Over the past two decades, the conference circuit has been awash with events to reflect on ‘Africa strategies’. The irony though is that many of these engagements are organised by, and on, other continents to review other countries’ approaches to a region that has started to show much promise. Instructively, Africa itself – and indeed a majority of the countries on the continent – does not have an America or Asia or Europe strategy. The growing interest in the continent over the past two decades is understandable. Africa is showing great potential and its future development trajectory, undergirded in part by vast natural endowments, is becoming clearer. Countries such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Turkey, South Korea and Malaysia are enhancing their involvement in Africa and thus reconfiguring the continent’s multifaceted international relations that were historically informed by colonialism, neo-colonialism and the dictates of the Cold War. At the same time, the so-called “war on terror” has elevated Africa’s strategic significance in international security considerations.
From luminaries such as Marcus Garvey and WEB du Bois – with the latter asserting that the problem of the 20th Century would be about the colour-line – to Kwame Nkurumah (Ghana) and Nnamdi Azikiwe (Nigeria), Pan-Africanism has been about the recognition of the common experience and common destiny of Africa’s people against colonialism and slavery, and for unity, independence and self-determination.
From Pixley ka Seme (South Africa) on the regeneration of Africa and a new and unique civilization that is thoroughly spiritual and humanistic ; to Sheikh Anta Diop (Senegal) in his essays on culture and development and Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), the African Renaissance has been conceptualized as rejecting the notion that Africans are exotic objects of others’ curiosity but that the people of the continent have immensely contributed to, and should by their own actions help shape, human civilization.
The notions of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance have not lost their relevance. But their inheritors are more than just fighters against what Africa does not like. Today’s generations are – and should in their mindset act as – architects of a new socio-economic system.