The Sunday News
Asserting an African Century
MORE than a century after its colonisation, and over 66 years into its Independence, Africa must begin to claim, define and assert its own century.
The dream of a politically decolonised continent, which Africa’s founding fathers declared at the inception of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in May 1963, is now a virtual reality. Only Western Sahara remains outstanding.
The road to full decolonisation was long and arduous, starting with the independence of Ghana in 1957. Thereafter, several African countries gained Independence, all the time widening Africa’s vistas. The toughest phase of that decolonisation process was here in Southern Africa, where colonialism had assumed a settler form, and thus got deeply and bellicosely entrenched. To dislodge it, bloody armed struggles became necessary. Africa showed its unity and resolve, leading to the independence of our sub-region. Africa at 60 thus is a celebration of freedoms well won through huge sacrifices, and out of the unity of a determined continent.
What needs to be done?
Today our continent must harness this protracted historic victory over entrenched multinational colonial imperialism to set upon a new course leading to an African Century. Multinational because most Western countries on that fateful day, February 26, 1885, signed the General Act of the Berlin Conference. These were Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the USA, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Turkey. Today we build on the legacy of our resistance as a continent to catapult ourselves forward towards a new destiny in which the African is his/her own master. What, then, needs to be done?
Silencing the guns
First, the guns must be silenced on our continent. Guns of fratricidal conflicts of whatever hue or complexion. Violent internal contradictions; insurgency, inter-state conflicts or surrogate wars: all these must give way so our continent consolidates peace and cohesion for it to move forward.
Africa cannot continue to fritter away her resources on guns, instead of spending them on butter. The fratricidal war in the Sudan is of great concern to Africa; to Zimbabwe especially. African Union’s Peace and Security Council, PSC, to which Zimbabwe is currently a member, must redouble its efforts so peace returns to the Sudan. Sudan, alongside Egypt, is an important symbol of Africa’s and the world’s riverine civilisation; indeed, a great symbol of resistance to colonial encroachment and occupation. She is a valuable part of our union; she must be helped to regain her peace and stability, so she contributes to the vision of our continent; indeed, to the African Century we envisage.
Second, Africa must be truly independent: in thought, culture, and in her politics and development options. She must be completely insulated from undue foreign interference, coercion and influence. Here is Cecil John Rhodes advancing his theory of English racial superiority: “I content that we are the first race in the world, and that the more of the world we can inhabit the better it is for the human race.
I content that every acre added to our territory means the birth of more of the English race who otherwise would not be brought into existence. Added to this, the absorption of the greater portion of the world under our rule simply means the end of all wars…. The furtherance of the British Empire, for the bringing of the whole civilised world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, for the making of the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire. What a dream! But yet it is probable. It is possible.”
Rejecting belittling credo
Such obnoxiously racist credo, which was so common in Victorian and Bismarckian times, and which justified mistaken notions of “civilising missions”, “pacification of natives”, “assimilation”, “spheres of influence”, “direct and indirect rule”, sadly continue to colour international relations and so-called global values to this day. Africa must reject such credo.
As we now know, all men, women, races and nations are equal, whatever pigmentation of their skin. Human civilisation is the sum total of different civilisations, including, if not foremost, that from Africa. Equally, it is a fallacy that empires end wars; quite the contrary, they began and begin wars, including here on our continent.
All this means an African Century cannot be a junior subset of European thinking or governance; rather, it must be its own, deriving its essence from African history, values, experience, philosophies and, above all, from African struggles.
Standing her ground
Third, the African Century rejects foreign tutelage, which is quite distinct from mutual gainful partnerships between nations and continents. Africa has no masters; she should reject coercion by whomsoever, including being dragged into conflicts and rivalries in which she has no stake. Above all, she should be free to decide her own policies: who to relate to; what partnership to build for her futures; what values to espouse and promote and what development trajectory to choose and pursue. The days of coercive diplomacy are over; Africa must stand her ground.
Believing in collective self, resources
Fourth, the African Century is built on self-belief and belief in the resources and capacities of Africa. Already, Africa has expressed all this in her continental blueprints, foremost Agenda 63, and the African Continental Free Trade Area. Both blueprints aim for continental integration, predicated on African resources, on African agency, partnerships and trade.
Here in Zimbabwe, we have domesticated this continental thinking and aspiration through our mantra, Nyika Inovakwa nekutongwa Nevene Vayo! We govern ourselves, eschewing anything that derogates from our full sovereignty; we build our own country, brick by brick, stone upon stone and step by step, with outsiders coming in to support, or to participate through skills, capital and technologies, in development options we will have freely chosen, and we will have set for ourselves.
No one’s frontier
We develop our country and continent on the strength of our resources. Africa has abundant resources; many of these resources are yet to be exploited. They should be exploited by us Africans, for the benefit of our continent and her posterity.
We thus reject the notion of Africa as “a new frontier” for a second scramble by foreign interests. Africa is its own frontier, and is ready to claim its century on the basis of its God-given resources. This is what Agenda 63 means and entails. It rests on a country-to-country, subregion-to-subregion African nexus; indeed, on the combined strength and ingenuity of Africa’s billion-plus population.
Shaking off the burden of external Debt
Fifth and last, Africa must free herself from external debt. Foreign debt threatens to mortgage its futures; indeed, Africa’s posterity. Last week, I was in Sharm el-Sheikh to resolve this very matter which continues to hamstring us and our options.
The US$17 billion in debt and bloated arrears must be resolved so our country moves forward unencumbered. We are determined to find resolution to this albatross which has been weighing us down. Above all, determined to pursue a development trajectory which is debt-free so we augment our sovereignty and options.
We see tangible goodwill among creditors to carry us through. Alongside a raft of initiatives we have taken, and are set to take shortly, I foresee a stable and sustainably growing economy, anchored on her resources and a stable currency of her own.
The African Century beckons. Our generation must lay the foundation towards it, brick upon brick.