CREATING A COMMON AFRICAN BASE TO ENGAGE THE WORLD: A PAN AFRICANIST REFLECTION

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Programme Director, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and gentlemen, It is an honour for me to speak to you at this important meeting of the OPEN SOCIETY AND INITIATIVE FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA. I like the name especially, the words Open and Initiative. We need openness and initiative in Africa.

I have been asked to speak on CREATING A COMMON AFRICAN BASE TO ENGAGE THE WORLD: A Pan Africanist Reflection. I shall humbly do so from a Pan Africanist perspective. You are the architects of Africa’s future and shapers of her present.

Now! How Do I Start?

Well, knowledge has been colonized and information manipulated in order to control the minds of African people, and achieve epistemological domination over them so as to undermine their national and continental interests. There is much that must be known, regained and done to restore Africa to her lost power and glory. Africa created the first human civilization on this planet. In adoration and admiration of the Africa he knew, that great Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar exclaimed, “Ex Africa semper aliquid novi!” (Out of Africa comes always something new).

Africa’s people must engage with the modern world on the basis of interdependence, not dependence, especially economically. Africans must not present themselves to the world as if they are bankrupt debtors with nothing to bring to the world’s table. Creating a common African base to engage the world requires certain things to be observed and done. This also imposes some demands on Africa’s people to meet.

Programme Director, Distinguished Delegates, As Africa’s people, we must learn from our history fast. History shows that Africans are the only people who have always fought their common struggles individually and not as a collective. On the contrary the enemies of Africa have always worked together when destroying Africans. They did so during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. They were together at the Berlin Conference in 1885 when they grabbed what was not theirs. They sliced and partitioned Africa into “British Africa”, “French Africa”, “Portuguese Africa”, “Belgian Africa”, “Spanish Africa”, “German Africa” and “Italian Africa.” There was nothing left for Africans except Ethiopia and Liberia, encircled by paupers of land dispossessed people who were now the reservoir of cheap native labour for their dispossessors. Somalia, a tiny African country had the triple misfortune of becoming “British Somaliland”, “French Somaliland” and “Italian Somaliland.”

It is suicidal for the African people to be divided along ethnic, regional and linguistic lines as the history of Africa so eloquently demonstrates.

Programme Director, A slogan of one of the liberation movements in this country is “Africa for Africans, Africans for humanity and humanity for God.” A hymn was also composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1887. He was a teacher in a Methodist mission school. This hymn was adopted by all liberation movements of this country. It is called Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika. God Bless Africa. This anthem does not say God bless South Africa or Somalia, or Zimbabwe or Mozambique. It says God bless Africa. That is the whole Continent of Africa. This is all the people of Africa and of African descent.

The stubborn fact is that Africans are one. They have a common destiny. They will win together or perish together depending on how they look at one another and how they fight their common struggles. We are sailing in the same ship on the African continent. If it sails safely across the stormy seas we shall all be safe. If this African ship sinks, we shall all sink. We must be each other’s keeper. The present calamity of Somalia is an African calamity. The glory of Ghana in the recent World Cup competition when Ghanaians beat the USA is African glory. This should demolish the myth of “makwerekwere” even among the worst elements of Afrophobia.

The hard truth is that when Africans were enslaved or colonized, the perpetrators of these barbaric acts never cared whether you were South African, Mozambican, Nigerian, Angolan, Azanian, Malawian, Congolese or Motswana. They inflicted their atrocities on every African whether in Jamaica or in America. Afrophobia is a dangerous diversion from the real task of rebuilding the broken walls of Africa.

Programme Director, Africa is not a beggar. She has material resources to develop this great continent and banish poverty from her shores. African leaders must stop dealing with some leaders of this world as if they were demigods. Some researchers have found that Tanzania has most kinds of biological resources including mahogany and other woods. Zambia has 36 million tons of copper. Namibia has the largest deposits of the best diamonds in the world. Guinea in West Africa has the highest reserves of bauxite in the world. South Africa is said to have 65 billion tons of coal and Nigeria 32 trillion of gas. Somalia has 30 million tons of jepson, a building material. These are a few examples of the riches of Africa.

Where do these African riches go? Some knowledgeable people have estimated that the Democratic Republic of Congo alone when developed could feed and provide electricity for the whole of Africa. The enormous wealth of the DRC is further demonstrated by the fact that during the Second World War, Congo which was then a Belgian colony paid all the financial debts of the European war. After Belgium was overrun by the Nazi army of Adolf Hitler, Belgium established a government-in-exile in London.

Belgium is the size of Lesotho. Congo Kinshasa is 9O5355 square miles. It is as large as the following twelve European countries put together: Britain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Armenia and Albania. The untapped wealth of the Congo is estimated at 24 trillion US dollars. This is equivalent to the Gross Domestic Product of Europe and America combined. It makes Congo potentially the richest country in the world.

The Colonial Secretary of the exiled Belgian government, Godding has boasted that “During the War, the Congo was able to finance all the expenditure of the Belgian government-in-exile in London, including the diplomatic service as well as the cost of armed forces in Europe and America…the Belgian gold reserve could be left intact.”

Senator Jesse Helms commenting on America’s dependence on African wealth told the American people “South Africa is the source of over 8O% of American mineral supply and 86% of platinum resources. I will not go into details of each vital mineral supply. It was former Secretary of State Alexander Haig who said that the loss of mineral output of South Africa could bring: ‘The severest consequences to the existing economic and security of the free world.’ ”

The American Senator elaborated, “South Africa has 96% of the world’s chrome reserves. As you know there is no substitute for chrome in our military and industrial manufacturing. Without South African chrome, no engines for modern jet aircraft, cruise missiles or armaments could be built. The United States would be grounded. Our military would be unarmed. Without South African chrome, surgical equipment and utensils could not be produced. Our hospitals and doctors would be helpless.”

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first President of Ghana was right when he said, “If Africa’s resources were used in her own development they would place Africa among the most modernised continents of the world. But Africa’s wealth is used for the development of overseas interests.”

In 1959 President Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe of the Pan Africanist Congress proclaimed, “The potential wealth of Africa in minerals, oil, hydro-electric power; and so on is immense. By cutting out waste through systematic planning, a central government can bring the most rapid development.” Sobukwe envisioned that “By the end of the 2Oth century, the standard of living of the African masses will undoubtedly have arisen dramatically. Subsistence farming will have disappeared. A large internal market will absorb a very large percentage of the industrial and agricultural products of the African continent.” But lo! Fifteen years into the 21st century African people are victims of lack of service delivery, corruption in high places and intensified looting of Africa’s riches by foreign powers. There is deepening poverty, with consequences of short life expectancy and highest child mortality among the majority African population.

Programme Director, Education is the key to the development of Africa, wise control of its raw materials and use of its human resources. Quality education is the key to creating and controlling Africa’s wealth and to mentally decolonizing her people’s captured minds. There must be high education for Africa’s children. That education must be diverse and tailored to the needs of Africa. All African countries must prioritize and maximize the study of modern science, technology, finance and economics in all their institutions of learning. African children must be equipped with skills and professions that arm their countries with technological capacity to process Africa’s raw materials and export them to the outside world as finished goods.

Where there is urgent need or desperate lack of technology to process raw materials rapidly, African countries must exchange Africa’s raw materials for high technology. In this way Africa can quickly acquire technological capacity to process her raw materials and use the riches of Africa for her people. Countries that enrich themselves from Africa’s raw materials are secretive and reluctant about technology transfer to Africa. Knowledge is power. This is probably why Prophet Hosea told his people in 735 B.C. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

Yes, we are Batswana, Swazis, Somalis, Tanzanians, Zambians, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans, Congolese, Basotho, South Africans, Angolans etc, but the train that will take Africans to their destination and enable them to take their destiny into their own hands is Pan African nationalism, not ethnicity or regionalism. Pan African nationalism is the privilege of the African people to love themselves and give their way of life preference. Pan African nationalism views the personhood and humanity of the African people as equal to any other people on this planet. Pan African nationalism rejects any philosophy that seems to hold that Africans are destined to exist in servitude to other human beings. Pan African nationalism does not look down on other members of the human race. But it demands justice for African interests. Africa’s riches belong to Africans. They are there for the benefit of the African people. They are not there to fuel foreign economies.

Distinguished delegates, Pan Africanism is a solution to many problems facing Africa today. Pan Africanism is a political philosophy that was conceived in the womb of Africa. It was formally organized in 19OO. Its relevance is unquestionable. Its effectiveness and prowess was demonstrated at the 5th Pan African Congress in Manchester in 1945 when it became a weapon that won political freedom for Africa and reversed the African tragedy of the Berlin Conference. Africans have had victories when they were united but ignominious defeats when they fought common struggles divided. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere the first President of Tanzania after some doubts finally said, “There is no time to waste. We must either unite now or perish. Political independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our economic and social affairs, to construct our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating control and interference.”

Honourable delegates, the very people who are supposedly giving “foreign aid” to Africa are getting their own riches in Africa. That is why they are roaming all over Africa looking for Africa’s raw materials, but unwilling to invest in the infrastructure of the Continent and to transfer high technology to Africa. Africa’s riches are enormous. There are hardly any mineral and agricultural products that cannot be found in Africa. What we need is technological capacity to make the riches of Africa work for Africa’s people.

From the Pan Africanist perspective, CREATING A COMMON AFRICAN BASE TO ENGAGE THE WORLD Africa must meet some of the following long overdue conditions:

Promote and maintain peace and political stability on the Continent and lift the living standard of her people and punish any corrupt leaders very severely. Corruption exacerbates poverty and destroys nations; Maximize the study of science and technology in all institutions of learning; African countries must trade more among themselves and produce what they consume instead of being consumers of foreign goods and producing what they do not consume; Africa must have a unified foreign policy. 53 countries speak with too many voices which sometimes compromise or even endanger the security of Africa; Africa must avoid “foreign aid” whose goal is not developmental, but is to keep Africa dependent economically and technologically; Africa must formulate a common foreign investment policy with emphasis on infrastructure -Leave everything that local investors can do to local African business; There must be a common Continental planning for economic and industrial development and Africa’s common defense system; A Pan African Common Market; A Pan African Currency; A Pan African Monetary Zone; An Advanced System Of Communication and Transport; An Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; and A Pan African Skills Bank.

Programme Director, Self-reliance is the best policy. We must learn how to fish for ourselves rather than depending on others to fish for us. We must develop a culture of HARD WORK. Africa must engage the world not from a position of weakness. Africans must develop their own power base. We must remember that powerful people never educate powerless people how to take power from them. We must move away from the dependency syndrome to self help. We must safeguard Africa’s interests for Africa’s people. That is our primary responsibility.

THANK YOU DISTINGUISHED DELEGATES, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

By Dr. Motsoko Pheko

 (This is a keynote address presented to the Open Society and Initiative for Southern Africa in Johannesburg on the 3rd August 2010)