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1|21 Philosophy, Politics and Africanism

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi

From Pan-Africanism to Pro-Africanism- A Critical Review of the Ideology of Pan-Africanism with a Fresh Proposal


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1Despite the lofty ideals on which Pan-Africanism was conceived over a hundred years ago, it has not lead to a more secure Africa with a remarkable ethics of brotherhood and cooperation. Hence post-colonial Africa has recorded over a hundred wars with other illustrations of chaos and disorder. A plausible interpretation is either that Pan-Africanism does not square up to the demands of modern day Africa or that the implementation of the ideology is faulty. The work adopts the first position and sets out to interrogate the ideals on which Pan-Africanism functions in post-colonial Africa. The central argument of the paper is that Africa’s post-colonial challenges has strong internal demands that reinforce the external challenges and that without addressing the internal roots of these challenges by rethinking Pan-Africanism the challenges will persist. It proposes Pro-Africanism (defined as supportive Africanism) as a more viable ideology.


2Despite the lofty ideals on which pan-Africanism was conceived over a hundred years ago, it has not led to a more secure Africa or an ethic of brotherhood and cooperation. Africa still witnesses more inter-state and intra-state wars than other regions of the world. In socio-economic terms, Africa still harbours the most insecure citizens of the world, because society cannot guarantee their peace and well-being. She has more wandering refugees and illegal immigrants than other country . The implication is that either the ideology does not square up to the demands of modern day Africa, or that implementation of the ideology is faulty. This work adopts the first position and sets out to interrogate the ideals on which pan-Africanism functions in post-colonial Africa. The central argument of the paper is that Africa’s post-colonial challenge has more internal demands than external demands and that the external demands have strong internal roots, which pan-Africanism is not in a position to tackle. The paper therefore maps out and explains these internal challenges, with the argument that whereas pan-Africanism served to galvanise forces that led to decolonisation in Africa, the internal challenges of post–colonial Africa (which amount to Africa’s internal hegemony or self-colonisation) cannot be solved by pan-Africanism. It argues that addressing these challenges through the ideology of pan-Africanism without the effort to understand, engage and productively negotiate African differences will be counter-productive.

At the thirtieth anniversary grand finale conference of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), held in Dakar Senegal in 2003 (but published in 2005), two African scholars - Hannington Ochwada and Ngugi wa Thiong’o - articulated strong views that point to a need to review the ideology of pan-Africanism. According to Ochwada, the cultural and economic marginalisation that Africa currently experiences makes it urgent ‘to revisit the role of nationalism and pan-Africanism in debates and discourse on the African condition’[Ochwada 2005:201]

3Similarly, Ngugi wa Thiong’o submitted that pan-Africanism should not be built on Euro-memory of Africa or the relationship between African ‘heads of states or that of the intellectual and western-educated elite held together by their common inheritance of European languages’ [Wa Thiong’o.2005:162] .These are strong positions that urge a critical review of the long-standing ideology of pan-Africanism. What my work has set out to do is further this critical scholarship and add to a critical literature on pan-Africanism, by looking at some vital challenges of post-colonial Africa and establishing if pan-Africanism can address these challenges.

4The work does not seek to undermine the need for ‘pan-African solidarity’[Ade Ajayi 2001:47] ‘solidarity itself being a moral ethic in the African world. What it has set out to do is to examine the kind of solidarity Africans should demand from themselves in post-colonial Africa and the ideological basis on which they should seek such solidarity. Through a critique of pan-Africanism in this regard, I then state what I consider to be a more viable ideology for African development and an African future - one that will capture the need for African solidarity, yet guarantee some of the ideals that, even though implied by pan-Africanism, cannot be realised through it, to attain social stability and quality growth and development for Africa. This, I capture under the term Pro-Africanism.

5By Pro-Africanism, I mean supportive African ethics or supportive Africanism, that is, affording the Africans as much mental and material resources as is possible to develop and advance the quality of African life, by allowing him or her to be the best that he/she can be through his/her natural human endowments. Pro-Africanism is a position that holds that the different socio-cultural and socio-political blocks of Africans operating as nation-states or ethnic nationalities should support each other to exploit the benefits of their intellectual and cultural resources, in order to seek growth and development in ways that will favour them best and under different frameworks as may be favourable to their historical and cultural contexts but not under a uniform measure and framework. This could then attract greater interest from those in favour of African re-birth globally, especially development agents and enthusiasts who could be attracted to the project and who could identify with the desires of African people in terms of their specific nature and demands. Arising from this, we could have a co-ordinated body of Pro-Africanists with ideas, theories, policies, programmes and principles that specifically respond to African needs in a way that will favour a given group of people. This, in my estimation, is what could lead to the emergence of an African super-power (interpreted to mean a strong and coordinated body of African nationals that function in a state that is comparatively strong and significant to the larger human community and can defend pro-African interests).

6A basic view I hold and which drives my criticism of pan-Africanism, is that, at the moment, Africans lack cognitive unity, that is, a shared worldview formulated through the language and structures of African modernity. Thus, in view of what Kwame Nkrumah has called ‘the crisis of African conscience’ (itself the result of the different foreign interventions in African history); and the poverty of the intellectual resources and capital to coordinate and address issues at a pan-African level; the path to African development in its modern demands might not lie in this direction but on how to encourage any unit of Africa to convert the potentials of its cultural and natural resources and its reservoir of knowledge to an African advantage for which she deserves the support of others.

7The work suggests that there is a need to re-think and re-ground Africa’s future on the strength, potential and values of African differences and to support the growth of the relevant intellectual and cultural ideals that these differences defend, especially those that are relevant to the flowering of African humanity. In other words, mine is pan-Africanism turned upside down, in the sense that what my position advocates is the need to seek an African family from within and not to move to the smaller units or levels of Africa from without, as implied by pan-Africanism. The work is in three parts and I shall: (i) discuss the substance of pan-Africanism; (ii) provide a critique of the idea by articulating the ideological deficiencies of pan-Africanism in post-colonial Africa; (iii) articulate the idea of pro-Africanism and its promises.

The Substance of Pan-Africanism

8Pan-Africanism is a galvanising movement and ideology that emphasises the sameness and oneness of the African family in seeking to provide a framework for unity and the growth of African peoples. Initiated in Paris in 1891 by W.E.B. Du Bois, this movement is anchored in a racial consciousness of the African identity. The ideologies hold that the destiny of African peoples world over are interlinked and that efforts made to improve the lot of Africans on one front must be aimed at improving the lot of Africans elsewhere. The ideals of this movement can be summarised in the words of Sekou Toure, the Guinean political icon, whose famous ideology for democratic governance in Guinea held that ‘... Africa should be considered like the human body: when a finger is cut off, the whole body suffers’. Other pioneers of pan-Africanism include Marcus Garvey, Wallace Johnson, George Padmore, Ras Makonnen, Kwame Nkrumah (first president of Ghana), Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba, first Prime Minister of Congo, etc. The latest efforts to sustain the ideals of pan-Africanism include the Pan-African Congress held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on June 19-27, 1974, and periodic publication of Third World First, and numerous important publications and journals on pan-African studies, such as the Pan-African Movement Newsletter.

9In the effort to establish the basic ideas and values that define pan-Africanism, my views will be grounded on the ideology of sub-Saharan (black) African pan-Africanism. As properly captured by Ali Mazrui, there are several kinds of pan-Africanism:

First, there is sub-Saharan Pan-Africanism, an assertion of solidarity among black Africans south of the Sahara. Secondly, there is trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism, emphasizing the links between Africa south and north of the Sahara (The Organization of African Unity is based on the principle of trans-Saharan Pan-Africanism). Thirdly, there is Trans-Atlantic Pan-Blackism, constituting links between Africa South of the Sahara and the Black Diaspora, the solidarity of shared blackness is extended to black Americans, West Indians, black Brazilians, and other black people in the Western hemisphere. Fourthly, there is Tran-Atlantic Pan-Africanism, bringing together the black diaspora in the western Hemisphere with all Africans in the continent, both black and Arab. (Mazrui,1979:26)

10I am applying sub-Saharan pan-Africanism because this is where the ideology has produced its most significant gains and impact, as evident in the current drive for a United States of Africa. I am also applying Sub-Saharan Africa because this is where the ideology has manifested its serious challenges in post-colonial Africa. Finally, I submit that most of the challenges I apply to illustrate the problems of pan-Africanism are drawn from the post-colonial phase of Africa’s development.

11In an attempt to articulate the ideals of sub-Saharan pan-Africanism, I shall rely on the views of three African leaders, who, to a large extent, can be said to be important advocates of the idea, and with whom the idea finds adequate expression. These are: Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda. In relying on their positions to discuss the ideals that define pan-Africanism as an ideology, I do not deny that the idea of pan-Africanism pre-dates their emergence on the African political scene. I only wish to draw on the fact that their views express the maturation of the idea after what could be called the infancy stage of the idea: the period during which it served merely as a blue-print in Africa’s search for an ideology that would define the African future and direct the march to that future. As Nkrumah himself wrote:

The expression Pan-Africanism did not come into use until the beginning of the twentieth century when Henry Sylvester Williams of Trinidad and William Edward Burghardt Dubois of the United State of America, both of African descent, used it at several Pan-African Conferences which were mainly attended by scholars of African descent of the New World. (Nkrumah, 1963:26)

12While there were several forums convened to articulate issues that addressed the concerns of Africans, in general, and which later served as the blue-print for pan-Africanism (first in 1919 in Paris, second in 1921 in London, third in 1923 in London, fourth in 1927 in New York, and fifth in 1945 in Manchester), it is important to note that pan-Africanism ‘really took concrete expression at the fifth Pan-African Conference in Manchester in 1945’ (G.C.M. Mutiso & S.W. Rohio.p.1980,ibid;p.341). To further articulate clearly what stands to be regarded as the basic philosophy of pan-Africanism, let me discuss the outcome of this conference and how it is reflected in the thoughts of the African leaders mentioned.

13The basic idea of the Manchester Congress of 1945, where pan-Africanism took its roots, was the need to achieve a Pan-African nationalism that would serve as the basis for African nationalism, that is, an African nationalism that would direct the cry for independence in Africa and serve the cause of liberation of African people from the shackles of colonialism. This agenda is demonstrated in the action taken by Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore, who served as secretaries to this conference and soon after worked to bring Pan-Africanism to the African continent, where, according to them, ‘it really belongs’(ibid p.342). While the preceding conferences of similar intentions permitted foreign powers to govern the peoples of Africa, specifying the terms of such governance, in particular the need for the peoples of Africa to be governed with fairness and justice, the 1945 Manchester Congress made very specific demands regarding the need for self-governance and declared “We affirm the right of all colonial peoples to control their own destiny. All colonies must be free from foreign imperialist control, whether political or economic.(Nkrumah, 1963)

14With this basic demand for freedom and independence, we can then see the inner force according to which Pan-Africanism functioned at the out-set. Other principles that define the pan-African project can be found in the views of selected African leaders, as indicated. Let me now highlight them.

15For Nkrumah, the idea of Pan-Africanism can be summarised in the need for ‘a continental government for Africans’ (ibid p.345) and ‘the need to maintain a common currency’ (ibid). This included the establishment of a unified military and defence strategy, and the need to adopt a unified foreign policy and diplomacy to give political direction to their ‘joint efforts for the protection and economic development of our continent’ (ibid). Nkrumah’s position was anchored in the belief that:

We [Africans] need the strength of our combined numbers and resources to protect ourselves from the very positive dangers of returning colonialism in disguised forms. We need it to combat the entrenched force dividing our continent and still holding back millions of our brothers. We need it to secure total African liberation. We need it to carry forward our construction of a socio-economic system that will support the great mass of our steadily rising population at levels of life which will compare with those in the most advanced countries ( ibid, p.344).

16Nkrumah’s vision of Pan-Africanism is anchored in the need for an ‘inward look into the African continent for all aspects of its development’ (ibid, p.345). For Julius Nyerere, another prominent African leader, the need for Pan-Africanism arises from the fact that he considers ‘each of the African states to be weak in relation to the outside world and dependent, if allowed to interact with the larger world on its own. Thus, his theory of Pan-Africanism arises from the need to create a powerful centre that would be vested with some powers to protect and direct the future of each state. For Nyerere:

The objective of unity demands that an all-African body should have power in certain vital matters. And that the constituent parts of Africa should cease to have power in these matters. In relation to the outside world, there must be just one authority in Africa. (Nyerere 196:329)

17Nyerere’s idea of Pan-Africanism is anchored in the need to create ‘one source of ultimate power as far as non-African powers are concerned’ (ibid). For this reason, he recommends that Pan-Africanism should imply the ‘cessation of natural sovereignties’ and its replacement ‘by the sovereignty of Africa as a single unit, incorporating all the separate units’ (ibid). In practice, Pan-Africanism should translate into ‘African self-policing’, ‘a common market’, ‘a single currency’ and ‘free trade’ (ibid). Thus, the substance of Nyerere’s theory is a demand for a form of Pan-Africanism that would lead to ‘a continent-wide state, single and indivisible’(ibid).

18Nyerere supports this statement with the view that there is already a form of emotional unity in Africa that finds expression in the concept of ‘African personality’, (ibid, p.334). But, in his view (ibid), this emotional unity should be allowed to express itself in a more realistic manner, through strong economic and political unity, which will lead to a United States of Africa. This, he believes, should lead to ‘unity of action together with the greatest possible degree of local self-expression on things which affect only that locality’, (ibid) for, as he puts it, ‘only with unity can we be sure that African resources will be used for the benefit of Africa’. (ibid, p.335) Nyerere goes forward to map out strategies to achieve the idea. One of these is the formation of a ‘loose association of states’ among African states and the ‘constant exchange of visits’ (ibid) by heads of state of associating states. He advocates the formation of an East African Federation of States comprising Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, which he considers ‘comparatively easy to achieve’ (ibid) as a beginning.

19The idea of Pan-Africanism suggested by Kenneth Kaunda demands more rigour than that of the two leaders discussed above. Kaunda suggests the principles that should define the Pan-African project of unity with a critical stand that the idea of Pan-Africanism should not be built on what he calls ‘fond illusions’ (ibid, p.348).

20He rejects the assumption that the desire for freedom in Africa, as reflected in the Manchester Conference, amounts to a collective desire for unity, and backs this position with the example of the position of the first Nigerian Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, who, in 1960, when Nigeria gained independence, said that ‘Nigeria has not the slightest intention of surrendering her sovereignty, no sooner has she gained independence, to anyone else …’ (ibid). Kaunda’s view, arising from this position, is that while the project of Pan-Africanism may be desirable, erecting such a bond of unity may not be fruitful without an attempt to dialogue with the components of the desired union. Kaunda (ibid) recommends that such unity should be founded on dialogue and evolution of ideas that define the African person so as to achieve what could be called a Pan-African morality. Without such morality, that is, a shared ethical worldview that regulates a common value, the unity desired by the project would not be feasible and productive. As a step towards the achievement of such a moral and intellectual base for this idea, Kaunda endorses the recommendation of Haile Selassie, one-time Emperor of Ethiopia, that there is a need to set up an African university where ‘the future leaders of Africa can be trained in an atmosphere of continental brotherhood’. (ibid, p.349) At such a university:

... the supra-national aspects of African life would be emphasized and study would be directed towards the ultimate goal of complete African unity. (ibid, p.349)

21As implied by the above citation, such a university would raise Africans who would be educated to see Africa wholly and to see it steadily. From among the products of such a university, the idea of Pan-Africanism could gain relevance. After this short discussion of the basic tenets of pan-Africanism, let me now turn to the next task – that of presenting what I consider to be the problems with the idea. It is based on these that I shall propose a review of the ideology of Pan-Africanism.

Critiquing Pan-Africanism

22A summary of the concept of Pan-Africanism prevalent in the views of the three leaders mentioned shows that it is aimed at the formation of a higher and stronger governmental force than those of different states of Africa, that would direct the affairs of African states and protect Africa from undue hegemony from the imperial world. Such a higher force would serve to moderate the activities, policies and programmes of independent African states by appealing to the spirit of an assumed African brotherhood that pre-dates the emergence of the states. This, it was believed, would make the states less vulnerable to foreign imperial forces that would attempt to intervene in the attainment of the desired freedom and progress of these states. Thus, it could be said that ‘development is the ultimate goal of Pan-Africanism’ [Chumbow 2005:165] and that Pan-Africanism translates into unity, solidarity, security, and empowerment.

23This position appears attractive, especially in the light of the youthful stage of the decolonisation process in Africa at the time that Pan-Africanism was conceived as the ideological response to the challenge of decolonisation and modernisation. It could be held that the ideology provided a platform for galvanising the efforts of Africans, which led to the movement for decolonisation and independence. Thus, apart from the fact that it led to a form of self-consciousness among Africans, ‘the origins of pan-Africanism and the origins of modern black intellectualism are interlinked’. [Mazrui (2005:73]. Pan-Africanism inspired and led African leaders to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which has been described as ‘institutionalised Pan-Africanism’. (ibid, p.76). The many achievements of that OAU, which include moderation of tension between African states and providing a platform for sharing ideas on the African state, cannot be covered by this piece. However, it should be noted that much of its achievements relate to the decolonisation project in Africa.

24But crucial questions remain: If Pan-Africanism played this role during the era of decolonisation has it played the same or similar roles in post-colonial Africa? What are the basic challenges that confront post-colonial Africa? Are the challenges majorly external or more external than internal for which Pan-Africanism is still the most desirable option to address the challenge? To address these questions, it is important to note that since the transformation of the OAU into the African Union, much of the achievement of the union has been the formation of the New Partnership for African Development and some ‘parliamentary aspirations and shared judicial ambitions’ (ibid, p.76) in addition to the formation of African Union troops for peace keeping reasons. These are no doubt significant measures, but it would seem that there are more fundamental problems affecting Africa, which are not properly conceived because of the pan-African outlook. Some of these problems stand at the bedrock of the challenges that affect the African Union - which is the contemporary (post-colonial) institutional framework for Pan-Africanism. Let me map out these challenges and discuss them in order to highlight the need to rethink Pan-Africanism.

25Three outstanding issues confront post-colonial Africa and have led to uncoordinated mental and material resources that should be harnessed to serve the African humanity reliably (at least drawing from the Nigerian experience where this author has experienced, researched and intuitively engaged the African situation). These issues which are basically entrenched in the thought schemes and the internal affairs of Africans are the challenges of: mental decolonisation; the conflict between political morality and economic morality; and the challenge of the socio-cultural-cum-psychological complex. Let me articulate these problems and demonstrate how they remain crucial to the political well-being of Africa and why I think that Pan-Africanism is not in a position to address them. I will argue that these problems demand the realization of what I have called ‘rational kingdom’(Ugwuanyi 2013:48) i.e. an intellectual structure driven by African/Africanized values and principles-something more fundamental than the political kingdom postulated by Kwame Nkrumah, and that pan-Africanism does not serve the purpose of this kingdom.

26Decolonisation implies a conscious effort to interrogate, destroy, negate and displace the socio-cultural structures Africa has inherited from colonialism, with a view to promoting the emergence of alternative structures rooted in African cultural heritage. These structures include language, religion, education, politics, economy, society and family. These structures defend and promote values and ideals that are antithetical to Africa’s well-being, in the sense that they generate doubt, hatred and contempt for the African personality and, by doing so, imply that Africa’s cultural development demands total rejection of African cultural values. Mental decolonisation is the effort to achieve a clear picture of things by negating the colonial heritage, so as to ensure that our ideas are co-natural with the endogenous provisions of the African world. It is how to ensure that there are adequate grounds for accepting or rejecting any idea, concept or value and that this does not undermine the capacity to recreate these in the way that favours the autonomy of the individual.

27Two important African thinkers - Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Kwasi Wiredu - have demonstrated the justification and need for decolonising the African mind. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (1986) suggests decolonising the African mind through an African language, while Kwasi Wiredu (1995) suggests decolonising the African mind by contrasting African concepts with western concepts. With these positions, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Kwasi Wiredu believe that linguistic autonomy and conceptual freedom are crucial elements in the liberation process, and should therefore constitute the direction in Africa’s search for cultural renewal.

28The second item that constitutes a crucial challenge in post-colonial Africa is the conflict between political economy and moral economy in Africa, which can be extended to imply conflict between political morality and economic morality. By political economy I mean how economy is influenced by state structures; and by moral economy I mean how the economy is made to serve human ends fulfil the demands of human well-being. This challenge can be interpreted to imply the need for a viable and reliable political state and fair ethics in wealth generation and distribution; it arises from the arbitrary nature of African states, as many modern African states are in truth unworthy contracts, founded by non-Africans and sustained by non-African wills and wishes, which has not enjoyed a paradigm shift several years after independence. As a result, many modern African states qualify being called rogue states. By this I mean a weapon for mischief, deceit and misappropriation of the human potential, mostly by multi-nationals from Western countries who run the state with, and through, African comprador bourgeoisie. In post-colonial Africa, there is often a greater attachment to the political advantage of resource sharing than resource creation and quality citizenship; this, to a large extent, could be said to account for the protracted problems of the state in modern Africa. Thus, it could be said that the African state, as Achille Mbembe [2001:13] puts it, got its birth through the accumulative principle of violence which has made the violence of rights (as against the duty of rights) a prominent vice in African modernity for which the moral, social and political violence of African states add to constitute a cardinal challenge in post-colonial Africa. Since these challenges are significantly moral there is the need to doubt whether the current idea of the state in Africa, which has its roots in the western theory of the state where Plato (The Republic 389a-e, p.71) recommended that ‘the philosopher-king can tell lies’ and Machiavelli [1985] a later prominent theorist of the state recommended that ‘the leader can exhibit the character of a lion and fox at the same time,’ can fit into the demands of the African world. In Africa, being human has ‘a normative component’ [Wiredu 2004:20] and the question of moral maturity is a necessary condition for being a person, just as the state is a pact between the living and the dead. These views suggest that the African state deserves to achieve a paradigm shift to play its desired role in African life.

29The third challenge that defines post-colonial Africa amounts to a socio-cultural-cum-psychological complex. It arises from the cultural tension that defines interaction between Africans, first among sub-Saharan Africans, and second between Africans of Arab extraction and Africa south of the Sahara. Among black Africans, the context of self understating is still a major problem as a result of which they incline very easily to ethno-cultural cleavages for self-understanding and in doing so are not able to demarcate the line between the demands of a cultural world and the demands of the state.

30Owing to this disconnection, dominance and fierce rivalry dominate the political sociology of the state and the demand for equity, tolerance and equality are downplayed. At the continental level, a certain religious tension exists between Arab Africans, especially between those of the Islamic faith and the Bantu-Africans, such that religion remains the basis of identity and contestation that impedes the idea of framework for post-colonial African co-operation and coordination. For instance, a sizeable litany of what can be called violent jihaddism has been unleashed in Bantu-Africa in recent times, with inspiration, cooperation and support drawn from Arab Africans, who are determined to Arabize all Bantu-Africans. Although this cannot be said to be a universal endorsement of the Islamic ethics the fact that these are carried out by Africans against their supposed fellow Africans present a curious concern to the pan-African idea.

31The net result of these post-colonial challenges and mega-African challenges is a persisting crisis that affects development in Africa, and the result being that by 2003 sub-Saharan Africa, with about 650 million people, had a combined GDP somewhat smaller than that of Belgium (with a population of 10 million)[Radu 2003]. In 2005, while about 300,000 African professionals were working in Europe and America, Africa spent about USD4 billion per year importing 100,000 foreign professionals [Karioki 2005:20-25]. By 2011, the number had increased and Africa was losing ‘more than 23,000 professionals annually while it expends US$4 billion on the services of 100,000 consultants and advisers’[Ihonvbere 2011: 3].

… at the beginning of the new millennium, Africa was the poorest, most technology-backward, most politically unstable, most crisis-ridden, most-indebted, and most foreign-dominated and exploited, as well as the most marginal continent in the world. Foreign debt represents up to 80 percent of GDP in net present value terms in most countries, inflation rates average between 12 and 45 percent, unemployment rates (excluding the informal sector) range between 12 and 25 percent, while the savings rate in Africa is the lowest in the world. As well, 15 of the world’s 20 most impoverished nations are in Africa, with over 3 million refugees and 18 million internally displaced persons. It is estimated by international agencies that over 250 million Africans lack access to potable water, while over 200 million have no opportunities to access basic health services. More than 2 million children die before the first year, over 150 million youth are illiterate, and almost half of rural females do not attend formal schools .

32Thus, it might just be apt to adopt the view of Theophilius Okere [2004:4-5] another African scholar:

Africa is looking like a basket case. The entire map … is littered with debris of rogue states, failed governments, violent successions … and villains and victims, violently repressed secessions, interminable wars, interminable rows of wandering refugees, endemic diseases, endemic poverty, hopeless debt burdens, ugly slums, desperate recourse to religion and magic, massive unemployment for youth. And for this reason, Africa leads the world in virtually every form of crime against good governance, child soldiers, child amputees, child labour, mass graves from forgotten but enduring civil wars, mass graves from the epidemics of ebola, lassa fever, and now AIDS, not to forget malaria, our perpetual scourge.

33In the light of these challenges the questions that should be asked are: What can be held to be a solution to these problems; and how can be it be held that pan-Africanism can solve them? I locate these problems in what I call the absence of a rational kingdom in Africa. By rational kingdom, I mean a state where ideas, ideals and values implied and generated by the African world-view do not provide the basis for state ethics, and where the state is significantly alien and represents the wishes of effectively colonised minds. Whereas ‘the state grows out of the nature of the individual’ [Stumpf 1989:71] and constitutions on which states find their legitimacy ‘… must result from the preponderance of certain characters which draw the rest of the community in their wake’, (ibid) the idea of the state in Africa must reflect the cultural and social ideals of the African world. Whereas constitutional and state ideals must be founded on relevant social ideals of socio-political structures erected by the people through the social values of the community, the outcome of the state project in Africa has not reflected this reliably.

34The next is question to address is how it can be said that Pan-Africanism is in a position to address these challenges? Does Pan-Africanism have sufficiently strong intellectual roots and foundations to address these problems? I argue that pan-Africanism does not have this foundation, because it does not amount to a scientific political theory or a product of knowledge that enjoys inner human drive, such as one that can be rooted in human nature or desire. Beyond its potential to suggest the basis for collective identity and pride that can resist physical aggression, it does not have the capacity to generate some forceful and impactful knowledge that can lead to development. It functions merely as a theory of unity; but unity in essence is not an intellectual principle, but a circumstantial principle of need.

35When people are united they are prepared to face a common enemy. But there can also be a form of unity that favours the enemy. This can be illustrated with the form of unity aimed at conquering a physical enemy who may be more tactical and strategic .In confronting such an enemy through the ethics of unity; (a) everybody has to be carried along; (b) the interest of everybody has to be considered leading to an ethics of consensus on which method to be applied; (c)those who are stronger would have to act in the interest of weaker in order to sustain the principle of unity. In doing all these, the target would be to defeat the enemy together and not singularly. What this means is that even if one of the agents of unity has what it takes to defeat the enemy, he or she has to compromise this strength in order to ensure that victory is achieved as a group to defend and promote the ethics of unity. This kind of principle, I strongly believe, stands at the background to the ideology of Pan-Africanism and deserves to be questioned and if need be outrightly reconsidered and rejected in favour of an ideology that can empower the parts to act for and on behalf of the whole, provided that in and by doing so, the interests of the all Africans are safeguarded. Here what is paramount is the need to safeguard the ethics of an African brotherhood and to ensure that an ideology of difference that defines this brotherhood does not cash in to ruin the brotherhood as a result of this. It is also to ensure that Africans can act differently in the interest of Africans but not necessarily through the form of unity that can weaken the whole.

36To proceed in discussing the deficiencies of Pan-Africanism further, let me illustrate how Pan-Africanism is often invoked in African scholarship even when it does not amount to a specific intellectual principle. In scholarship, especially in the arts and the humanities, there are several academic conferences, programmes and projects that emphasise a Pan-African outlook. It is common to read such terms and concepts as ‘Pan-African History’[Adi, H. & Marika 2003],‘The Pan-Africanist Worldview’[Agyman 1985], ‘Pan-African Film Festival’[Nyamnjoh, F.B & Shoro, K., 2010:35-62] and ‘Pan-African Poetry’ (ibid). These gatherings or forums often amount to a gathering of Africanists who share their problems. Indeed,Ali Mazrui [2005]submits that in breadth, pan-Africanism covered a wider range - concerned not only with political economy, but also with African culture, aesthetics, poetry and philosophy.

37But it can hardly be held that scholarship in these areas has produced significant ‘Pan-African results’ and a qualitative outcome on African life in terms of promoting the ideals of collective African wisdom and remarkable sense of dignity because of the often ignored particularistic mode of the issues addressed and the fact that these issues often have different roots and foundations which considerably vary from one part of Africa to another. Bangura [2012] seems to have pointed out - perhaps ironically - the dilemma of this scenario, when he canvassed for the application of what he calls ‘Pan-African methodologies’ in African scholarship, with the view that ‘it would be sensible to break down the concept of Pan-Africanism by discipline; for instance, in the area of the natural science – geology, biology, medicine, pharmacology, etc.’. This position amounts to a vivid illustration of the disciplinary challenge of the implications of the idea of Pan-Africanism and shows that pan-Africanism is a suspicious ideology from the intellectual domain of thought for it is curious if not ridiculous, how the idea of Pan-Africanism could be applied to biology, medicine, pharmacology leading perhaps to ‘united biology’, ‘united medicine’, ‘united pharmacology’ or ‘united African biology’, ‘united African medicine’, and ‘united African pharmacology’, etc.

38In an inaugural lecture held at the University of South Africa, Vusi Gumede[2014] argued that ‘in the context of pan-Africanism and African renaissance, education or knowledge production broadly, should be based on an Afrocentric paradigm.’ Paradoxically, the Afrocentric paradigm does not translate into Pan-Africanism, just as Pan-Africanism is not exactly the same thing as African renaissance. While Afrocentricism basically amounts to a form of consciousness, ‘quality of thought, mode of analysis, and actionable perspective, where Africans seek, from agency, to assert subject placed within the context of African history’[Asante 2007] and African renaissance amounts to a deliberate re-awakening of this consciousness, Pan-Africanism seeks a form of unity of consciousness that has strong epistemological challenges that would obliterate (if not) negate some truths about Africans. This conceptual clarity is important to at least ensure that there is a reliable measure to validate actions implied by these. Indeed, each of these concepts and paradigms has challenges that are considerably different from one other.

39But the obsession with the ideology of Pan-Africanism does not often urge this critical outlook. It is for this reason that it is often naively and wrongly, but enthusiastically, applied in scholarship without clarity, which is an accrual demand of scholarship. In applying the Pan-African idea this way, it does not, however, mean that the ideas or objects to which the pan-African reference is made are thereby made stronger or truer; it only means that they are thereby made more relevant, at least, within the mental universe of the African, who is fascinated by the idea and applies it for this reason. But whether and how exactly this is the case remains the question. As a matter of fact the creation of knowledge in Africa in favour of Pan-Africanism amounts to saying that the western encounter with Africa which came through the triple inhuman phases of slavery, imperialism and outright colonialism and which served as the inspiration for Pan-Africanism should be definitive of African consciousness forgetting that that there are aspects of African life such as African morality which harbour distinct values that cannot be defined by this encounter and which can be developed without strict reference to these phases of African history.

40African philosophy has engaged the subject of reason and thought within the African scheme of thought for the last four decades. Interestingly, the effort has mainly been that of recognising and developing along different ethno-cultural potentials of the African world, such as: the Igbo philosophical worldview of Nigeria; the Akan philosophical worldview of Ghana; the Shona philosophical worldview of Zimbabwe; etc. This effort has sometimes led to a critical and comparative engagement with these ideas and their implication when reviewed by the larger demand of African renewal, But the idea of a Pan-African philosophy as a union of philosophical ideas that are held to be pan-African has not been made a public discourse and outlook nearly half a century after of the study of the discipline. At best the form of unity that can be glimpsed from this discipline is philosophical reflections grounded in ethno-cultural thoughts and affiliations such as Akan philosophical discourse; Igbo philosophical discourse; Shona philosophical discourse, etc. which have given the discipline a measure of depth, significance and relevance. Although one can argue that the way these disciplinary formulations was achieved can be extended to the larger African world, leading thereby to what can be called a Pan-African philosophy, the challenge this poses is, does this imply a new constitution of Pan-African philosophy or a reaffirmation of an existing one. The implication of my claim here is that the human intellect basically seeks to locate issues and truths through their nature and through any form of distinction and the effort to distort this would amount to producing ‘intellectuals against the intellect’[Oladipo 1999:18-24].If this is the case, then applying a Pan-African framework for knowledge production and consumption cannot be a viable option; and if pan-African lacks this intellectual foundation then it can be seen how weak it is to insist on Pan-Africanism as a preferred ideology for post-colonial Africa. In his inaugural lecture mentioned earlier Vusi Gumede [2014] made an effort to articulate what the author calls ‘African thought leadership’, which ‘must be able to produce not only a critical but a conscious African citizenry that is grounded in pan-Africanist philosophies and driven to implement the African renaissance agenda’. Gumede (ibid) further submits that ‘the curriculum, put differently, has to be shaped by the lived experiences of Africans’. However, he does not provide examples of these Pan-Africanist philosophies or say that any of them that are different from the ideology of Pan-Africanism. But ideology does not square up to philosophy in the purely technical sense of the term because of its totalitarian and anti-critical nature. Thus, the idea of a Pan-African philosophy is yet another assumption that has still to be established concretely.

41Indeed, drawing from the positions so far held by this work, it can be seen that Pan-Africanism appears more or less as a design meant to over-simplify the complex nature of Africa; a refusal to deal with the ‘cultural complexity’[Taukli-Worsome,2011] of Africa; and a reluctant diversionary formula that diverts the African mind from facing the concrete and practical demands of creating an African future. But the cultural complexity of the African is not overcome, but rather over-simplified by this measure; and this attempt at over-simplification does not promise a reliable solution to the problems implied. A more viable way to deal with a complex culture is to seek to untie the complexity by sifting the ideals that they represent; to see to what specific ends the African cultures are in a position to serve and harness them likewise. This, I think, is a more desirable demand of advancing the African world and it is in this direction that I propose Pro-Africanism as a more viable alternative to address the challenges of post-colonial Africa. I shall now articulate this proposal in the remaining part of this work.

The Idea of Pro-Africanism

42By Pro-Africanism, I mean affording the other African as much mental and material resources as is possible to develop and advance the quality of African life, by allowing the African be the best that the African can be through what the African is or has. Pro-Africanism is supportive self-willed Africanism; an inward look that encourages promoting a developmental coalition of Africans along their endogenous, cultural and ethno-cultural roots for a reliable ethics of solidarity and development. I imply a form of supportive Africanism, with autonomy and self-will being the cardinal virtues of African modernity such that modern nation-states of Africa under a uniform umbrella will no longer be the basic determinant of the terms of alliance among African nationals but one where the cultural and intellectual potentials will serve as the defining basis for alignment and re-alignment. It could then be clear that the cultural, political and ethno-cultural nationalities of Africa can only develop to the extent that they evolve by aligning and re-aligning through their various endogenous worlds and they should embrace and promote their political institutions for this reason.

43Pro-Africanism implies supporting or promoting the cause of African humanity through a strong disposition to a certain level of autonomy as may be necessary to allow the African to realise his or her personality and to allow each ethnic or cultural unit of Africa to explore the reservoir of their cultural resources through the support of any interested party in Africa. In doing this, the focus should be on promoting quality growth and advancement of fellow Africans. Pro-Africanism is, if you like, advancing the cause of greater Africa through the different ethno-cultural roots and finding enough need and value in this and reliving this by being African by choice and freedom; being African first by choice of values and needs of one’s ethno-cultural affiliation, and not just by political affiliation, and seeking to reconnect the needs of the bigger Africa from this standpoint. By being African first, I mean encouraging and emphasising African ideals by allowing and promoting the freedom of the other African to evolve from his roots – culturally, morally and politically, first, and the need to seek a secure African future through this measure.

44Ngugi wa Thiong’o (2005:162), provides positions that support the ideology of Pro-Africanism in what he characterises as ‘people-to-people’ Pan-Africanism or Pan-Africanism as a ‘people-to-people relationship’. He suggests that applying the benefits of linguistic and cultural affinities of communities across several African states and building a cultural synergy among them through language development and advancement is the viable route to the realisation of the Pan-African idea. But the idea of Pro-Africanism means more than Ngugi’s position indicates: Pro-Africanism is an inward looking position or an African-in looking position that goes beyond linguistic affinity. It demands connecting to the larger Africa from and through these ethno-cultural roots and using this as point of contact to promote greater freedom for other Africans. Through this measure,it seeks to promote skills, talents, resources and gifts harboured anywhere in Africa, by seeking synergy along these lines which might go beyond linguistic or cultural affinity. By doing this, it desires to cause a self-willed affiliation and harmonisation of cultural and intellectual capitals for the flowering of African humanity.

45The basic assumption of Pro-Africanism is that development and advancement in Africa demands an in-rooted option and that Africans can only advance through their natural endowment promoted by their positive cultural advancements and achievements. Thus it seeks the full expression of the autonomy of these capitals. For this reason, Pro-Africanism demands a fundamental disposition to allow the other African as much liberty as is possible individually or collectively to allow them to advance within the capacities of the world. It amounts to a positive and strong disposition as regards differences among African peoples by acknowledging these differences; and seeking where and how these differences compliment and supplement each other as a way of coordinating these differences; that is, allowing the other African ‘to first be’ as a way of basic ethics of promoting quality African growth and development. This option eliminates the cultural coercion that has been the lot of many African nationals and ethno-cultural communities stemming from a false idea of an African state, promoted by stronger cultural cultural groups within the state and encouraged by western ethics of dominance and political and moral paternalism.

46This project of the African first finds justification in the fact that there is the need to allow the African to first be what he/she/they have achieved through their natural and cultural endowment, by rational choice that accords dignity to the African and this is the basis to promote the quest for rational autonomy and authenticity. It is anchored in the fact that non-Africans, out of the exigencies of the constructions of modern history and operating as willing victims of the Western ideology through which Africa was subjugated, prefer that the African counted second. This is often achieved by emphasing what is not available in Africa rather than what is already available but absent in other climes. Thus, when Pro-Africanism recommends ‘Africa/n first’, the implication is that what is most desired is the promotion of the idea of the African person first and how, by recognising and promoting this, we could discover and build on the African potential to progress to a Pro-African world. It is a way of promoting the re-birth of the African will by affording every African, as individuals or as ethnic or cultural communities, adequate freedom to realise the potentials inherent in Africa’s natural endowments. Thus, by allowing one to be and to be African enough, I am permitting him to be so for myself and for the greater gain and good of his people.

47Just be the Zulu you are (or choose to be, the Igbo you are (or choose to be), the Ndebele you are (or choose to be), the Akan you are (or choose to be), the Bantu you are (or choose to be), first, before anything else and by and, in being so, permit me to be what I am. Then, both of us should, by being ourselves, seek cooperation within the context of any political formation we design for ourselves and apply our reservoirs of knowledge and culture to the best use of the African people and for the larger vision of Africa. What this means is that Africans know that they are made up of different cultures, have this understanding and intrinsically accept and see themselves as Africans. In this frame of thought, they accept that a certain microcosmic cultural principle may have permeated the continent but have taken different shapes, shades and forms. However, what now has different forms should inspire the vision of a big and greater Africa. Thus, each person, each cultural form should find enough value in this belief and act with this vision. This is Pro-Africanism. What this means is that I am allowing you to be yourself for the benefit of all of us. In this regard, it should be clear that the African is first African because he has certain Pro-African ideals that he/she/they (as a person or as an individual) has and shares for the benefit of the African people.

48Another implication of Pro-Africanism is that it demands solidarity with and support for one’s fellow Africans through support for the cultural personalities that the African represents and the cultural world from which the African is emerging. From here, supportive Africanism should ascend to the state that protects the African at the moment and gives as much encouragement and disposition as may be affordable and as can be realised for the growth of this state.

49Pro-Africanism also addresses the needs of Africans whose parental origins are from different ethno-cultural or political nationalities – those who have been referred to as Afropolitans [Taukli-Worsome 2011]. Some of these Africans do not identify themselves strictly with or through one ethno-nationality of one African state or the non-African state but have chosen to insert themselves into an ethno-cultural nationality of an African nation-state or adopted one form of African citizenship or another, through which they intend to contribute to African humanity. This class of Africans, who are Africans of one location by choice, illustrate the ideals of Pro-Africanism from the political demand of the idea. Their idea or notion of Africa is not absolutely confined by their ethnic or cultural nationality but by their self-willed choice to be African in the best way that will favour them all. But this must also be complimented by doing this in the best way it can favour the larger Africans. For Africans who belong to one ethno-cultural group, and one state- the political demand of Pro-Africanism is that of defending the values that emanate from this group which are positive to the self-will and belief of members of the group but which do not affect the demand for the same by members of the group; to act from this group to connect to the desires and the larger people of African descent.

50Pro-Africanism habours some possible objections, one of which is that it may lead to ‘ethnicisation’ of the African state, by seeking to support the state project in Africa along ethno-cultural lines only. This assumption is wrong.This is because the proposal admits that one may opt for and choose to belong to or affiliate with any ethno-cultural nationality, in so far as it can address one’s needs of ethnic belonging . The central thesis that the idea of Pro-Africanism sets out to advance, therefore, is that the idea of Africa and African unity must be anchored on a primordial loyalty to the ethics, values and metaphysics of an ethno-cultural world of Africans or a freely chosen African world, as they are harboured by the cultural nationalities of Africa. Therefore,it advocates a primary loyalty to these, as from the basis on which to build the larger interest that would define and direct that African world, but not in a manner that affects other people’s loyalty to theirs.

51The argument on which it operates is that a political coalition, such as suggested or implied by Pan-Africanism, is not viable in Post-colonial Africa and cannot be productive because it does not significantly express and expand African freedom and does not suggest a loyalty to the principles and ethics of an African worldview that has been willingly signed . For this reason, it suggests that any outward gaze in search of the formula or the basis for constructing a bridge of interest that would direct Africa is wrong because it prefers an inside-out gaze, one which will enable an internal strengthening of mental structures that will define and direct the African people. It suggests that a basic loyalty to the core values of the various units of the African world is the basis for an African renaissance, which brings out the best in Africans everywhere.


52In this paper, I have tried to canvass for an alternative ideology to Pan-Africanism, through what I call Pro-Africanism, which, in essence, suggests that what is relevant for Africans is supportive Africanism, by which African peoples can develop under different cultural frameworks that are appropriate to their history. To achieve this position, I have interrogated the basic ideals that the ideology of Pan-Africanism sets out to defend, by examining the relevance of these ideals. I have also been able to point out the limitations of the relevance of these ideals and the failure of Pan-Africanism to meet its desired objectives. It is my hope that the position that I have detailed here will provide the basis for a critical re-evaluation of the idea of Pan-Africanism, which has assumed the place of a long-held ideology in post-colonial Africa, notwithstanding its scarce gains and benefits in post-colonial times. For instance, it is hard to reconcile the number of wars that have been fought in black Africa with the longstanding commitment to Pan-Africanism as a basic ideology on the continent. What this points to is the need to source a fresh ideology, such as has been put forward by this essay. It is hoped that the ideas advanced here will produce a more pragmatic formula to explore better ways for the enhancement of productive unity among the African people.



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To quote this document

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi, «From Pan-Africanism to Pro-Africanism- A Critical Review of the Ideology of Pan-Africanism with a Fresh Proposal», Jocap [En ligne], 2021, 1|21 Philosophy, Politics and Africanism, mis à jour le : 03/03/2021, URL :

Some words about:  Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi

Ph.D -University of Abuja, Nigeria

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi is a Professor of Philosophy and Director of Internship and Linkages Services Unit (ILS) University of Abuja, Abuja, Nigeria. He is the founder of Centre for Critical Thinking and Resourceful Research in Africa ( has 53 publications to his name and is published in West African Review, East African Journal of Humanities, South African Journal of Philosophy, Religions, Theoria and Southern Journal of Philosophy