“We, the Heads of African States and Governments assembled in the City of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
Convinced that it is the inalienable right of all people to control their own destiny,
Conscious of the fact that freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples,…
Determined to safeguard and consolidate the hard-won independence as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our states, and to fight against neo- colonialism in all its forms,
Dedicated to the general progress of Africa,…”
Excerpt from the OAU Charter, May 25, 1963
25th May is Africa Day, formerly known as Africa Liberation Day, the day we celebrated the formation of the Organisation of African Unity and the organised continental struggle against all forms of neo-colonialism.
Although we now call it Africa Day, may be because the fight for decolonization was mostly won, I believe we are not quite there yet. Whereas we are tied to the rest of the world, including our former colonial masters, through an increasingly globalised world, we are still not as self-determining as we might want, or think.
There exists today 14 countries in Africa with limited self-determination when it comes to their currency and consequently monetary decisions. I’m not sure how determining their own destiny works when the French Central Bank plays the role it currently does (my ignorance on the intricacies of this arrangement aside). Many countries in sub-Sahara Africa still have to toe the Bretton Woods line to maintain stability and a governable state with threats of withdrawal of aid or preferential debt held over their heads whenever they seem to grow a sense of self-determination. Healthcare for millions of Africans is still largely determined by development partners who can use that support to nudge or bully, as the situation may inspire, African governments to do whatever they want. And they do. We have continental institutions such as the African Union Commission whose budget, for the most part, is met by the global north. African countries own barely half the shares in the African Development Bank leading, I fear, to an agenda that has been driven by interests from the global north rather than continental aspirations. Until now. There are western political think tanks funded by foreign taxpayers operating on the continent with an express mandate to influence the outcome of elections (hello Vanguard Africa). We lose in excess of $50b a year from illicit financial flows potentially bolstering economies in the West at the expense of Africans. Africa still cannot feed its people and continues to have a rising food import bill while being constrained from exporting into western markets by tariff and non-tariff barriers designed to keep the balance of trade and power in favour of the global north.
Self-determination is what the quest for decolonization was all about but I fear what we have is a new form of colonisation more insidious than any seen to date and potentially more damaging. While we have been committed for 54 years to fighting all forms of neo-colonisation, we have not demonstrated adequately that commitment by putting our money and political will where our mouths are.
Implementation of African Union Heads of State and Government decisions and declarations such as Financing The Union, growing agricultural productivity and the sector’s contribution to economic growth and prosperity, ending corruption, democracy and respect for the rule of law are good examples of how we can ensure the inalienable rights of Africans to self-determination are achieved. Excellent opportunities to bring action to rhetoric. However, it will never happen if they remain gilded documents that decorate the corridors of power.
It is time we took steps to ensure our governments and the development partners in Africa read from the script written by the African people. Scripts like CAADP and Agenda 2063. Like the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Or like the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.
African are rising to support self-determination. And Africans are determined to realise it.
Happy Africa Day comrades. Aluta continua. The war is far from won.