Panafricanism: Building a Better Africa and World

Published on 20th June 2017

Allow me to begin by paying homage to the Namibian struggle icon and anti-apartheid activist Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo who passed away at the age of 93 in Windhoek on Friday, 09 June 2017. Comrade Toivo Ya Toivo will be remembered for his tireless struggle towards Africa’s and Namibia’s struggle for emancipation. We use this occasion to express our deepest condolences to his family, to SWAPO, and to the people and government of Namibia. Hamba Kahle Cde Toivo Ya Toivo.

The genesis of our Pan-Africanist ideology and movement was in response to colonisation of the African continent and our resolve to work towards a shared future as Africans. Professor Adekeye Adebajo, Director of the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg describes Pan-Africanism thus: "Pan-Africanism can be defined as the efforts to promote the political, socio-economic and cultural unity and self-reliance of Africa and its diaspora.”

Pan-Africanism can also be described as a: worldwide intellectual movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all people of African descent and extends beyond continental Africans, with a substantial support base amongst the African diaspora… [1]. (wikipedia)

It is based on the belief that unity is vital to economic, social, and political progress and aims to "unify and uplift" people of African descent [2]. It asserts that the fate of all African peoples and countries are intertwined. At its core Pan-Africanism is "a belief that African peoples, both on the continent and in the diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny [3]. (wikipedia)

This vision of African Unity found expression in the writings and pronouncements of many African descendants across the globe such as Sylvester Williams, WEB Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Sol Plaatje and Pixley Ka Isama Seke to name but a few. Our Founding fathers such as Julias Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, OR Tambo amongst others built on this ideological platform and also developed concrete programmes to implement Pan-Africanism both in the struggle against colonialism and apartheid and in our post- colonial and apartheid era.

It is evident that we have subscribed to this ideology and its values from the onset of our struggle for liberation from colonialism and apartheid. The founding fathers of our liberation movement the African National Congress (ANC) such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Sol Plaatje were from the outset Pan Africanist in their intellectual, revolutionary and ideological outlook. The establishment of the ANC in 1912 was in fact a direct Pan-Africanist liberation response to colonialism and apartheid in Africa in general and South Africa in particular. The ANC‘s founding fathers infused the principles and ideology of progressive Pan- Africanism into the liberation movement.

Since then both during our struggle against apartheid and colonialism and since our democracy every generation of our leadership from (President Luthuli to President Zuma) have continued to build upon these ideals in both policy and practice. Our Pan Africanist outlook as a country is therefore a post democratic vision grounded in our historical struggle against colonialism, imperialism and apartheid.

We have always believed that we are Africans and share a common history and destiny with our brothers and sisters on the continent and the diaspora.  We will continue to contribute towards the rebirth of our continent and ushering in of a new era; an era where Africa will be free from the bondage of colonialism and apartheid. To this end I am reminded of the famous words of Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1909 when he articulated the kind of Africa we aspired to when he said: “The regeneration of Africa means that a new and unique civilisation is soon to be added to the world.”

Leaders such as Félix Houphouët-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea, General Nasser of Egypt, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Thomas Sinkarra of Burkina Faso , Modibo Kéïta of Mali, and OR Tambo amongst others all embodied the ideal of Pan Africanism as a necessary political and ideological response to addressing the legacy of colonialism and the fight against Apartheid.

While we have acknowledged the role fellow Africans and the global anti-colonial movements have played in our struggle, it is equally important to emphasise that our own destiny and future can never be divorced from that of the continent. Our own icon, President Nelson Mandela, through an article on Foreign Affairs magazine in 1993, reminded the world that South Africa ‘cannot escape its African destiny’ and emphasised our role in the pursuit of Africa Unity.

In the final analysis it must be deduced that we are not Africans by mere geographical location, we are Africans by birth. We recognise that for South Africa to prosper, Africa as a whole needs to prosper as it is unsustainable to be an island of wealth surrounded by a sea of poverty.

Democratic South Africa has therefore taken its rightful place on the continent and has contributed immensely towards Africa’s peace and prosperity in line with our Pan African Ideals. We have played a central role in the transformation of the OAU into the AU and from the outset we have played an integral role in shaping its vision, policies, legal architecture, systems and institutions. We have continued to support conflict resolution , peace keeping and post reconstruction and development across our continent in Burundi, DRC, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Comoros, Madagascar and  Lesotho to mention but a few . We remain committed to building economic integration and infrastructure development to address the challenges of intra-Africa trade.

We have been honoured with various leadership roles in Africa. African leaders have entrusted us with leading the continent in many international fora. Certainly, this will continue as we work within the collective of the Africa leadership going forward.

You will recall that in 2002 we hosted the landmark summit which culminated in the Organization of African Unity becoming the present day African Union (AU). We were guided by the shared vision of a united, prosperous and strong Africa that Nkrumah, Nyerre, Tambo and Mandela envisioned.

Most importantly, in the city of Durban, the AU was entrusted with the mandate to take the political and the economic integration agenda of the continent forward. For our part this ushered in an era that sought to bolster efforts to reverse the legacy of colonialism which Chief Albert Luthuli referred to during the 60s when he said: “Our continent has been carved up by great powers….human skills and energy have been harnessed for the advantage of our conquerors.”

It is against this background that we availed Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for the position of AU Commission Chair. She made us proud by amongst others leading the adoption of a revised shared vision of the ‘Africa we Want’ in the form of Agenda 2063. Most notably Dr Dlamini Zuma played a leading role in women empowerment on the continent and as such made gender equality central to the pursuit of Pan Africanism and in fostering Unity of purpose.

We use this opportunity to congratulate her on the successful completion of her tour of duty. I want to also use this opportunity to add to the congratulations already extended to Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Health, his excellency Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on his election as the new Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dr. Ghebreyesus brings his rich experience to this position having also served as Chairperson of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight HIV-Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, amongst others. We celebrate his election, and we will support him in all his efforts. 

The African Heads of State and Government declared 2017 as the year of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.”

On 2 June 2017 President Zuma formally launched the Youth Month under the theme “The Year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment.” These two initiatives will enable us to have focused debates on how best we can accelerate youth empowerment in our country and on our continent.

In moving forward, South Africa should work hard on the improvement of cultural exchanges and promotion of cultural diplomacy. We also need to be proactive and remind our citizens of the role the continent played in pursuit of the freedoms we enjoy today.

Informed by the foundations laid by our forbearers, the ideals and values of Pan-Africanism shall propel us to realise the aspirations of Agenda 2063.

Finally, allow me to conclude by paying tribute to our fellow Ghanaian patriots years celebrate 60 years of freedom this year. Ghana’s independence served as a thrust for the independence of many other African states and for that we remain grateful to their leadership, particularly Dr Nkrumah who once said:  “If we are to remain free, if we are to enjoy the full benefits of Africa’s rich resources, we must unite to plan for our total defence and the full exploitation of our material and human means, in the full interests of all our peoples. “To go it alone” will limit our horizons, curtail our expectations, and threaten our liberty.”

By Luwellyn Landers,

Deputy Minister of International Relations & Cooperation,

Republic of South Africa.

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