Kwame Nkrumah once said ‘Africa must unite or perish!’ Without genuine African unity, our continent will remain at the mercy of imperialist domination and exploitation. Below are 10 simple, yet profound, reasons why Africa must unite under a socialist economic system.
1. Africa’s Wealth
Africa is extremely wealthy! In fact, it is the wealthiest land mass on the face of the earth. This wealth can be found in its abundant mineral resources and in its huge agricultural potential. Africa’s mineral wealth includes a wide variety and huge volume of resources that are critical to the technical and industrial development of humanity, e.g., gold, platinum, diamonds, manganese, colbalt, cromite, coltan, coal, radium, iron ores, chromium, copper, lead, zinc, tin, titanium, antiomony, tantalum, germanium, lithium, phosphates, bauxite, uranium, petroleum, and natural gas. Similar figures could be provided regarding Africa’s agricultural potential, which remains largely untapped. Although there are an estimated 632 million hectares* of arable land in Africa, only 179 million hectares are actually cultivated, i.e., less than 30% of its arable land. As with Africa’s mineral resources, this arable land is unevenly distributed. In fact, in just four countries (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the two Sudans), where nearly 40% of this uncultivated land is located, there is enough agriculturally-rich land to feed Africa’s 1 billion population several times over. However, because this wealth is unevenly distributed, showing no relationship to the artificial, imperialist imposed division of the continent, this wealth can only benefit the masses of African people when it is shared on a continent-wide basis.
2. Pooling Investment Resources
To invest in large scale production, in both industry and agriculture, a large amount of investment resources is needed. When Africa unites, it will be able to pool its investment resources to ensure that it will have enough money to invest in the large-scale production of industrial and agricultural goods and services. Once Africa unites, it will no longer have to go begging the World Bank, IMF, and various donor nations of the world for loans that are tied to very high interest rates and exploitative conditions designed to keep Africa impoverished and dependent. Africa’s total foreign reserves (held by African central banks) is ½ trillion dollars–$510 billion!
Separately, the various individual states in Africa will never be able to raise the funds required to invest heavily in any aspect of production, especially in the production of heavy equipment designed to build cars, trucks, tractors, roads, bridges, trains, ships, airplanes, and other basic items required of the 21st century. Let each African country invest 5% of its foreign reserves into a giant African Infrastructure bond. In short, genuine African unity, where the wealth and resources of this great continent are amassed in the ‘Great Bank of Africa’ and shared amongst its people, is the only alternative for Africa to avoid begging for loans that are designed to keep Africa poor and in perpetual debt.
3. Optimal Market Size
Only a united Africa, with its more than one billion people, can provide the requisite market size to stimulate large-scale production. In fact, according to African Union figures, the actual purchasing power of the continent of Africa is $1.515 trillion, which would place it, if it were one nation, as the 11th highest purchasing power country in the world. However, as it stands, a weak and divided Africa has been forced to turn its purchasing power, i.e., its various balkanized markets, over to the United States and various other industrialized nations of the world. These nations, in turn, use this so-called ‘free market’ opportunity to flood Africa’s markets with goods, many of which are of very dubious quality, produced by their large-scale factories, plants, and farms. These factories, plants and farms, because of the huge size of their markets, benefit from what economists call ‘economies of scale,’ and are, therefore, able to produce their goods at a cheaper cost, per unit. Additionally, these same companies often benefit from their governments’ effort to protect them from international competition in the form of government subsidies.
As it stands, the producers and potential producers of Africa have little or no incentive to expand production when faced with the tiny markets of their individual so-called nation-states. As a result, workers in other lands are producing everything from underwear to cellular telephones, from handkerchiefs to refrigerators, from matches to motorcycles, from rice to computers, from chicken to automobiles, and exporting them all to Africa.
Only a united Africa will be able to protect its market! China protects its industries by keeping its currency, the rinminbi, relatively low, thus ensuring its exports will remain attractive on the global market. The United States provides millions of dollars of subsidies for its farmers—especially its rice, cotton, and maize growers—in order to protect their goods against local competition in countries around the world. The European Union does much the same, with European poultry farmers being one of their largest beneficiaries, and with the declining African poultry farmers being the hardest hit. Once united, however, Africa will have the power to use tariffs, duties, quotas, salary increments, propaganda, and subsidies.
5. Bargaining Power
The balkanized states of Africa are always at a disadvantage when, separately, bargaining with the stronger industrial nations of Europe, Asia, and North America. This is especially the case when trying to court Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). For while there will always be occasions when Africa could benefit from FDI, the terms of agreement will never be in our favor if we try to bargain with the stronger industrialized nations under our current balkanized status. We will always lose! However, once Africa is united, it will be in the best position to set the terms of agreement between it and any potential foreign investor.
6. Common Currency
One of the best ways to integrate Africa’s economy, enhance inter-African trade, and gain control in setting the prices of African exports is through the use of a common currency. A common African currency will eliminate the transaction costs customers pay when buying a different currency other than their own, especially for those involved in inter-African trade. Secondly, the prices of goods and services will be more transparent, and thus more comparable, when there is a common unit of account. Thirdly, the African common currency will become an international currency of higher value that billions of people, inside and outside of Africa, will have to acquire in order to purchase anything made and sold anywhere in Africa!
7. Continental Planning
Only a united Africa can plan continentally. Indeed, the major problems facing Africa do not affect the various states separately, nor can they be solved separately. For example, global warming is having a devastating impact on our major river basins in Africa—including the Nile, Congo, Zambezi, Niger, and Orange River Basins. They are slowly, and in some cases, swiftly, drying up! But how do we solve this problem when each of these major river basins interacts with several African micro-states in all of the five regions of Africa? Can (or should) any one African country solve this problem when, ultimately, the entire continent is being affected?
In fact, all of the major challenges facing Africa require continent-wide solutions, based on continent-wide, scientific planning. For instance, there is absolutely no reason for the people of Africa to be going hungry anywhere on the continent, due to drought, with these huge water bodies located throughout the continent. However, with less than 5% of African land being irrigated, is there any wonder that our rain dependent-agriculture systems throughout the continent are unable to feed all of its people? Independent of the critical need to irrigate the continent which, perforce, is a continent-wide task—both financially and planning-wise—the agricultural potential of our great continent can only be realized when we plan, continentally, to make this happen. After all, just one country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has the agricultural potential to feed the whole of Africa. How, then, are our people starving when just one of Africa’s 54 micro-states is capable of feeding the entire continent!
8. Providing Land locked Countries Access to the Sea
A united Africa will allow nearly 20 African countries to acquire the benefits of having immediate access to the sea. With slightly more than 70% of the earth’s surface covered by the ocean, the benefits of having immediate access to marine life are tremendous. They include, minimally, food, medicine, raw materials, mineral resources, tourism, and the protection of geopolitical strategic interests.
9. Resolving Internal Conflicts and Disputes: Military Defense
The balkanization of Africa at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 not only created small, economically, nonviable dependencies; it also engendered and/or exacerbated ethnic and religious hostilities throughout the continent. This longstanding strategy of ‘divide and rule’ was used to perfection throughout Africa, which now has more borders than any other continent on earth: 166! The recipe was simple: Fossilize Africa’s various ethnic groups, many of whom were historical rivals; then force them under the same ‘national roof.’ Independence, then, would be fraught with so many ethnic hostilities that achieving national integration, political stability, and economic development would be practically impossible. As a result, we have an entire continent replete with intrastate and interstate conflicts, many of which, over the years, have blossomed into full scale civil wars. However, only a unified African government, buttressed with the full-scale might of an All-African Military High Command, will be able to resolve these conflicts and end these wars. The UN, NATO, EU, USA, or any other entity outside of Africa can never and will never solve our problems. None of them have the interest, will, means, or mandate to do so; instead, if left in their hands, they will only make matters worst in order to make Africa more malleable for continued imperialist domination.
10. Asserting the African Personality
Despite the cultural diversity that exists among the African people, there is a far greater degree of cultural unity that exists wherever you find Africans in the world. This is especially obvious in the common African ethos that binds us together as one. Our core values of humanism, collectivism and egalitarianism, for example, are demonstrated, amongst the masses, everywhere. Even our sense of being, space, and time are fundamentally different from other peoples in the world. However, because of our status as a dominated people without power to determine our destiny, we are rarely able to have our view of the world expressed, regarded, or respected in any meaningful way by the rest of the world, and especially in any of the various corridors of power. Once Africa unites, however, the rest of the world will have to sit up and take notice. We will take our seat on the Security Council of the United Nations and be free to express, to the fullest, the most salient characteristics of what Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah termed, the African Personality.
Edward Mitole is senior political analyst at GPAN and the founder of African Renaissance project, he is the candidate Doctor of Philosophy of Development studies at Univeresity of Pretoria.