If ever there was an event that led to the birth of the movement, it was the partition of Africa in 1884. In that year, white nations gathered in Berlin to carve Africa into territories to divide amongst themselves.
During that meeting, no African or representative was present. Once the agreement was finalized, new borders were drawn, new languages were forced on colonial subjects, and Black men fought against each other carrying the British flag on one side and the French flag on the other.
Since that day, the language, culture, identity, religion and space that existed as Africa was totally changed. The continent was invaded by imperialists who came bearing arms and punitive armies, declaring lands in the name of the Her Majesty the Queen, and other Imperialist such as King Leopold, causing untold destruction in the name of the King of Belgium.
The fight for a borderless Africa has now been the centre of attention to promote trade and movement within the continent. Seven European nations had colonised Africa by 1900; France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy. All of them came to Africa for her resources.
The cycle unfortunately continues today with China and America wielding their influence in the control of Africa’s resources.
Africa, as a European apparatus, was built to have only one function, to be milked of its resources, and to continually serve the empires of Britain, Spain, Belgium and other European nations.
Where is the wisdom of our fathers now? The struggle for independence and the effects of colonialism could be felt in the speeches many African heads of state gave. Ahmed Sekou Toure, the first President of Guinea said on the 26th of August, 1958: “we prefer poverty in freedom to opulence in slavery,” when his country decided not to go the way of France.
The Prime Minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba was more vocal when on 30 June, 1960 he said:
Even though this independence for the Congo is being proclaimed today in agreement with Belgium, a country with which we deal as equals, no Congolese worthy of that name can ever forget that independence was conquered through struggle, a daily struggle, a fierce and idealist struggle, a struggle in which we spared neither our energy, nor our hardship, nor our suffering, nor our blood.
Although Lumumba and many such leaders were hopeful of leading their new countries to new prosperous dreams, they forgot that their countries were first and foremost creations of these European nations. The purpose of their countries was nothing else other than to serve the economic purposes of these powers.
Was true, political, cultural and economic independence ever gotten? With the retention of the borders, the project of Berlin Conference continues.
For Africa to move forward, it must go back to the Berlin Conference of 1884 and untangle itself from this creation it was forced to become by Europe. An Africa where there were no borders, where free and fair trade takes place between each community, where art and diverse cultures are highly regarded.
Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe in an article on the African Union’s (AU, formerly OAU) 50th anniversary said:
As long as the logic of extraction and predation that characterizes the political economy of primary commodities in Africa has not been broken, and with it the existing modes of exploitation of Africa’s sub-soil, we will not go far…. What needs to happen is a kind of continental “New Deal” collectively negotiated among the different Africa governments and international powers, a “New Deal” favouring democracy and economic progress that would complete and finally close for everyone that chapter of decolonization.
The 2063 vision of the AU is highly commendable, but the AU has failed in many respects to live up to its role on the continent. Africa is dire need of change, it has to move at a fast pace in solving its pressing political, economic and social issues otherwise it risks falling into the same trap of continued exploitation.
To quote Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s former president, “In comparing our country to some of those in Asia that were at the same level as we at independence in 1960, we notice that they have gone much faster than we have. We must reflect on this to understand why. The struggle for liberation is therefore not finished. It presents itself today in economic terms and will be won on the development front…. Together, we must clearly understand that prolonged economic dependence will ultimately erode our political independence.”
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame in his inauguration speech after re-election last year said, “The governance and prosperity of Africa cannot be outsourced.”
While the African passport is yet to be released to the general public, it spells of potential in increasing movement around the continent.
The African Continental Free Trade Area breaks off chains of separations, and encourages an increase in trade between African countries.
While it the journey of building will take a while, it must be done and maintained. Africa should look more into itself, finding its own solutions and learning from the world.