Towards A Post-Africanist Renewal
By Elias Munshya
Pan-Africanism has serious deficits, as a philosophy for the African. It has so far failed to help Africans imagine a future that goes beyond useless slogans. Pan-Africanism cannot spur African imagination any longer as it is deeply steeped in victimhood. Africans, according to Pan-Africanism, are victims – victims of forces outside the African. And to defeat those forces, Pan-Africanism teaches that Africans must continue to enjoy each other’s miserable company and protest forever.
There is a generation of Africans that are tired of this philosophy. Africans now need to reimagine their future and their tomorrow. Africans need to begin questioning the presumptions that underlie the lies that have been told to the Africans by the Africans themselves. It is time to undermine the very foundations of the Pan-Africanist lie.
Post-Africanism challenges the Pan-Africanist attitude of victimhood. For the African to reimagine herself, she must first of all escape from the mentality that she is the done upon, and never the doer. The constant idea that somehow, everyone else is out to get Africa, or a piece of it, creates a psyche that always mobilises to fight the perceived external forces, without spending time to try and develop the internal dynamics that would help the African. Africa cannot continue to exist on adrenalin.
Post-Africanism questions the Pan-Africanist dream of a “one united Africa.” The most outstanding contribution of colonialism to the Pan-Africanist dream has been this vision that envisions Africa as a “one united country.” From the time the Cecil Rhodes set his foot in Africa and imagined a one united Africa from Cape to Cairo; Africans have continued to follow this dream, without questioning how colonialist this dream has been. By focussing on a “one united” Africa, Africans have become too obsessed with a project that can correctly be described as the white elephant. It is ironic that this Pan-Africanist dream is a white elephant as it was first envisioned by colonialism.
Post-Africanism wants to re-orient the Africans from this idea that the community comes first, to a more humane idea that the African individual, the African person is important. Never should Africa ever think that it is somehow acceptable to sacrifice the African person, for the benefit of the whole. Without respect for the individual, there can be no respect for the whole or the community. Africans must begin valuing the subsistence of the individual – the human African. The question therefore, we must ask ourselves is – what is the government of Zimbabwe doing to protect the rights of individuals? The individual liberties. The Post-Africanist future must be a future that respects the humanity of the individual. The idea that “we are” therefore “I am”, must change to “I am,” and therefore “we are”. There can never be a community without the individual. Pan-Africanism, in its emphasis on collectivity, has led to absurd results. A philosophy that does not value the individual can never respect the collective. Any repression that seeks to support the collective over the individual will, in no time, begin to oppress the individual for the perceived rights and subsistence of the collective. As a Post-Africanist, I see value not only in the continent as a collective but also in the individual African. The individual African does matter. This individual African matters, and since they matter, it will lead to changes in the way we perceive the individual. A culture that disrespects the individual will be flush with the “big man” syndrome because the “big man” syndrome grows out of this human desire to bestow authority on those we believe will protect the collective over the rights of the individual.
Post-Africanism questions the presumptions of Pan-Africanism. Several pan-Africanists argue that for Africa to be viable, it must become one single united country. They give examples of the populations of India and China. One thing that these Pan-Africanists perhaps forget to mention is that a country can be great without necessarily having a huge population. There is no correlation between population and economic growth or viability as a nation. Nations in history who have subjugated others were never huge populations. It is city-states that went on to rule the world. Examples abound, with a little Island as recently as half a century ago ruling over much of the known world. It had a tiny population compared to the lands it subjugated. Africans need to give up this idea that greatness lies in numbers. History teaches us different lessons, and no matter how many you are, you can never make up through the population, that which is lacking in imagination. Africa’s problem is imagination; that is where we need to fix our attention.
How then does a post-Africanist worldview look like? It is a worldview that respects individual liberty. It is a worldview that values the rule of law. The rule of law is this idea that African governments must be subjected to the law and must respect the rights of the individual African. Post-Africanism proposes an escape from this ongoing desire for the Africans to blame someone else. At the rate we are going, we will run out of who to blame. We must begin looking at our behaviour and start evaluating how our behaviour is impacting us and how others see us.
I have given up on Pan-Africanism. It is useless, and its failure can be seen in how it has failed to spur the African’s imagination. It is time to try Post-Africanism – a new and fresh way to look at the African myth.
The author, Elias Munshya can be reached at email@example.com
Munshya, E. (2020). Towards a Post-Africanist Renewal. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org), May 28, 2020