Pan-Africanism Relevancy: A Solution

Nneka E. Akukwe, Syracuse University’s African Student Union VP of External Affairs

The 1855 Post-Berlin Conference was a catalyst to a majority of the social, political, and economic issues faced by countries in Africa today such as poor governance, increasing unemployment rates, and growing ethnic conflict. The partition of Africa by imperialists promoted a state of ethnocentrism within African communities, thus hindering a majority of these countries’ ability to unite. As a result, political and social strategists like Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, W.E.B. DuBois, and Marcus Garvey pioneered the Pan-African movement as a tool to promote shared cultural values, cohesion, strength in numbers, the common good for Africa, and ultimately mend the still prevalent and growing issue of unity faced by black millennials within the black community throughout the Continent and Diaspora.

Through Pan-Africanism, these pioneers propelled various liberation movements by recognizing the need for African agency. This not only promoted Black and African nationalism throughout the continent and Diaspora, but also temporarily (fixed) the issue of unity. The popularization of ideologies like Nkrumahism which favored socialism in order to obtain continental unity as well as sought to eliminate state borders created as a result of Europe’s “scramble for Africa” and Garveyism which promoted self-help within the black community were all pivotal to the movement’s success. Yet, as decades passed and corruption within the continent continued to rise, the main objectives of Pan-Africanism were lost as current leaders became less interested in building a nation for young black millennials and more concerned with their own self-interests.

Although “contemporary Pan-Africanists” like Ta-Nehisi Coates as well as a few notable modern African advocacy groups and movements like “Y’en a Marre” in Senegal and “Balai Citoyen” and in Burkina Faso attempt to rectify the issues of corruption and greed through promoting various social change initiatives (i.e. increasing the amount of voting registration by youth, encouraging political opposition against unfair leaders, and supporting the need for transparent and fair elections), the effects of these issues are still left for black millennials throughout the continent and Diaspora to combat as a result of poor leadership even after the initial conception of the movement.

Without fair governance, there will always be an absence of trust within Pan-Africanism, which in turn promotes disunity in the black community. Trust is an integral component of Pan-Africanism as it requires people to believe in a set of shared cultural values. As a young African-American woman, I have seen and experience firsthand the amount of disunity within the black community primarily because of how segmented we are as a people as different groups within our community prioritize their own individual wars against gender and LGBTQ inequality, colorism, police brutality, and incarceration.

In order to simultaneously combat both issues within our community and Pan-Africanism, our leaders need to hold themselves accountable to the continuous injustices brought forth against members of the black community in order for millennials to pave the way towards a new path for Pan-Africanism.