A New Dawn for Africa
The Independence of Ghana on March 6, 1957, ushered in a new dawn in Africa. This was the twilight of freedom and independence. This new dawn signalled a new beginning. Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the first Prime Minister of Ghana, took the initiative of speeding up the total decolonization of Africa by organizing the first Conference of Independent African States on 15 April, 1958 in Accra. The Conference was attended by Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia, Morocco, Sudan, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroun and the National Liberation Front of Algeria. The Conference symbolized the determination of the peoples of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. The Conference called for the founding of an African Freedom Day, to mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movements. Five years later, on 25 May, 1963, representatives of thirty independent African Nations met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). From that day the African Freedom Day was celebrated as Africa Day, on 25 May, every year.
Africa Day is a celebration of the unity and solidarity of the African peoples as they consolidate their hard- won freedom and independence. For four centuries, that is 15th-19th Century, the African people were subjected to slave trade. For seven decades, that is from 1880-1960, the African people were under colonial subjugation and exploitation. The dawn of freedom and independence was therefore a significant departure from centuries of abuse, human degradation, disposition of land and other properties and the exploitation of their labour.
Africa Day is also an occasion to commemorate the sacrifices of the martyrs of anti-slavery and anti-colonial struggles on the Continent and in the diaspora. Their sacrifices punctuated the bitter struggles for self- determination, freedom and independence. In Namibia we proclaim: “… their blood waters our freedom”!
Africa Day further reminds us that Africa has not as yet reached its destination, that is, total cultural, social and economic transformation. Africa requires total transformation to fight under-development. African under-development is the cause of wide-spread poverty, inequality, youth unemployment, lack of proper housing and health care and above all the plundering of Africa’s natural resources by foreigners. Africa Day calls therefore for reflection on the current African condition.
The Current African Condition.
Africa Independence was in many ways achieved through compromises and under the condition of unfavourable global environment. The 1960s were characterized by intense competition between capitalism and socialism. This struggle between these two forces came to be known as Cold War. Kwame Nkrumah, the foremost Pan-Africanist, declared the policy of positive neutrality: “… we are not looking West or East, we are looking forward”! A Non-Aligned Movement was founded to advance the interests of countries who did not align themselves with any of the competing powers. Nonetheless, Africa became a victim of foreign inspired military coups. The murder of Patrice Lumumba, the leader of Congo and the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah are just some of the tragedies which diverted Africa’s march to true and genuine independence.
Moreover, Africa’s resources remained in the control of multi-national corporations. The structure of African economies never changed. Africa became a victim of extractive industries. Such industries had several disadvantages. In the first place, extractive industries are capital intensive. They created limited employment. Secondly, Africa has not been in a position to influence or determine the price of commodities extracted from its soil. Prices of such commodities fluctuated and left African economies vulnerable to unpredictable prices of their commodities. In addition, Africa could not control the exact pricing of their commodities, thus, creating opportunities for illicit transfer of money off-shore through schemes such as transfer pricing.
Africa found itself in an unenviable position. In order to meet budget short falls, many an African country resorted to uncontrolled borrowing. Such countries became highly indebted or HIPs. The Breton Wood Institutions found opportunity to impose Structural Adjustment Programmes which hindered and arrested social transformation in Africa. If the 1970s was a decade of military coups and stagnation, the 1980s was a decade of socio-economic retrogression and despair.
African leadership itself was not above board. The politics of patronage, Big Man Rule and One-Party State created environments of corruption and unaccountability. Countries were literally run down. Hopelessness and despair replaced the promise of independence. The spectre of civil wars reared its ugly head in many African countries. Some African countries became failed States. Africa was regressing. This prompted the African Union to come up with Agenda 2063.
This year Africa Day is being celebrated under the theme African Union Agenda 2063. The African Union adopted this strategic plan in 2015. Agenda 2063 is envisioned as a strategic plan for Africa’s socio-economic transformation. The Plan envisages that during the next fifty years Africa should strive for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Continent driven by its own citizens. The Plan is under-pinned by the African Aspiration for 2063 which promises a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
African Union Agenda 2063 is an ambitious Plan. We had a similar Plan called the Abuja Treaty. How far did the Abuja Treaty impact on the livelihood of the African people! In the case of Agenda 2063, is Africa mobilizing its human, technical and financial resources to implement this beautiful strategic Plan!
The new thinking on the socio-economic transformation of African societies suggests that while Africa is struggling to industrialize its economies, Africa should focus on low hanging fruits such as the stimulation of service industry, agricultural development and processing, the promise of ICT and sports development, etc.
In short, there is a need for a new thinking on African transformation, innovative approaches and social mobilization.
HAPPY AFRICA DAY!