Tuesday, July 03, 2007

United States of Africa: fierce debates over new federation of African states tops AU Summit agenda

Dateline Berlin: July 3-4, 2007
AU Summit in Accra debates forming a new USA on the eve of America's Independence Day celebrations

After the much touted China-Africa Summit in Beijing last November and the May 2007 African Development Bank Board of Governors annual meeting in Shanghai, and the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany Africa’s leaders are getting down to business back on their home turf, Africa. The 9th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU Summit 2007 in Accra, Ghana) is turning out to be anything but another ‘ordinary meeting’ of the continents’ 53 heads of state.

The international press is reporting about fierce closed-door debates between key ‘camps of African leaders’ over the formation of a United States of Africa, a pan-African federation of all 53 African countries to help the continent better deal with its own challenges and problems via a unified central government and to meet the challenges of fair trade in an increasingly globalized world. There is plenty of criticism coming from various domestic and international quarters that Africa’s leaders must first deal with serious crisis and conflicts raging on the African continent and begin to find workable solutions for severe problems within their own countries before any talk begins in earnest about a United States of Africa.

What is also interesting are the historical origins of this debate and the passionate arguments being presented from prominent African figures such as the flamboyant Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, Nigeria’s new President Umaru Yar’Adua, AU Chairperson and President of Ghana John Kufour, the AU Commission Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, and the beloved world figure Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu. Below are two opinion-editorials about earlier United States of Africa proposals discussed at the 2000 OAU Summit held in the West African nation of Togo:

2000 OAU (Organization of African Unity) Summit in Lome, Togo
BBC News: United States of Africa?
Le Monde Diplomatique: Would a United States of Africa Work?

New York Times feature writer Howard French points readers to an article published in The Nation (Nairobi, Kenya) about the confusion with free media access to the AU Summit in Accra. International journalists, news photographers, and TV/radio crews were in a tense standoff with Ghanaian security forces over access to the summit venues and key African leaders. Things have since been sorted out and everyone has calmed down a bit. Which reminds me, how many top authors from the Africa sector of “The Sphere” are blogging LIVE about this important and historic African Union summit?

Below is a roundup of articles and blog posts about the AU Summit in Accra, Ghana that I found to be informative. In the meantime, everyone is awaiting the AU Summit 2007 Communiqué from Africa’s leaders to learn whether they have agreement on moving forward on the U.S. of Africa idea or not. This is exciting stuff, really! I’m thinking about throwing my hat in the ring for President of Africa. Nah, Emperor of Africa would sound better, don’t you think? How about a modern-day black Caesar of Africa? Libya's Colonel Gaddafi already behaves like a Caesar with his theatrics and bold statements. A 'soldier of Africa' my black as...!xxx%/&"!

Related articles and blog posts about the AU Summit 2007 (last updated July 23rd)

AU Summit 2007 in Accra official website
(Note: the AU Summit website has an impressive array of online resources including transcripts of speeches, documents for download, and video files)

African Union official website – 9th African Union Summit in Accra

Stanford University Libraries (SULAIR) – Africa South of the Sahara
African History: Pan-Africanism

Africa urged to embrace unity now by John Kaninda (Business Day, Johannesburg)
Accra Summit - Is Africa ready for one government? by Ephraims Sheyin (Daily Trust, Abuja)
AU Summit opinion editorial by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Accra Mail, Accra)
Why we oppose Gaddafi by [Nigerian President] Yar’Adua by Josephine Lohor (This Day, Abuja)

Libya's Gaddafi storms out of AU Summit by Els De Temmerman (New Vision, Kampala)


AU's top diplomat Konare bemoans 'leadership crisis' in Africa by Pascal Fletcher
Africa leaders argue over federal government by Pascal Fletcher and Barry Moody
United States of Africa? Summit to debate the dream (CNN)

VOA News – Voice of America (audio and press reports)
Africa awaits Grand Debate communiqué by James Butty (includes MP3 audio file of interview with journalist Kofi Abotchie reporting from the Accra summit)

NPR – National Public Radio
One Everything for Africa? by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Mail & Guardian
Summit to map out United States of Africa by Emmanuel Goujon

The Independent (UK)
Ambitious plan for a new Africa: Welcome to the U.S.A.

BBC News

African unity still a dream by Gamal Nkrumah (son of Ghana's 1st President Kwame Nkrumah)
Gaddafi urges pan-African state (includes reader comments)

AU Summit Reporters Diary by Will Ross (the only hourly/daily reporting on the summit that I've been able to find online)
No timetable for uniting Africa (AU Summit closes without consensus on a unified government)

France24 (international news from France in English, French, and Arabic)
African Union embarassed by finances (AFP)
AU Summit ends without agreement on government timetable
EU pledges 'closer ties' with Africa, new era in relations with Africa (AFP)

Al Jazeera - English version
Gadaffi: Africa should unite or die

Global Voices Online (Harvard Law School, Berkman Center)
Is Africa ready for a United States of Africa?

Oluniyi David Ajao blogging from Accra, Ghana
AU Summit in Accra and matters arising

Afro Spear – a 'think tank' group blog by people of African descent
The United States of Africa by Asabagna

African Loft
United States of Africa - A Wishful Thinking? by Ugo Daniels

A Glimpse of the World

AU Summit Opens with Calls for Africa Government by Macharia Gaito (The Nation, Nairobi)

Ghanaweb News
The Gaddafi 109 vehicle, 500 person entourage 'No-Show' disappoints fans

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Koluki said...

How about "day dreaming" to classify this?

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for stopping by Koluki and I would disagree with you that the AU Summit top agenda item was about "day dreaming". There have been some very interesting reactions on the United States of Africa concept and the African leaders Gaddafi, Wade & Co. were dead serious in their urgency to move quickly. I wonder why these leaders feel an urgent need to move so quickly on this issue?

CNN's Inside Africa program dealt with the subject briefly in their show this past weekend and what was both funny and sad were the interviews with normal everday Egyptians about their "African identity". No Egyptian national interviewed described themselves as an African and some were insulted by the question. Sub-Saharan African immigrants living in Egypt who were interviewed complained about severe racism and prejuidice from the general population in Cairo, Egypt's so-called melting pot for millenia.

I personally am a sceptic that such a continent-wide federation of states will be created and be able to sustain itself anytime soon, but something along these lines is sorely needed. I was under the impression that the African Union was created in 2001 from the ashes of the OAU to address some of these very same issues, but apparently some African leaders want to move beyond the present mandate of the AU and the African Commission or to abandon the institutions altogether and start anew.

The September 2000 Le Monde Diplomatique article by Mwayile Tshiyembe "Would a United States of Africa work?" is an excellent detailed analysis and opinion editorial on this subject. See my link to the article in the post above or use the following URL:

I wonder what today's bright, up-and-coming star economists would have to say about the feasability of a US of Africa? Hmmm?

E-Nyce said...

I support an African Union styled on the EC/EU model, but not a U.S.A. It will never happen in Europe, it took a war to even begin -- and a civil war to cement the concept -- in the good ole USofA, so what makes us believe it will happen in Africa?

It won't. Next topic.

I believe the leaders should not diminish the AU, as they did OAU, but rather strenghten its mission or start a new one: concentrate on growing an EU model. Start with standardizing financial policies across all countries, get at least a common trade policy, and move up the economic policy ladder after that. We all know that's going to take at least 25 years right there just to getting it acceptably functional, but at least it's a start.

You noticed I didn't waste time explaining why USofAfrica won't work. Let me waste some bytes. With leaders like al-Gaddafi, Mbeki, Museveni and Mugabe, and the cronies that will follow them, no African leader would be willing to secede political power to a den of thieves, of which each of they themselves are members. Plus, the US and Europe would laugh themselves silly if attempt to do so were made, and China would pinch itself to think of their good fortune: that they only have to bribe one source of political influence as opposed to 53 separate ones.

So let's get real. What is not only a fabulaous idea, but could actually work, is an 'African Union' a la 'European Union'. There's no need flowery rhetoric, wishing thinking bordering on the usage of hallucineogenic drugs, or outright isanity. An AU is functional, plannable, beneficial to all, and still allows corrupt politicians to rule their countries.

What I want to know is if an AU were created, where would it be placed in terms of world economies?

Koluki said...

Hi there!

Sorry BRE, I took this long to come back to this issue but, as you know, things not always go the way we would like them to...

I think there is scope for both hope and skepticism on this project and let's agree to disagree. I would insist, however, in calling it "daydreaming". Why? Because, in my view, there is a lot to be said, if not radically against, at least to warrant caution and skepticism about this “outlandish” (megalomaniac?) project. There are, first and foremost, all sorts of structural handicaps in the way of a real economic integration between African countries and regions. Very briefly:

- To start with, the lack of complementarities between economic structures and patterns of trade: these were inherited from the colonial era and continue to be all geared towards providing the respective European metropolis with raw materials and unprocessed cash crops, in such a way that there is not enough productive diversification in the continent to stimulate intra-continental trade. This in turn makes it virtually impossible the formulation and implementation of common trade policies between neighbouring countries/regions, let alone one common trade policy for the entire continent which would lead to economic convergence 'a la EU'. The various (often overlapping regional economic organisations) have been designated within the current continental institutional framework as “building blocks” for the AU and the projected US of Africa. However, they have been behaving more as stumbling blocks in that direction and only the currently under negotiation Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU, in replacement of the expired Cotonou Agreement, have the potential to act as a structuring basis for any consistent evolution in terms of trade and development policies continent-wide. However, this means that little is bound to change in the traditional patterns and direction of trade towards Europe (the only ‘disruptive’ factor in this trend are the growing fluxes from/to China, with the US making a dent, not sufficiently significant though, with its AGOA projects), while nothing warrants that the EPAs, as currently designed, will actually contribute to any increase in intra-continental trade. This is further hampered by the general lack or deficiency of physical and technological infrastructure for an effective movement of goods and capital across the continent;

- Then, there are also institutional weaknesses at various levels of the “building blocks” of the AU, generally stemming from the lack of consistent enforcing mechanisms for the policies formulated at the national, regional and continental levels, i.e. most regional and continental agreements are not legally binding, depending exclusively on the political will of the designated implementers, which leads to the general lack of effective implementation of policies and the failure, in practice, of most regional endeavours;

- Finally, there are all problems arising from the political, ethnic and cultural diversity found in the continent, without appropriate platforms (apart from the high-level political meetings) to engage the different African societies, from bottom to top, in their discussion/resolution – something that has a lot to do with the general lack of democratic culture and structures in most of these societies. One clear manifestation of this is the example you rightly mention of Egypt, BRE. And its flip-side could be observed during the heated discussions at continent level, about a year or so ago, around the nomination of the African representatives for the UN Security Council, when many argued that “Egypt was not black or African enough to represent Africa”…

Do all these problems have effective solutions in the short to medium term, or even in the foreseeable long term? I don’t think so. Therefore, I think that instead of trying to forge ahead with this idea of a US of Africa that under the present conditions on the ground would translate into little more than a “feetless monster” (behaving exactly like e-nyce predicts), more emphasis should be put into making sure that the existing regional arrangements become (through fostering intra-trade, building infrastructure and institutional capacity and engaging civil societies and community organisations) effective building blocks for THE POSSIBLE African Union.

PS: I still couldn't find the time to read the article you suggest, but will as soon as possible.


Black River Eagle said...

Thank you Koluki and E-Nyce for your inputs on the U.S. of Africa debate as they are very much appreciated.

E-Nyce, what makes you think that the 53 nations on the African continent should model their economic/poltical governing body after the European Union and the European Commission? The EU/EC doesn't work for "all Europeans" as the founders and present-day supporters of these institutions have promised. As a matter of fact the EU/EC has gone from one crisis to another for all of its short history, and they are in the middle of a big constitutional mess right now. The Europeans have a long way to go before they have a true continental union of all societies and economies as is evident in loads of expert studies, the daily European news reports, and the attitudes of the average European man and woman on the street.

It was a "no brainer" that the founders of the present-day AU (African Union) would design their new transcontinental, inter-governmental body with the European model in mind. The U.S.A. style federation of states would be totally inappropriate for the African continent due to many of the points outlined in Koluki's comment above.

The West African nation of Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) founded by the Portuguese and 1000's of captured African slaves in 1545(?) has been actively campaigning to join the EU and turn its back on the AU and ECOWAS! Almost all North African countries including the Sudan and Egypt are card-carrying members of the Arab League, an economic & poltical intergovernmental body that is hardly in harmony with the desires and goals of the African Union, let alone the needs, wishes and hopes for a better future of the African people south of the Sahara and the Sahel.


Your comment was comprehensive and dead-on-target. I shall have to further contemplate what you have written and (perhaps) respond to it later. I say perhaps because you have said it all. The leaders of Africa's 53 nations need to cut the BS and get down to the urgent and immediate business of the African people before it is too late to turn things around.

In the meantime please try to find some time to read that article at Le Monde Diplomatique by Mwayile Tshiyembe "Would a United States of Africa work?". I found her piece intriguing in regards to how African nations could better organize themselves modeled on historic African traditions and methods vs. political and economic models borrowed from the West or the East.

Again, thank you for your brilliant response to this post.

Koluki said...

Have you seen the article and the discussion of this topic on Global Voices Online?
I just left a reference to this post there.

Black River Eagle said...

Thanks for the Heads Up on the Global Voices post and comments. I have added a link to that GVO post in my Related Articles list above.

E-Nyce said...

Thanks for the GVO link. There are so many articles over there, it's easy to miss even the most active topics.

B.R.E., you're letting your bias against the EU concept color your view of my points. Consider again what I wrote.

I read that piece by Tshiyembe, and it was as I feared. It presents excellent theoritical points without any reference to the practical realities that exist on the ground. It is interesting that it was written at the initiation of the AU, after the OAU was minimalized. Now we're at the stage where the AU is also being marginalized.

An U.S. of Africa is a beautiful IDEA. I'm with Koluki -- this is a daydream. As I wrote, it will never happen. Never. For the reasons I wrote, for the reasons Koluki wrote. Actually, you keep giving more reasons why this would not work, so I'm confused - are you for or against the IDEA?

As you write, the EU has many problems, and does not meet all the mandates it sets for itself. To be blunt, so what? It is a model in-progress. It will never be perfect. It works, but could be better, much better. The questions are: is it good enough? Is there a better, different way?

My view, as I wrote, is that African countries should start with their trade synergies, as this is the simplest political path for them to follow. It will take potentially 20 years to get it to the stage of the EU. Isn't that the same amount of time that Europe took to get its act together?

African countries need a mechanism to compete with the US/EU/China economic blocs. No one African country can even dream to compete, and even a collective is going to have a very difficult challenge and path to follow. The only workable model available for such a mechanism is the EU. If anyone believes there is a better model that Africa can follow - one that is practical, feasible, devoid of idealisms - please inform us. I have not read of one, anywhere.

Black River Eagle said...

E-Nyce, I think the idea of a united African community is a great idea as it would have many benefits for most of the people living on the continent today and in the future. I just can't picture the present group of leaders of 53 African nations agreeing on a federation of states with a centralized political and economic body. Perhaps it will happen in the lifetime of my children's children children but not in the time I have left on Earth.

Many of us who observe Africa from the outside looking in were under the impression that the founding of the African Union in 2001-2002 was to help African countries and societies co-operate better on political, economic, and social issues. The member nations of the African Union need support from one another and the "international community" to make this new union work, and they need lots of time.

How it is structured and how it carries out its work to solve various problems and build prosperity and security for all the citizens living on the African continent is a matter for the various African people and their elected and/or appointed leaders. The less interference from outside parties and special interests the better. Countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, China, European nations and so forth need to be there to help the AU when help is needed and not dictating the terms of how the AU should progress and evolve.

Having said that, I am fully supportive of the right to act on behalf of societies who are suffering under brutal, oppressive, and murderous regimes and despots vs. standing by and doing nothing but debating the issues, passing resolution after resolution backed by the authority of impotent international bodies and institutions, threatening economic sanctions, and other useless activities while people are dying by the tens of thousands and losing their homes and livelihoods in the process. That kind of outside interference into an African country's affairs I support with passion and vengeance if necessary, make no mistake about it.

I hope that this clears up any confusion about my position on a United States of Africa and Africa's future that you or others might have.

Patricia Daniel said...

Don't forget the (lack of)implementation of the AU's women's protocol http://patriciadaniel.blogspot.com/

Black River Eagle said...

Thank you for visiting Patricia and drawing our attention to the AU Protocol on the Rights of Women. I particularly liked your July 26th post "Democracy in Mali: The President and the Prostitute" about the present political scene in Mali and how women continue to be pushed to the very margins of the political process there. That article is one of the best op-eds about how democracy (really) works in Mali that I have read to date and it shows that you know your stuff. You should submit to the Global Voices Online editors for publication at their site.

Patricia Daniels
Senior Lecturer in Social Development
Center for Intl. Development and Training
University of Wolverhampton, U.K.

Patricia Daniels blog

Again thanks for stopping by and welcome to the blogosphere.