A rich resource book about Africa

Lovemore Ranga Mataire The Reader
THE Making of the Africa-Nation: Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance is a rich resource book on the teething problems affecting Africa and how they can be remedied. Its resourcefulness comes from the array of contributors with varying academic and historical backgrounds. However, the overarching thrust of the book is centred on unity that the contributors unanimously agree is an essential ingredient towards the transformation of the continent from its present sorry state.

Edited by Professor Mammo Muchie, the Ethiopian-born academic is the current director of the research programme on Civil Society and African Integration at the University of Natal in South Africa; the book is a product of an international workshop on: Pan-Africanism – An Idea Whose Time Has Come held in Denmark in December 2000.

Indeed, the idea of unity has been a recurring theme in Africa’s struggles against the forces of fragmentation. The premise of the book is that a truly united Africa is not possible without a prior making of the African given the fact that a shared sense of being African is at best still in a state of flux. This point is substantiated by Prof Muchie in his introduction when he says: “The idea of Africa itself has also not been satisfactorily settled. With these in mind, discussions of any unity project in Africa must necessarily start with posing and answering some fundamental questions. Who is uniting? What for? And how should the unity pro- ceed?”

With gusto and frankness, the contributors tackle various issues, challenges and prospects of Africa’s unity projects in ways that have, perhaps, not been hitherto articulated in African socio-political thoughts.

The contributors, all senior academics in different fields, enrich the book with their different traditions, perspectives and narrative styles. The contributors include Dr David Abdulai, who is the current chief executive officer of Nolaygewerks Initiatives in Kuala Lumpur; Baffour Ankomah, the New African magazine editor; Desmond Davies, editor of the London-based weekly magazine West Africa; Steven Friedman, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, an independent policy research institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; Professor Kwesi Kwa Prah, the director for the Centre for Advanced Studies of African Society in Cape Town, South Africa; and Dr Anna Leander, who is a researcher at the Institute of International Studies at Copenhagen University in Denmark.

While generally agreed that Africa has the resources to rise above its current challenges, some however go further to stress that with a resurgent imperialism, there is an urgent need to bring back to the African national project through the triadic notions of Africa-Nation, Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, ideological frameworks they see as both narratives for development and as counter strategies for the current drive towards hegemony and re-colonisation.

In his contribution titled “Has the African Hour Came”, Prof Muchie contends that the absence of a shared vision of what constitutes an African has complicated the unity project on the continent.

“There is no shared idea of the African yet. Nor is the idea of Africa something that is settled. To date, this lack of shared understanding has made all well-intentioned attempts to unite and make Africa speak with a recognisable and distinct voice unstable,” says Prof Muchie.

In his usual robust and unapologetic stance, Baffour Ankomah focuses on the role of the African media in promoting African integration and urged journalists to realise that media does not operate in a vacuum and the issue of media freedom and independence is more of a myth than a reality even in so-called developed democracies.

“Rather, we feed ourselves with notions of this mythical free press that doesn’t exist anywhere. On the wings of this deceit, we set forth to reproduce this ‘free press’ in Africa often with catastrophic results.”

Ankomah says it has become fashionable for most African journalists to invite damnation from authorities by publishing sensational and half-backed stories regardless of the harm of the stories to the national interest.

He argues that the media in Africa has a huge role in deconstructing the colonial construct that African history started with the arrival of the Europeans.

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