What befell a police officer in his bid to arrest a suspect at Kongowea town in Kenya’s Coast Province ought to teach Africans a great lesson on the need for integration. The chase turned near tragic when both the hunter and hunted fell into a 55 –feet deep borehole where they spent ten hours awaiting rescue. The officer had to shoot in the air as an SOS signal to beckon rescue from passersby. The two were taken to the Coast General Hospital.
For ten hours, the officer and suspect were trapped in the borehole. Faced with a similar predicament, it was no time to curse; consider ethnicity; argue on party affiliation or brag about education status and creed. It did not matter whether their apparel was manufactured in Europe or China. The common pursuit was to exit their predicament. The gun that was meant to subdu the suspect was transformed into an instrument of salvation.
That an enlightened person and former minister in charge of Kenya’s constitution, Sir Charles Njonjo, should declare that he jubilated when talks meant to bring about the East Africa Community hit a snag is quite disheratening. When elites like University of Nairobi political science Professor Peter Wanyande doubt the wisdom in Africa’s unity, it is a disgrace to Africa’s academia. What ideals are such people pursuing? A crop of Africans still have a constrained vision that ends at reaching the status of former colonial masters- inherit former colonial farms, own their size of houses and that is all.They don't see beyond their country.
“It is no longer a debate about whether integration is desirable or not, but how fast we will achieve it,” says Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, deputy director of the UN Millennium Campaign in a recent meeting that brought together representatives from government, civil society, media and the private sector. In this meeting, a Kenyan with businesses in Rwanda was shocked that some people don’t realize the benefits of integration.
Faced with the same predicament of marginalization in global trade: competing at the bottom of the human development indices; high infant mortality rates; lowest average life expectancies; lowest literacy rates; fewer doctors per head; poverty (7 out of 10 Africans are on the verge of extreme poverty) and hunger (over 200 million Africans are chronically hungry), Africa ought to shun petty differences, adopt a continental mentally and forge a united front against these problems.
“We are broken up in 54 states. Each state faces the other partners alone. In Uganda, we negotiate with the development partners alone. You will find all our partners on one side and Uganda is here in the dock. This is part of the weakness of Africans. We must negotiate together,” says Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda.
China, a communist country negotiates with America. They were communist yesterday; they are still communists today and even tomorrow. They negotiate with America because... you are talking of 1.3 billion people! A small African country going alone would be of no consequence. Even tiny Belgium, which is better off in terms of economic performance than South Africa, Nigeria and the whole of East Africa’s GDP’s combined would rather hide in the EU. Why don’t we learn the wisdom of these people?
The future of wealth creation in Africa lies in policy makers realizing that individual nations are but provinces in Africa. Consequently, policy should focus on opening up Africa’s borders, allowing business people to take active role in regional blocs such as the East African Community (EAC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) among others. Policy makers also ought to focus on cultivating a critical mass of business people who can supply the wider market in Africa and the world. The resource rich Africa urgently needs regional hubs of economic activity that will help transform the continent’s economy from reliance on aid and export of raw materials.
By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer
Comment on this article!