The idea of creating a single state out of the African continent is well touted by numerous scholars and political autocrats such as Gaddafi. Reference is made to the comments of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his vision for a united Africa existing under one government presiding over one people and one nation. How practical are these ideas though? And how helpful is it when policy makers and political figureheads frolic in the realm of political idealism rather than seeking practical solutions to the on-going problems that plague the continent and its people?
Finding solutions to proper integration at the regional level is pending. The ability to come up with a single currency even within the sub- region has so far proven to be elusive. Proper integration between francophone and Anglophone West African states is still somewhat of a challenge with francophone countries showing more allegiance to each other and displaying an avowed loyalty to France.
Let us be frank summits, conferences, seminars and academic lectures that discuss this topic in earnest are mere talk shows seeking an ideal that can only be real on paper. Seriously how would the USA à la africaine work? Libya is a political dictatorship whereas Ghana is a functioning democracy. Meanwhile down South is the Kingdom of Swaziland practicing a political system which is at complete variance with what is happening in Ghana and Libya.
Of the three outlined systems of governance which one will be retained in a United Africa? Will Gaddafi allow himself to be ruled by a leader originating from a different part of the continent? Which of Africa’s numerous political despots will cede power for the sake of a conglomeration of African states existing under one political umbrella? African countries face enough problems integrating even on a tribal level. One of the many criticisms against the colonial process is that it forced different ethnic groups to co-exist within demarcated territories on the continent. A situation that is now responsible for social unrest in many African countries including Nigeria, Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Chad, the Ivory Coast etc…
The fragmentation of African states is on the rise as politicians still entertain the notion of bringing the continent together. South Sudan just broke away from Sudan proper after a referendum. Somaliland is still out there somewhere seeking proper recognition as a sovereign country after it forcefully broke away from Somalia… not to talk about Western Sahara which has set Morocco at loggerheads with the African Union, and Cabinda, an oil rich Angolan territory that lies in the middle of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If the struggle for secession on the continent shows anything it is that a lot of African tribal groups would rather live apart from the states where they supposedly belong. Some have argued that a country like Nigeria should be divided along tribal lines. Secessionist movements on the continent are widespread and in some cases are yet to be expressed overtly. These movements unfortunately do not inspire confidence in the formation of a single African state.
Africa is too diverse for a successful integration that does not take national borders into consideration. In any case integration schemes in general are not easily realized. Even the European Union is threatening to fragment with the inclusion of less prosperous nations on that continent.
The successful formation of federal entities such as the United States of America came through the amalgamation of territories that were yet to be converted into proper sovereign states. Sovereignty remains the underlining basis of international relations even if the states in a particular geographical setting share common interests with a common objective. African countries cannot realistically be expected to give up their independence and surrender their sovereignty for the sake of a greater continental good.
There is indeed a need for some form of integration on the continent. It must however be defined by realistic objectives such as lower trade barriers, customs unions, technical cooperation between states, a harmonization of political values and a uniformity of standards in Human Rights and other continental initiatives that will advance the common good of Africans.
The continued pursuit of unrealistic continental goals is simply going to take attention away from the real problems such as poverty, unemployment, disease, famine, conflict which still plague Africa and its inhabitants.