Can Pan-Africanism Save Us? A short note

Pan-Africanism: it is a belief that African peoples, both on the African continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny. This sense of interconnected pasts and futures has taken many forms, especially in the creation of political institutions. “We the African people are our own liberators and thinkers whose task is to make a mighty stride towards genuine freedom by any means necessary.”

These ideas are referenced in Elumelu’s Africapitalism which is defined as the positive role the private sector must play in Africa by making long-term investments in strategic sectors of the economy in a way that creates and multiplies local value in order to accelerate and broaden prosperity throughout the continent and around the world. Africapitalism calls for a new kind of capitalism – a version in which Africa leapfrogs other models, creating a more broad-based and sustainable economy.

The history of Africa has been characterised by massive swings in political thought. The anti-colonial and initial postcolonial movements were concerned with imagining Africa as a refinement of its precolonial past. Due to postcolonial troubles, SAP etc, current intellectual political thought is concerned with imagining Africa as a pale imitation of neo-liberal structures.

However,  little attention has been paid to the role of informal sector in fostering growth and creating jobs. In fact, the informal sector contributes about 55 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP and 80 per cent of the labour force. Nine in 10 rural and urban workers have informal jobs in Africa and most employees are women and youth.

The beauty of the informal economy is that it reflects everyday realities and is divorced from the strictures of neo-liberalism. The informal economy involves practices, knowledge and values that are related to, and grow out of, local and community circumstances. On the other hand, the dominant discourse is that indigenous practices are outmoded, archaic and out of tune with modernity.

But as Siyanda Mohutsiwa states quite succinctly, social media has finally given Pan-Africanism a new voice. The world and Africa would do well not to ignore this voice. These are our voices.

Can Pan-Africanism save us? Pan-Africanism is us.

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