December 14, 2019 PAN-AFRICAN MOVEMENT

PAN AFRICAN MOVEMENT REMARKS BY CHAIRMAN

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, the founding President (and previously Prime Minister) of Ghana, famously announced to all his fellow Pan-Africanists: “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be added unto you.”

He believed that provided the nations of the continent could win political freedom through self-government from the European colonialists who controlled much of Africa in the period immediately after the Second World War, their people would be able to prosper in a manner which was not possible while they were weighed down with the yoke of colonialism.

Nkrumah was truly one of the founders of the Pan-African Movement. When Ghana gained its independence on 6th March 1957, most African nations were still colonies. Nkrumah’s response to this was to declare that “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked-up with the total liberation of the African Continent”.

This was not just an idle statement made for effect. Nkrumah had a clearly articulated philosophy of why African nations had to first secure independence and then to unite, if they were to have any influence at all, on the global stage.

He was not alone in holding this view. Indeed this perspective was taken as the gospel truth right across Africa with Ahmed Ben Bella, the Algerian politician, socialist, soldier and revolutionary who was the first President of Algeria, taking it even further and declaring, “Let us all agree to die a little, or even completely so that African unity may not be a vain word.”

Much as Nkrumah emphasized seeking first the political kingdom, he fully appreciated that it was economic devlopment which represented the greatest challenge to African nations. His idea was that once independence was attained, thereafter it was economic cooperation – and not necessarily any political amalgamation – that would help bring cooperation to Africa.

This is how he explained it: “Africa is one continent, one people, and one nation. The notion that in order to have a nation it is necessary for there to be a common language, a common territory and common culture has failed to stand the test of time or the scrutiny of scientific definition of objective reality… The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognise themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent.”

Kwame Nkrumah, over 50 years ago, was effectively calling for what we now see being made into reality: the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The free-trade area is now the largest in the world in terms of the sheer number of the participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement which created the free area was brokered by the African Union (AU) and was signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.

Since then, much progress has been made.

As explained in the influential ‘Financial Times’ on the 29th of May 2019:

Africa will take a big step towards tackling entrenched economic problems including a dearth of intra-regional trade when a new continent-wide free trade agreement comes into force on May 30. Proponents of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) say it has the potential to boost economic growth on a continent of 55 nations under the African Union with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3tn and a young, expanding population.

AfCFTA is meant to eliminate 90 per cent of tariffs and create a single market with free movement of goods and services. Fifty-two countries have signed up AfCFTA’s backers say it will move Africa closer to Asean’s level so that trade can flourish across the continent.

It is this vision of an economically-linked continent that led Kwame Nkrumah to state that “The community of economic life is the major feature within a nation, and it is the economy which holds together the people living in a territory. It is on this basis that the new Africans recognise themselves as potentially one nation, whose dominion is the entire African continent.”

And it is in this context that the creation of a Pan-African Movement Entrepreneurs’ Council, and the Pan-African Movement Infrastructure and Investment Bank, must be understood.

These are the tools we need to tackle our “entrenched economic problems” which have remained on the continent for far too long.

Nelson Mandela made the point that this dream, which has been deferred for the last half a century was well articulated by Nelson Mandela when he threw down this challenge to the next generation of African leaders: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

While Africa values all investment from outside, be they from the East or from the West, it is all the same truth that we must also have our own tools which we can deploy to the task of resolving these intractable economic problems which have led to our people being mired in poverty while other peoples flourished.

He followed this statement with a challenge to the emerging generation of African leaders:

Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

Of all these practical challenges faced by the current generation of African leaders in their efforts to end poverty, none is quite so urgent as the need to create better infrastructure and to improve logistics within Africa.

It is the lack of good roads over our vast continental areas, combined with poor freight connections and inefficient border procedures that have prevented intra-African trade from matching the internal or regional trade links to be found in other continents.

In one of his last speeches, Nkrumah said, As far as I am concerned, I am in the knowledge that death can never extinguish the torch which I have lit in Ghana and Africa. Long after I am dead and gone, the light will continue to burn and be borne aloft, giving light and guidance to all people”

This was a prophetic statement.

For now, we are all set to move forward and reclaim Nkrumah’s dream of a strong and united African economic bloc.

The creation of the Pan-African Movement Entrepreneurs’ Council, and the Pan-African Movement Infrastructure and Investment Bank, are a crucial step on the road to actualizing the vision of ending poverty within Africa once and for all.

This challenge calls for the close economic cooperation envisaged in the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

For as Gamal Abdel Nasser, the second President of Egypt and one of the most influential founding fathers of the Pan African movement pointed out in yet another remarkable prescient statement:

The age of isolation is gone. And gone are the days in which barbed wire served as demarcation lines, separating and isolating countries from one another. No country can escape looking beyond its boundaries to find the source of the currents which influence how it can live with others.

This dream, which has been deferred for the last half
a century was well articulated by Nelson Mandela when he threw down this challenge to the next generation of African leaders

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

in EFFORTS
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