In the weeks that had progressed since the start of the Spring semester during which I have been following on the developments on the African continent there have been many interesting news that were worthy writing about in the blog.
The level of regional integration on the continent is not as tight as one may want and many may argue that compared to the European Union, the African regional institutions are far from united. But I think it is not appropriate in this context and at this point in time to compare them. One reason is the fact that the African states compared to European ones are infants: they barely have half a century of political independence. This lapsed period can be characterized to what the European nations have gone through the Renaissance, but the pace at which they arrived at where they are today is worth of attention. The economic numbers might not be impressive but looked upon at a small scale, incremental improvements are real and taking place. Things are progressing but not everywhere and not uniformly. Some regions are actually regressing, such as the recent conflict in Mali can attest. This is what I think is one of Africa’s problem, the world’s problem. The stereotype that Africa is one cohesive body and that poverty is the factor binding them together is extremely misleading. One of the causes to this is probably rooted in the pan-Africanist movement. The message that it propagated during the decolonialization period was akin to a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it united and was instrumental in creating this vague identity for the multitude of tribes and nations that inhabit the landmass and deeply affected future cooperation between states. On the other hand, it gave the outsiders the impression that Africans are all the same and the strings of failures and coup d’etats that happened after the ‘year of Africa’ throughout the second half of the 20th century further entrenched this stereotype. I believe that at present we’re seeing a move away from this thinking and regional organizations such as SADC and IGAD are helpful in accomplishing this. At the regional level states such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya are implementing programs that foster economic improvement through projects such as drought resilience. Western African states with a shared past influenced by France have been able to not only band economically but also create their own development bank and introduce a common currency, the CFA franc. There have been increased strides in the political sphere. African states are increasingly interested in their neighbours and their political stability. States such as Uganda have sent a peacekeeping force into Somalia for humanitarian aid and is considered the most successful intervention to date. Troops from the Economic Community of West African States supplied troops in Mali this past year to fight the insurgency in the north, albeit with great support from France. In the social sphere, people speak out and voice their concerns about justice and human rights such as the case of the disbanded SADC Tribunal which received regional coverage. Everyday news like these make up to what can be considered a move forward.
There is a lot of trial and error and unfortunately throughout the latter half of the 20th century millions of lives were lost in the process. I believe that greater human quality of life will come to Africa, it may take some time, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it is happening and technological inter-connectedness will accelerate this process. We as scholars and future leaders will be prepared with the tools gained from this course to forge cooperation and development and be that driving change in the future. If not as part of an African state then as a cooperating agent.