Dashiki Dialogues: Where is our dream of African unity?

2013-05-22 10:00

Do you remember a time when the word Africa gave you a scared sense of purpose whenever you heard it spoken? I do.

This is regardless of the fact I was born at the tail end of the spirit of the time, a full 10 years before Brenda Fassie released her magnum opus, Black President.

It was six years before the apartheid regime banned Winston Mankunku Ngozi’s jazz LP, Jika.

Anyway, this reflection came to me because the Organisation of African Unity, which has since morphed into the African Union (AU), is turning 50 this year.

I’m concerned that the electric feeling that went with the mere mention of Africa feels diminished. In fact, even our former president Thabo Mbeki has been repeatedly quoted as saying that Africa’s progressive movement is in retreat.

This is to say that the grand network of interests, agendas and people who shared a bowl of passion for the advancement of Africa and her people are not as resolved as before.

Narrow politics of ethnicity, country and party interest seem to, in fact, obscure what used to be the continent’s nobler ideals of unity, economic growth and cooperation.

It figures because, in some quarters, the idea of who Africans are is not clear.

This is regardless of an understanding that our sense of identity should have enough space for Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Cheb Mami and Charlize Theron.

In fact, to point out how much the continent is in a bad way, consider the following: press freedom on the continent is defended by multinational organs like Reporters Without Borders, African poverty is fought by Bono and Jeffrey Sachs, our civil wars are solved by UN peacekeeping forces, Africa’s economic policies are determined by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, while her people are liberated by Nato.

I heard these observations made by a passionate observer, albeit with a touch of hyperbole. But his hold on the truth is undeniable.

Only fumbling responses were offered by African leaders as the West descended on Libya, and the acceptance that South Africa should pull out and make way for French soldiers in the Central African Republic are only two indicators of the retreat Mbeki speaks of.

One cannot but notice the absence of a guiding paradigm in popular African discourse to guide a march towards a continental cohesion of sorts. Pan-Africanism is mute and no one speaks of the African renaissance much any more.

Now the Chinese are here and people are crying foul, with warnings of a new coloniser. Our dialogues are not as resolved as the year after Fela Kuti released Shuffering and Shmiling, and our dashikis seem a tad faded as the AU turns 50.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.