African Unity

Theodore Kwaku Viwotor

Accra, Ghana - Aug 2007

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Once again another Africa Union (AU) Summit has ended. This time round the summit was held in Ghana the country from which the late Kwame Nkrumah and first President of Ghana originated.

The key topic on the agenda for this summit dubbed ‘The Grand Debate’ centered on a more unified Africa. Coincidentally, over forty years ago Nkrumah hosted an ‘Organisation of African Unity’ (OAU) summit in Ghana at which discussions about a continental government for Africa first took place.

As was the case some forty odd years ago, this time round African leaders were again sharply divided over how and what sort of union should be created. Of the various positions adopted, two major but opposing camps emerged. On the one side are the gradualists, those who believe in a measured approach to the formation of a union and on the other side are those who seek for greater integration (in the vein of a ‘United States of Africa) now.

The gradualists such as the likes of South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki and Lesotho’s Pakalitha Mosisili etc are in favor of strengthening the existing regional economic commissions (REC’s) and working towards greater economic cooperation, before embarking on a process of political union. They believe the continent is not yet ready for immediate integration.

Some African countries are currently embroiled in conflicts, it is highly questionable as to whether they have the capacity to support a federal state with an overall president. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and Chad are some of the countries that are still struggling to maintain stability, then there are the likes of Liberia and Sierra Leone who are recovering from the scars of war.

Cultrual differences, the weakening of comparatively strong economies and a loss of sovereignty were also some of the issues that were aired in relation to the formation of a unified government.

However the likes of Senegal’s Abdoulaye Wade, Gabon’s Ondimba Omar Bongo and Libya’s Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi feel a union government should be created without further delay.

Why should Africa continue to wait after the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, Haile Selassie and others had set the agenda decades ago?

In the face of global trade negotiations, African countries either singularly or in their respective trading blocs have proved to be largely ineffective in negotiating favorable terms when faced with the likes of the European Union or the United States of America etc.

The results are unfair trade practices and the weakening or eventual loss of local industries. The outcome of global negotiations are dictated by large and unified powers yet Africa remains fragmented and looks on helplessly.

It is apparent that there is consensus amongst African Heads of State that a more unified Africa would be beneficial however, issues remain about what sort of unification would best serve Africa’s interests and how such a union is to be achieved.

The objective of greater unity will no doubt appear on the agenda at future AU summits, in any case, one thing remains certain; Africa needs to unite if it is to take charge of its development and compete in the global market place. The issue of achieving greater unity across the continent shall continue to be a matter of vigorous debate for some time to come.