By Namatirai Zinyohwera
The unification of Africa has rapidly evolved from the noble dreams of Kwame Nkrumah, into an institutionalised vehicle of transformation, across the continent. The end of colonialism heralded not only the end of an era, but the beginning of another – an era in which a brave new continent could start its own journey towards self-actualisation undeterred. The epoch opened the door for Africans to pick up the pieces, in the aftermath of the gatling gun, which had long shaped and suppressed the geopolitical landscape for decades.
Carried by its host, the integration of Africa – based on the Pan Africanism epistemology – is no-longer a utopian dream that can be easily be appropriated or exploited: in fact, it has now mutated into a shared identity, across the spectrum of Africa’s diverse peoples.
Pan Africanism’s digital sphere of influence has borne witness to the social and cultural ties that bind across the porous borders that can no longer hold.
The founding fathers of the unification of Africa sowed the first seed, by setting up the then Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), which in the prophecy of Nkrumah, would bear fruit to establish the “United States of Africa”. One day is one day, but here we are with the absolute advantage, to take a quantum leap forward, further than the Asian Tigers, into the modern history of a free trade area.
Integration of the continent through operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), was halted by a global pandemic and postponed from 1 July 2020 to 1 January 2021. According to the World Bank, AfCFTA will be the largest free trade area in the world, measured by the number of countries participating. It will connect 1.3 billion people across 55 territories, with a combined GDP of US$3.4 trillion. Growth prospects in the last frontier of global growth, are at an all-time high and in the words of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the paradigm shift should enquire about what Africa can do for the world, versus what the world can do or donate as aid to Africa.
To keep the momentum, we must jump-start the will power of an entire continent. The will to act is a renewable resource – one we have in such youthful abundance here. As such, young people must be given the agency to occupy relevant spaces, notwithstanding the top priority of women empowerment.
We have the youngest population in the world, one that has been quick to act and adapt to new technologies. For a chance to go online, tinkering young Africans have salvaged hardware from the west and purchased cheap products from the far east. Mobile penetration has been impressive. So much that companies like Facebook and Google, have earmarked Africa for their next one billion users.
We accept that Africa is a diverse continent (countries at different levels of development), however, technology can be the vehicle towards an integrated prosperity for all Africans. Through the digitisation of “ubuntu”, which is an innate way of life, our products and services will offer the world more than just the transaction of demand and supply. We are on a mission to redirect the impact of technology on humanity, towards positive change, with a major focus on sustainability.
This is the moment for the continent’s next big power move, as the global industrial complex motions towards the Scramble for Data. Post COVID-19, the new world order holds great promise for Africa’s seat at the global table. The two main global superpowers are entangled in an unlikely battle ground and one of the main points of contention in that bullfight is data. We have seen this with the imposition of various sanctions and trade restrictions between the two fronts, in a simmering cold war.
Whilst Africa has been very keen to import various innovations in the technology space, this has gone without standardisation and controls, exposing the continent to various cyber threats. This time round, Africa should choose itself, hopefully emerging out of this decade on the right side of history. Africa should bolster intra-African trade and cooperation, looking inward for the innovation and outwards for inspiration where necessary.
With our natural resource base, we have all the necessary raw materials, to back up a broad-based industrial revolution. More so, guided by the benefit of hindsight, we can avoid unsustainable courses of industrialisation taken by others. We must be resourceful with the gains of the past and opportunistic with the prospects of the present. With inspired leadership, Africa will progress into its destiny within the next 10 years, uplifting millions above the poverty line. This is not a distant vision for Africa, it is within our grasp.
Namatirai Zinyohwera is a Business Development Consultant, specializing in tech startups & enterprises looking to scale into the African Continental Free Trade Area. A self-fashioned Pan-African Technology Evangelist, who believes that technology is the medium for Africa’s Renaissance. Continues to campaign for data-led innovation, to be at the forefront of problem-solving in think tanks across the continent.