Is United States of Africa a dream worth pursuing?

Thursday June 13 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

The United States of Africa (USoAf) is a proposed concept for a federation of some or all of the 55 sovereign states on the continent of Africa. The concept takes its origin from Marcus Garvey’s 1924 poem “Hail, United States of Africa”.

Pan Africanism was a very close dream of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Father of the Nation. He convincingly believed in it and now some facts are coming out that prove his belief was correct some 50 years latter.

Beginning in 2035, the number of young people reaching working age in Africa will exceed that of the rest of the world combined, and will continue every year for the rest of the century. By 2050, one in every four humans will be African.

At the end of the century, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population will be African.

The impending demographic dividend will only add to Africa’s economic importance. Since 2000, at least half of the countries in the world with the highest annual growth rate have been in Africa. By 2030, 43 per cent of all Africans are projected to join the ranks of the global middle and upper classes.

By that same year, household consumption in Africa is expected to reach $2.5 trillion, more than double the $1.1 trillion of 2015, and combined consumer and business spending will total $6.7 trillion.


The above are facts but there might be unseen threats that will delay or prevent Africa realizing its full potential unless Africa unites and presents a common front globally.

A non-united Africa will be the weakest continent because many other countries outside Africa are forming economic alliances.

My hope was that OAU and now AU would have been instrumental in uniting Africa. These hopes were dazed when Idi Amin’s Uganda invaded Tanzania and OAU failed even to condemned that act, the rest is history but these continental organizations have thwarted and frustrated Africans especially on the topic of Pan Africanism.

The creation of AU was an attempt to revitalize the OAU, which had become widely discredited as a ‘club of dictators’, but also to establish a more robust continental organization in the era of globalization.

The AU has been very successful in addressing the needs of the African political class but it is yet to make a significant difference in the lives of many ordinary Africans. OAU and now AU have failed terribly to connect with the common person.

There are many who think that the legacy of slave trade and colonialism are the main barriers but I question this dogma.

These are historical facts and how they are preventing us today to unite today is not clear and I think these may just be excuses. So what is really preventing United States of Africa?

There are evolving impediments such as poverty and inequality, corruption, divided communities, too few jobs, crumbling infrastructure, resource intensive economy, exclusive planning, poor education, high disease burden and uneven public service. These factors are dynamic and actually should be seen as opportunity rather than threats.

The fixed barriers are actually major blockades to USoAf. Historically Africans have been autonomous with more than 3000 tribes and the thought that imposing a single identity can change their way of life is simply absurd and un-African.

The continent lacks a common language and thus the language barrier is a very difficult factor to resolve. Peace and stability largely depend on acceptance of a common language and this will remain a barrier for a very long time to come.

African society is too complex to work under a unitary administrative system. There are preferred modes of administration peculiar to each tribe and country.

It makes no sense to suggest they all adopt a unilateral administrative pattern different from what they have known for thousands of years.

Is federalism or confederalism an ideal system for Africa and would the geopolitical structure of the continent allow any one system for such unification.

Each of this system would be a pathway to tyranny. One leader in control of a big entity with enormous resources, going by modern African history, is extremely dangerous and antithetical.

No traditional African society was the same in its approach to commerce and trade as the other, and those values stand until today.

This peculiarity is one reason centrally planned economic reforms in many African countries often fail to yield expected results among different tribes.

So with all this barriers is the USoAf still possible? At this juncture I would emphatically says it is still possible if our current crop of leaders are convinced and will work towards pan Africanism but unfortunately they lack the will, wisdom and knowledge about this topic.

Unless miraculously young Africans are brought into leadership roles and are untainted and selfless the United States of Africa can be created but definitely not in my lifetime or in the next few decades. It is a dream worth pursuing but perhaps not a reality.