SO AKON ALSO THINKS AFRICA SHOULD BE A SINGLE COUNTRY. BUT IS IT A REALISTIC OPTION?

By Matthew Ayibakuro

Remodelled map of Africa showing the size of its landmass

Remodelled map of Africa showing the size of its landmass

The United States of Africa!  A country with the landmass of China, The United States of America, India, Japan and all of Europe combined, with an Island perfectly shaped for the United Kingdom.  Population, 1.111 billion.  Its people speak English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and over 2,000 other languages.  Its currency is the ‘afro’ and demonym, African.  It has the highest GDP of any country in the world and the unprecedented growth rate of its economy shows no signs of slowing!  I feel like I could go on and on with this.

But beyond the pageantry and sentimental feeling that the paragraph above evokes, is becoming a single country a workable and beneficial option for the continent of Africa?  Akon surely thinks so.  In an elaborate interview on Aljazeera a couple of weeks ago, the ‘American-born Senegalese’ artist and businessman stated his strong conviction in the idea of a ‘United States of Africa’.  Although for the usual reasons, the headline that emerged from the interview was his statement that ‘America was never built for black people’.  I found that insightful also, but that is a subject for another day.

Akon is surely not alone.  The legendary reggae musician Bob Marley repeatedly echoed the idea of ‘one Africa’ in the lyrics of his songs and long before him, Marcus Garvey alluded to it in his celebrated poem, ‘Hail! United States of Africa’.  In the first stanza, he writes:

  • Hail! United States of Africa-free
  • Hail! Motherland most bright, divinely fair!
  • State in perfect Sisterhood United,
  • Born of truth; mighty thou shalt ever be.”

Although Garvey’s poem did not inspire the creation of the United States of Africa, it is however believed that his poem deeply influenced the birth of the Pan-Africanist movement and inspired the golden generation of Kwame Nkrume, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and others.

In recent times, who can forget the entourage of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attending the African Union summit in 2009 as the ‘king of kings’ of Africa and rendering the lines, “I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa”.  The support of other leaders was rather variegated and the vision never came to fruition.

Perhaps I should say not yet, at least. At the Summit of the African Union (AU) and World African Diaspora Union (WADU) which held in Harlem in 2011, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal again called for the ‘establishment of a United States of Africa by 2017”.  The Accra Declaration of 2007 restates the commitment of the AU to “accelerate the economic and political integration of the African continent, including the formation of the union government for Africa with the ultimate objective of creating the United States of Africa” by 2025.   So whilst the late Gaddafi did not live to see his vision come true, Akon might yet see his realised.

But not many agree with the idea of a United States of Africa.  In fact some commentators refer to the idea as ‘wishful thinking’, and the comments on the video of Akon’s interview on youtube contain borderline opinions like, “United States of Africa is a retarded idea.  Anyone with such thoughts should be locked up in a mental hospital”.  Reading comments on stories on social media will always provide one or two of this kind, so no harm done.

The proposition stirs up many fundamental questions though – Is a United States of Africa feasible, and if so, is it imperative to the development of the countries and the peoples of Africa?  What would be the official language and the currency?  How would leaders be chosen?  Does it make sense to hold a general election in the whole territory of the continent as it is today, to choose a single leader and a single parliament?  What would be the ostensible benefits of having such single country and at what cost?  Would the latter outweigh the former?  In other words, does the strength of the peoples of Africa lie our diversity or in our uniformity?  The answers are probably more convoluted that they first appear.

One further question worth considering is whether efforts at creating a single country in Africa would be more beneficial if directed towards strengthening the African Union (AU) and building on its gains.  As a youth, I feel a bit ‘quagmired’ making this argument at a moment when the AU’s recent choice of leadership is, to state it as mildly as possible, most disparaging –  a subject for another day. 

However considering the reasonable achievements recorded by organisations established to achieve regional economic integration in different parts of the continent – ECOWAS, SADC and especially the EAC in the last fifteen years – the the replication of same at an Africa-wide level would appear a more feasible and rational path to tread for the time being than the pursuit of establishing a United States of Africa.

I can share the sentiments and enjoy the Pan-Africa feelings that the idea kindles in me, but beyond that I find very little rationale to pursue the idea further as imperative to the development of the countries and peoples of Africa at this moment.

6 responses

  1. the unity of African peoples can be better advanced and achieved through the African Union. while the United States of Africa idea is a lofty one, it is presently unrealistic and impracticable to push it beyond the realm of an ideal. in any case, the gains seem latent and dwarfed when placed side by side with the costs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You couldn’t have expressed it any better

      Like

  2. It would be totally hard to achieve this dream. The Arabs African see themselves as superior to the Black African from Sub Sahara of the desert. recent Report from Angola proves another challenge of how Africans are not unify despite the AU numerous meetings. More to be put in place before this thing of United States of Africa come to past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whilst I am not sure about the alleged claim of superiority, admittedly a lot needs to be done to achieve the creation of a United States of Africa.
      However, is it even worth pursuing and making all those efforts for? Will the gains justify such effort?

      Like

  3. A very interesting article indeed. Well, I do think a United States of Africa, at the moment, is not a feasible idea, and I say this based on the recent conflicts African countries have experienced. Most conflicts back here are either based on ethnicity or religion, and they seem to be no where near the end. Take a look at recently split Sudan, the Rwandan conflict, the ongoing conflicts in the DRC, although that is more on resources than any other.
    I am also concerned with the governing institutions of many African countries that have still not been able to properly manage their citizens, and it makes me wonder what a government for Africa can do.
    If then, we haven’t been able to manage ‘smaller’ communities with a reasonable government size, what is the guarantee that over 1 billion people will be properly governed, given the diversity which is the main reason why conflicts arise in the first place? I do think, however, that maybe, just maybe, the idea of the united states could attempt to be considered when we learn to manage our diversity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more with you. We have got to handle these little issues before taking up the challenge of unity at the continental level.
      However, perhaps the feeling of oneness that the idea evokes could go a long way in promoting ideals of unity amongst the people in the continent, just maybe.

      Like

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