In DepthThe QuestionShould there be a United States of Africa?


Posted on Monday, 23 March 2009 17:05

Should there be a United States of Africa?

By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Nkosana Moyo & Yao Graham


Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem?, Deputy director for Africa, UN Millennium Campaign


??“The freedom ?of people to move, work and trade”


In the age of globalisation, the bigger the better, and the idea of African unity is not new. I am interested in the basic infrastructure that reclaims Africa for Africans, in terms of the freedom of our people to move, settle, work and trade amongst ourselves. Africa can begin to take the firm steps that will lead eventually to an AU government or a federation of African states in the future. Part of the reform necessary is to elect a pan-African parliament on universal adult suffrage of all Africans, the way European elections are held. That way, pan-Africanism ceases to be a conference matter and becomes part of the domestic agenda. President Muammar el Qadhafi has not invented pan-Africanism, he is only lending his political support and financial resources to say, ‘let us put our money where our mouth is and move this process forward’.


Nkosana Moyo?, Partner, Actis


??“The fundamental rationale has to be an economic one”


I think there’s got to be a two-speed approach. States that are ready up front can begin the process and allow a mechanism which clearly articulates the internal self-governance disciplines required by a state before it is admitted to such a club. The fundamental rationale has to be an economic one. Quite a lot of African states could be considered unviable entities. When you start looking at the economics of viability in a globalised world, you cannot help but be driven to an economic amalgamation of one sort or another. I think the problem at the moment is the steam and the emotion that come from personalising it and asking the question of whether Muammar el Qadhafi is the appropriate party at this time to be motivating such an initiative. As long as there is clarity about what countries need to do before they can be admitted to such an arrangement, Qadhafi could be the catalyst.


Yao Graham?, Coordinator, Third World Network??


“The difference is about how to achieve it”


Africa’s people predominantly support a United States of Africa. Among Africa’s politicians the difference is about how to achieve it. The reality is that even a ‘Now!’ stance requires steps that the gradualists will accept. Even as African leaders are fiddling, particular forms of unity and fragmentation are being imposed by external influences, for example by the EU through the its Economic Partnership Agreements, which are completely undermining the logic and fabric of Africa’s home-grown conceptions and approaches to unity. Place alongside this the histrionics and impractical stances of Muammar el Qadhafi, the unpredictable champion of ‘Unity Now!’, and it becomes clear that the issue is not whether a United States of Africa is needed, but rather the absence of the critical mass of the type of political leadership needed to achieve it.

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