Today, September 21, marks a very important day in the history of Africa and the world. Today marks the birth of a Visionary Leader, a Revolutionist, a Path Breaker and a strong Pan-Africanist, a man named Francis Nwia-Kofi, later known as Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. If today marks the birthday of my mentor and founder of my alma Mata, Ghana National College, Cape Coast, I may not have flowers to put on his grave, shout his name on radio but what I can do to honour such a personality is to bring back memories of his primary goal for Africa. So if God has blessed us with such a wonderful day to celebrate, it is important we re-enact history in order to understand the present situation and to guide us in making future decisions to bring improvement in our lives. As recorded in the Bible, “…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…”. This often cannot be said about Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. However, at the name of Kwame Nkrumah generates a lot of controversies about his leadership style and foreign policies, perhaps, people have not yet been able to decipher the real Nkrumahist philosophy. However, I must state categorically that this article does not concern itself with whether or not if Nkrumah was a good leader, instead it focuses on who Nkrumah was and what he stood for. It concentrates, primarily, on Nkrumah’s philosophy for a continental Unity of Africa. It assesses what entails African Unity and why unity is necessary for the African continent.
As indicated by Nkrumah, “There are those who maintain that Africa cannot unite because we lack the three necessary ingredients for unity, a common race, culture and language”. It is evident that some political leaders and the masses still maintain that African Unity is irrelevant or cannot manifest. If you subscribe to such notions, perhaps, you should do away with such Eurocentric views about Africa before making an attempt to read further.
From the 1960’s, many African nationalists and freedom fighters had managed to secure independence for their various countries. Under many circumstances such independent heroes such as, Jomo Kenyatta (Kenya), Julius Kambarage Nyerere (Tanzania), Sylvanus Epiphanio Olympio (Togo), Sekou Toure (Guinea), David Dacko (Central African Republic) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) were elected as President of the first Republic. Some of these leaders had to employ constitutional means while others had to engage in war for their country’s independence. The irony in the situation was that to the masses, who aided these leaders to achieve political freedom believed that independence was a sign of prosperity and a good life, after all, the oppressor has been sucked and made to go back to his country. And it is not surprising that even in this twenty-first century, some people still hold on to this notion. To some extent, this notion was widely accepted by the military, so much so that, they capitalized on this notion to seize power from civilian leaders when the economy of many African states was in shambles. To be able to decipher the whole situation very well, one must know that colonialism deals with dominating a country’s political, social and most importantly, economic fields. I should state emphatically that the underlying reason for the acquisitions of colonies in Africa was not so much of political, instead, economic. With the rise of capitalism in Europe, the search for raw materials and new markets for Europeans manufactured products during the industrial revolution was the primary objective of the imperial powers. Hence, to the imperial powers, granting Africans total independence will be tantamount to the collapse of their economy. Therefore, granting Africans political freedom was not so much of a problem to the colonial masters. The real problem, therefore, was granting Africa an economic freedom. Economic freedom in the sense that Africans will be supported and encouraged to build industries to process her vast raw materials in order to increase its value in the world market.
It is, therefore, obvious that the arduous task that faced Africans decades after independence was to enter into a new struggle for economic independence, so that the ordinary citizen can enjoy the full benefit of Africa’s independence like peoples in the United States of America. However, in Africa once you become part of the president’s family, you don’t need to bother about this because all what the leaders care is to fill their banks with the state coffers so that when their tenure of office is over, they can live lavishly with their families.
Fortunately, as visionary and intelligent as he was, Nkrumah found the only solution that will surely enable Africa to attain economic independence as the same way he was able to find a strategy to accelerate the decolonization of African countries. Nkrumah believed that if Africa can be economically independent, then neo-colonialism and its major instrument, balkanization be removed from Africa. For a better understanding of the nature of Neocolonialism read Nkrumah’s book, Neo Colonialism, the last stage of Imperialism. However, for the sake of this article, I will talk briefly about the two phenomenon. Neocolonialism has to do with the imperial powers using various subtle means and agencies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to manipulate the economies of African countries. We should not forget that the IMF and the World Bank are controlled by the imperial powers and under no circumstance will they put Africa’s interest at heart. The leaders of these agencies are accountable to their citizens so as our leaders should be accountable to us. Balkanization has to do with breaking large territories into smaller sizes. As Nkrumah puts it, “Converting Africa into a series of smaller states is leaving some of them with neither the resources nor the man power to provide for their own integrity and viability”. This has accounted for the reason why some countries in Africa cannot develop and they are constantly at the mercies of the so-called aid from Europe. To Nkrumah, the only remedy for neo-colonialism and balkanization lied in African Unity. In his book, Africa Must Unite, Nkrumah proposed that the salvation of Africa lied in Unity. As he puts it, the activities of the Union of African States (U. A. S), which comprised by then of Ghana, Guinea and Mali, was to adopt a common domestic and foreign policies. Nkrumah believed that African Unity will define a common set of directives relating to economic planning, which was aimed at the complete decolonization of the set ups inherited from the colonial system and organizing the development of the wealth of African countries in the interest of the people. Also, in African Unity, there will be the organization of a system of joint defense, which will make it possible to mobilize all the means of defense at their disposal of the state, in favour of any state of the union which become a victim of aggression. In short, African unity will provide Africans equal opportunities, collective mobilization of African resources and a high military command for Africa. As the saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” This adage indicates that there is power in Unity. Which African country can one say has power in World politics today? What do you think will happen in World affairs if Africa unite with one president? Have you ever imagined how powerful such a president will be in the world? Why do you think the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics, the United States of America and Canada etc., united to form one block? The thirteen English colonies in the New World after fighting for their independence from Britain united to form the United States of America because these colonies were convinced that if they stood alone, it was likely that Britain would assert her authority over them again. Hence, the colonies United to provide military support for each other. The USSR also united but later disintegrated. However, we cannot overlook the fact that the USSR was at her peak during the cold war. Had the various English colonies in the New World stay independently, Britain could have managed to get them back on their knees after their independence. This is a simple example African leaders should consider to revisit the issue of African Unity more importantly and not to be holding numerous AU conferences without results.
The present situation in Africa constantly reminds us that Nkrumah never dies. What right does America or the West has to invade Libya? Governance and standard of living in Libya was so good that even many people from other African states run to Libya to seek for greener pastures for their families, yet Libya’s leader, Muammar al Gaddafi, was tagged as a tyrant leader and killed. Look at what the International Monitory Funds and the World Bank have done to the economies of many African countries. Decades after Africa’s independence, the IMF encouraged many African countries to allow trade liberalization. African countries were ordered to remove all forms of protectionism. The effect of these policies was that local industries were stifled. Ironically, these same European nations, who manage the IMF and the World Bank, adopted a similar policy of protectionist during the height of the industrial revolution in order to protect their local industries.
All evidences point out to the fact that it is only Africans who understand and can solve their own problems. So African leaders should halt the habit of seeking for aid from the imperialist powers and find a lasting solution to Africa’s problem which lies only in UNITY. As indicated by Dambisa Moyo, “Aid is never the solution to Africa’s problem”.
Sons and daughters of Africa today, the mantle has been handed down to us, the foundation is well laid, it is up to us to take up the challenge as our ancestors did to secure independence for us. It is time for us to continue the revolution which will set Africa free from the shackles of neo-colonialism and balkanization.
I will end with an African proverb which says, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.”
To the Memories of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Long live Africa!!!!!
COLLINS NANA YAW ABEBRESE
(B.A. HISTORY & RELIGION)
UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel : +23354 2083 047
Nkrumah Kwame, Africa Must Unite, New York: Frederick Inc., 1963
Moyo Dambisa, Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa, New York: Macmillan, 2009.