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The Feasibility of the United States of Africa

The Feasibility of the United States of Africa

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Published by Shittu Jubril

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Published by: Shittu Jubril on Jul 12, 2010
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Africa also nicknamed the Dark Continent by European colonial masters is the second largest of Earth¶s seven continents, covering 23 percent of the world¶s total land area and containing 13 percent of the world¶s population. Africa straddles the equator and most of its area lies within the tropics. It is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Indian Ocean and Red Sea on the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on the north. In the northeastern corner of the continent, Africa is connected with Asia by the Sinai Peninsula. There are 53 different African countries including 47 countries on the mainland and the 6 surrounding island nations. Thus, The United States of Africa is the name proposed for the concept of a federation of the 53 sovereign states on the African continent. The United States of Africa, if created, would share the acronym "U.S.A." with the United States of America. The United states of Africa if created would become the federation with the third largest population, the first and second being china and India respectively, and the population speaking over 2,000 languages will also have the largest territory, with a single currency, single passport for freedom of movement within the continent and also a federal system of government in which the individual states are subordinate to the central government, having political and sovereign authority. The United States of Africa would also have a single military force. The United States of Africa would not be the first regional union to be created in the International arena. In fact, currently existing is the European Union which was formally established in 1993 with membership of over 27 countries and a common currency. Over the years agitations coupled with the failures of the various continental groups (such as the Organisation of African Unity) and regional groups(such as the old East African

community which collapsed in the mid-1970s and south African¶s development community which has diminished in its effectiveness in recent years because of its political differences between South Africa and Zimbabwe.) have questioned the issue of whether the proposed United States of Africa is actually feasible in achieving the goal of uniting Africans and promoting the economic and political power of Africans and also achieving an influential capacity in global affairs. Nevertheless this is not to say that there are no positive developments towards achieving unity such as sub-regional integration of African states and support of few African states such as Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe. Before moving further, the origin and background of the idea of and agitation for a United Africa must be put into necessary consideration before studying the feasibility of the United States of Africa

The origin of United States of Africa could be traced back to the year 1924 when Jamaican thinker, Marcus Garvey, mentioned it in his poem ³Hail, United States of Africa´. Even before then, Garvey, urged American blacks to be proud of their race and preached their return to Africa, their ancestral homeland. Garvey's ideas deeply influenced the birth of the pan-African movement which culminated in 1945 with the Fifth pan-African congress in Manchester, United Kingdom, attended by W. E. B. Du Bois, Patrice Lumumba, George Padmore, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. Later, Nkrumah and Haile Selassie (among many others) took the idea forward to form the 37 nation Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of today's African Union. The move for a united Africa is not the first attempt at organization of African nations to promote continental peace, unity, and cooperation. From the inception of organised Pan Africanism by Africans in the Diaspora in the latter years of the 19th century, but gaining

more prominence and political legitimacy in the first half of the 20th century through the first five Pan African Congresses (1900-1945, all held outside Africa), and subsequently brought home to Africa through the All-African People¶s Conferences of 1958, and much later the 6th and 7th Pan African Congresses held in Africa in Darfur in 1974 and 1994 in Kampala, the destination has always been total unification of Africa under a common government, common citizenship and a common market, from Cape Town to Cairo and full participation for Africans in the Diaspora. (http//:www.justiceafrica.org/2007/06/28/a-unitedgovernment-of-Africa-it-is-now-or-never) The Organisation of African Unity which was created in May 25, 1963 had a similar goal of uniting African states. However, at the time of the OAU¶s founding, African leaders disagreed about what kind of organization it should be. Some leaders pushed for the creation of a central government that would unite all of Africa under one authority. However, many of the nations had just recently gained independence from colonial rule and their leaders opposed the idea. The leaders eventually reached a compromise but in so doing created an organization that is controlled by its member nations, leaving it with little power to act on its own. Nonetheless, the organization helped strengthen ties among African nations and settle disputes. But it also faced many problems that undermined its ability to achieve its goals. In July, 2002, the Organisation of African Unity formally changed its name and became known as the African Union, believing that the new name better captured the organization¶s goal of establishing a common economic market and political union across the entire continent. The agitation for a pan-African union came up afresh at the summit of the Organisation of the African unity summit in 2000 in Lome where African leaders feared that

Africa was becoming increasingly powerless in a strong globally political and economically powerful environment. Of all the African leaders who support a united Africa, the most enthusiastic is the African Union¶s current chairperson and Libyan president Muammar al-Gadaffi. He asserted that only a true pan-African state can provide wealth and stability to Africa. Having declared the African Union as a failure, he has advanced the idea of a united state of Africa at two African summits- the 2007 summit in Conakry, Guinea; and in February 2009 at the African Union summit in Lome. It is quite noteworthy to state that it was also Gadaffi that supported the African Union¶s creation in 2000 summit held in Lome, Togo. The United States of Africa will be a federation of over 53 nations; it will have the largest total territory of any state exceeding the former Soviet republic that collapsed in 1991. Gaddafi¶s idea of a united Africa also in includes ³a single military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.´

The theory of International Integration
The theory of international integration can help us to understand better the concept of the proposed integration of African States. According to the Oxford dictionary, to integrate means to combine (parts) into a whole. The theory of international integration is the process by which supranational institutions replace national ones ± the gradual shifting upward of sovereignty from state to regional or global structures. What this entails that integration will involve the merger of several (or many) states into a single state or ultimately into a single world government. Such a shift in sovereignty to the supranational level would probably entail some version of federalism, in which states or other political units recognise the

sovereignty of a central government while retaining certain powers for themselves. The most successful example the process of integration by far is that of the European Union ± although that of the European Union is regarded as partial. Scholars also believe that moves towards achieving integration could be realised by functionalism ± Growth of specialised technical organisations that cross national borders (Mitrany David. The functional theory of politics. London: the London school of Economics/ M. Robertson (1975)). According to Steven Wright, functionalism has been discussed as a way of solving Africa¶s problem. He proposed that African states should align themselves with whom it enjoys certain interests with. These states would then cooperate in economic and cultural issues to break new grounds. According to functionalists, technological and economic developments lead to more and more supranational structures as states seek practical means to fulfil necessary functions from one country to another. E.g. coordination of the use of rules that cross borders. As these connections grow denser and faster, functionalism predicted that states would be drawn together into stronger international economic structures. According to some functional theorists, they believe that stronger ties built on functionalism will grow to become neofunctionalism. Neo-functionalism is a modification of the functional theory by scholars of international relations scholars to explain the development of functionalism. Neofunctionalists argue that functionalism (economic integration) creates a political dynamic that drives integration further. Close economic ties require more political coordination in order to operate effectively and eventually lead to political integration as well. Thus in the case of African states, we could see what can be perceived as ³gradual functionalism´ and also a move towards supra-nationalism through the sub-regional

integration of African states as evident in the Economic community of West African states(ECOWAS), South African Development Community(SADC), and the attempted revival of the East African Community. It is also noteworthy to state that ECOWAS has achieved easy movement between African states through the issuance of visas to her member countries, and also the establishment of an African court.

According to the Longman dictionary of contemporary English, ³feasible´ refers to a plan or idea that is likely to work. In achieving a United States of Africa, the gradualist approach must be taken. If we are to take the do-it-now approach, we would be repeating the same mistakes most African states have been making which is changing the name instead of solving the problem. The failure of the Organisation of African Unity led African leaders to change the name of the Organisation and its ideologies but not tackling the issues. Thus, in studying the feasibility of the United States of Africa a lot of aspects have to be consideredpolitical, economic, security issues and socio-cultural. By addressing key issues in these various aspects, the feasibility of a United Africa would be realised. Also in considering the collective benefits rather than individual benefit of an integration of African states, the concept is quite feasible. Let us consider these various aspects before reaching a conclusion.


The issue of sovereignty is a very sensitive issue in the relation of states in the international arena. Sovereignty is supreme authority of a state over its citizens and the right to self-government without any external interference from any other state. Most African

states since achieving independence from the colonial masters are wary ofµre-colonization¶. As a result, such states although having various crisis ranging from economic downfall to bad leadership and various intrastate conflict prefer to remain in their status quo, rather than merge with other states to achieve supra-nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the failure of both the Organisation of African Unity and the African Union. In order to tackle the issue of sovereignty, African states should look at collective benefits rather than individual benefits as the proverb goes: ³a broomstick can easily be broken, but when broomsticks are tied together to become a broom, the broom will bend but not break´.

The issue of regional influence is also another factor which must be considered. Some of the more powerful African countries are wary of losing their own regional influence and concerned at any initiative that would weaken their sovereignty or ability to act independently. Nigeria, for example, enjoys its role as the dominant force in the existing West African grouping, the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS). In achieving a United Africa, African states will be able to wield effective influence in the international arena. Through initial regional integration and neo-functionalism, African states will easily move forward into achieving supra-nationalism. This is not going to be an easy task and if African states can start working towards achieving unification, a United States of Africa will be achievable in the long run. One of the most important issues in any sovereign state is the issue of leadership. In considering the feasibility of the united states of Africa, careful consideration should be taken into the type of administration because in Africa, different systems of government exist

Federalism is characterised by bureaucracy who allows for slow process in decision making. Duplication of functions should be considered in order to avoid bureaucracy. Care

should also be taken to ensure accountability of public officials so that a transparency could be achieved There is also the issue of minority groups. Minority groups should also be considered as a part of the Black race and all forms of racial and ethnic discrimination must be avoided so as to prevent the occurrence of what happened to the former Yugoslavia. ECONOMIC ASPECT The issue of wherewithal by which African states are to achieve stable economic development requires strict consideration. There should be promotion of more intensive and more advanced economic activity through such means as education, improved tools and techniques, more available financing, better transportation facilities, and creation of new businesses. The issue of unstable power supply must also be addressed as it affects production of goods and services. Apart from this, there is also the issue of providing jobs for professional careers. Most University graduates end up without jobs and those who are employed are being employed not in their professional careers and that is one of the reasons why we have bad budgeting and planning, and also low policy formulations because politicians and not professionals are responsible for such policy formulations. Most African states are poor. In fact, 34 out of 47 of the world¶s poorest countries are from Africa. Also the issue of states that have stable economies should be considered and if a united Africa is to be achieved, states should look at collective benefits. One of the ways by which this would be achieved is through a centrally planned economy or a command economy. A centrally planned economy has four cornerstones. The first is government ownership of virtually all the means of production²farms, factories, scientific laboratories, shops, and so forth²and organization of those assets into firms managed by employees of the state. The second is control of those managers by state-

appointed professional and economic planners, who are to fix output targets and prices and to also influence the firm¶s decisions, such as product mix and production scheduling. The third is a policy of giving the highest priority to educational and industrial investment and production of consumer goods and food products. The fourth central feature of a command economy is national self-reliance. Foreign trade must occupy an inconsequential place in the economy, and trade that did occur was usually with other planned economies. Foreign investment should be discouraged, and the African state should keep out of international financial institutions. The communist economies are examples of centrally planned economies. Studies of growth trends from the early 1950s to the early 1970s have shown that centrally planned economies equalled and even in some cases exceeded that of capitalist economies. They also attained high literacy rates, made basic health care available to the population, eliminated extreme poverty, and avoided unemployment. Thus, through effective planning Africa could achieve a stable and powerful economy. There is also the issue of currency. A common currency will help for effective means of exchange for goods and services and will also serve for nationalism and a sense of belonging. There are about 50 African states, and they trade far more with the rest of the world than they do with each other. A well organised system of trade should be adopted by African countries and local production should be encouraged. Government should provide grants, and loans to localised industries. SECURITY CONSIDERATION Questions have been raised as to whether Africa needs a unified stance on security and defence, and also if such unified stance will help stop conflict throughout the continent. In considering the feasibility of a united Africa, it is important to state that a unified Africa

without social security, and defence against external aggression is as good as re-inviting the colonial shackles. South African President Thabo Mbeki, in a summit held by the Africa union on 10th February, 2003 urged the 32 member states in attendance to adopt the unified security strategy, saying they owed it to "impoverished Africans whose lives have been destroyed by war´. A common stance is needed in Africa, both for security and defence. A united stance will stop conflicts, and protect our African identity. However, there is also the issue of dictatorial tendency by granting much power to the military force. Thus, effort should be taken to put in check to avoid military overthrow of government. There are efforts already in place to achieve a unified security strategy by the current African union. However, the efforts are still in form of proposals and debate. (http://BBC News.co.uk/talking point Africa) The idea of a unified security force for Africa is well overdue. We have been on the sidelines for too long without learning to experiment. It is through failure that the West orchestrates development. SOCIO-CULTURAL ASPECT The cultural aspect of an integrated African continent requires stringent focus because of the t it is a sensitive issue. There are over 2,000 different ethnic groups in Africa and every group must be represented in decision making. The issue of human rights- civil and political, economic and socio-cultural rights should be embedded in the bedrock of the government. The government should recognize that sovereignty belongs to the people and thus the need for provision of social security, provision of employment, education and social services such as healthcare services, provision of amenities such s pipe-borne water, uninterrupted power supply and adequate transportation. There should also be a national holiday set out for celebration of African unity. Traditional rulers who were turned to ³chiefs´ by our colonial

masters should be re-instated and grass root development must be achieved in all ramifications.

Africa has been treading the path of neo-colonialism for too long. It is high time we put the past behind us and embrace the future. This future cannot and must not be embraced with mere talk and ideologies but with evident action which will propel forward the notion of a united supra-national and integrated Africa with a strong political and economic influence in the international arena. Based on the various aspects studied above the United States of Africa is feasible if we are to take the gradualist approach. The train still moves on as African leaders are pushing hard for the actualisation of their dreams. The most recent development was at the meeting of about 30 African and South American leaders to create a new alliance to counter Western dominance. Some deliberations were agreed upon and seven South American leaders signed an agreement to create a regional bank to oversee financial relations between their countries and other countries in the African continent. Although some people are against a united Africa, the fact the fact still remains that support for the concept builds on and gains new strength and Africa will eventually unite.

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