Africa’s pan-Africanism organisation marks its golden jubilee as African leaders and international dignitaries gather in Addis Abba, Ethiopia to celebrate. The organisation established in 1963 by 53 members with the name, the Organisation of African Union, OAU, mutated into African Union, AU on 26 May 2001.
Created shortly after most African countries had gained independence, it main aims were to further African unity and solidarity, to co-ordinate political, economic, social and defence policies, and to eliminate colonialism in Africa. It is hard to say whether any of these goals has been fully achieved or attained as the continent is instead awash or torn apart with conflicts, poverty, hunger, endemic diseases and underdevelopment.
Although, it is flattering to say that Africa today and that of 50 years back has a remarkable change, however much still has to been done. The organisation is yet to have an authoritative power or voice to take drastic measures to ensure that all its member states are promoting the goals of the organisation and not violating them and going unpunished. Most African states are still miles away from running smoothly without turning to the international community for aids or support and cannot pay their contributions for the running of the organisation. Substantial budgetary arrears due to delays in the payment of national contributions have meant that the pan-African movement continually faces difficulties in furthering and fostering its aims.
At 50, is a ripen age for any organisation, but the AU, needs to step out of its shadow and doldrums to make an impact on the continent, starting by resolving some of the shameful conflicts that have continued to back-paddle or encumber developmental efforts. Like Nelson Mandela clearly pointed out in one of his address at an OAU summit that although Africans had endured lots of suffering and subjugation prior to independence, many modern – post independent – African leaders had added to the toll of misery.
Wake up Africa
As some of those African leaders will be among invited guests celebrating the golden jubilee, this is another opportunity to encourage them to reflex on Mandela’s words.
“We must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in how we govern ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are ill-governed.”
Mandela’s cry was for an African renaissance. The idea of an African renaissance was not novel, since it had been a common theme in the 1950s and 1960s during the era of African emancipation from colonial rule.
Thabo Mbeki, the successor of Mandela, championed the ideology of an African renaissance where, one-party states and military dictatorships were no longer considered acceptable forms of government. Mbeki took it as a personal challenge to improve Africa’s image so as to attract foreign investment.
“The African renaissance, in all its parts, can only succeed if its aims and objectives are defined by Africans themselves and if we take responsibility for the success or failure of our policies.” Thabo Mbeki in Martin Meredith (2006) The State of Africa.
Corruption and poor governance are just a few of the bulk of problems bugging Africa’s development and economic growth. However, as the rest of the world has moved forward in development, Africa remains the burden that must be uploaded for a global economic and trade to pick up. Therefore, after 50 years, members of AU have little to celebrate but a ton of problems to ponder on and find feasible solutions. African leaders gathering for this 50th anniversary summit must take the responsibility to pilot the continent into a new era of success like what is happening in India and China today.