United States of Africa: The Numbers Game

Wendy Nyakurerwa – Assistant Editor

The United States of Africa remains a gigantic dream cherished by the great visionaries of genuine Pan-Africanism.

They see opportunities beneath the complexities. When Marcus Garvey first conceived the idea back in 1924 in a poem that jubilantly professed that “all alien whites are forever gone”, his was a noble idea that reduced Cecil John Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo dream into a caricature. A Jamaican by birth, Garvey felt African at heart.

And it did happen; African nations did become united, but sadly not in the way that Garvey envisioned, where “There’s but one law and sentiment sublime. One flag, and its emblem of which we boast”.

Back in 1963, Kwame Nkrumah and Haile Selassie took the idea forward to form the 37-nation Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union.

But still, 54 African nations exist despite this unity. We talk of North, Southern, West, East and Central Africa broken further into Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone Africa.

And this is the reason why the then African Union Chair, the late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, further pushed for the United States of Africa with “a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent”.

Of course, very few African countries warmed up to the idea. You see, Col Gaddafi had his fair share of political controversies, real and imagined. Therefore, the messenger was shot there and then, without wasting any time scrutinising the pros and cons of the message that he sought to convey. It’s unfortunate I am not a necromancer. If l was, l would have journeyed to the other world to seek counsel from the colonel himself so that l could adequately dissect what exactly was going on in his mind when he advocated for the US of Africa.

As it stands, I can only pick up from where he left and add my sagacity to it.

I strongly believe that his idea was premised on the game of numbers.

Africa’s population is reported to be slightly below 1,2 billion. Such large numbers put together can work wonders in building political and economic powers as compared to the 13 million of Zimbabwe, Lesotho’s two million or Swaziland’s one million. They say when spiders unite, they can catch a lion, isn’t it?

It is not a coincidence that China, the world’s most populous (1,4 billion people) is now the world’s economic giant with a GDP of US$19 trillion. Neither is it a coincidence that the United States of America is in hot pursuit at US$18 trillion with its 330 million-strong population.

In fact, most of the world’s most populous nations top the list of the richest countries. Population dynamics influence development at national, regional and global levels. The only challenge that has to be addressed with a huge population is to meet the increasing needs of the growing population while at the same time modifying production and consumption patterns to achieve a more sustainable development model that will promote economic growth.

Population dynamics affect consumption, production, employment, income distribution and poverty. As each individual consumes, they contribute to the nation’s income. Most African countries with small populations have industries that shut down at night, thereby shutting down productivity and GDP generation.

Africa, with its 1,2 billion people, cannot afford to have this kind of sleeping economy. Under one banner, Africa becomes united politically and economically to become a world giant that speaks to the Western big brothers with one voice.

In a world of increasing globalisation, where the small guys are often drowned by bigger players, especially on issues such as trade, the only way for the continent to prosper is through unity. Understandably, the idea sounds too gigantic and scary.

But come to think of it, it is colonialism which brought about these boundaries in the first place; those same borders that continue to inhibit travel and trade.

The borders that have inevitably brought about the crisis of national consciousness and identity which is currently ravaging Africa and is giving birth to political manipulation of disputes over nationality. The kind of manipulation that has led, for example, to the recent xenophobic, or is it Afrophobic attacks, in South Africa where rogue elements saw it fit to persecute their fellow African brothers and sisters for merely crossing borders.

The fact that the African federation has received few backers is an indication that the coloniser did his job so well. We should give it to Rhodes and company.

The effects of colonisation of the mind lingers even up to this day. Granted, economies are moving at very different paces and countries that are more advanced might feel that they are better off on their own. But is that what’s best for the continent?

Why talk of African unity when so many disparities exist across its borders? When our brothers and sisters in Somalia wallow in poverty and those in Nigeria face attacks from fellow countrymen while we close borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia because of a virus that is not of their own making?

African unity is not a theory that we can just talk about, it has to be practiced.

Of course, we don’t wake up and have a United States of Africa overnight. It is something that requires adequate time for planning, preparation and implementation. It is a long-term agenda.

A common agenda that governs each and every single African is a pre-requisite if real African unity is to be attained.

Only then will Africa emerge from its political and economic crises and benefit from its Africanness.

This should not be a Herculean task, especially when considering the fact that the bedrock of this desired state is in shared traits derived from a common history and an evident desire to live together, prosper and fall together. Premised on humanism, this state will act as a cradle to protect and promote human rights in all spheres regardless of their nationality, language, religion and customs.

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  • Chunky

    We need more than skin colour (a birth coincidence) to unite us. Shared values baba.