias of development policies and fragmentation of African economies.

African countries fought for political independence within legal frameworks that benefited the colonial masters and made them economically dependent on their former colonial masters. For example, French colonial countries continue to pay rent to France for colonial infrastructure built for them.

Their economic and monetary policies are determined and controlled by France including their annual budgets after independence. African countries, even after political independence, continue to produce raw materials like cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber etc, to feed factories in Europe, America, China etc without any value addition and without any control over their prices etc. We still produce things that we do not use and use things we do not produce. We are sadly part of a global economy that hardly takes care of our needs and concerns because we are divided and weak.

Several international development schemes and programmes have been designed for Africa without inputs from Africans, by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club etc.The real plight and tragedy of Africa is the inability of our leaders to work in unity and in trust to pull Africa out of this frustrating dependency syndrome. English speaking African countries are controlled by Britain under what is called the Commonwealth of Nations which is an international association of former British colonies.

America prints the dollar (paper) in exchange for our tangible goods. Britain prints the pound sterling (paper) in exchange for our tangible goods. We cannot print money without approval from the IMF and World Bank. They use paper money printed from our timber in exchange for our gold, our diamonds, our cocoa, our rubber, our cotton and our oil. When paper money first started as a medium of exchange, each currency note was backed by a weight of gold equivalent to the face value of the currency note representing it. It meant one pound currency note was backed by one pound of gold at the Central Bank of Britain. But that is no longer the case. It is now purely controlled by the IMF and the World Bank based on the GDP of the various countries. Africa is at a disadvantage in this arrangement.

Until African countries unite as proposed by Dr Kwame Nkrumah way back in 1963, to form a United States of Africa, whereby African countries can have, a single President, a common parliament, a Central Bank of Africa with a single currency, an African military high command for our security and defence, common customs and tariff protocols, African Supreme Court, etc, the story of Africa will be the same.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah attempted it, he was overthrown. Col Gadafi attempted it, he was killed in cold blood by Western countries led by France. Now so many African leaders pay lip service to the idea of African unity. But none of them is ready to risk it. The African Union has become a forum of brotherly hand shake among Africa leaders with no real intention for unity.

Some African leaders like Joseph Mobutu and Sani Abacha have looted the resources of their countries to the detriment of their citizens. In most cases, they die and leave the money in European Banks. Such monies are later given to African countries as loans.

The way out now is to join the movement for a United States of Africa for Africans to take complete control of their resources for the benefit of Africa. Yes we can.

By Simon Amegashie-Viglo, former Lecturer at the Ho Technical University and a former Volta Regional Secretary of the National Democratic Congress.
Email: [email protected]

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