Former US President Ronald Reagan referred to African UN delegates as “monkeys” while on a phone call to President Richard Nixon in 1971, it was revealed last month.
A year before, President Donald Trump had referred to African nations as “shithole” countries. The racist and ultra-capitalist policies of all three presidents has been noted by many. At the root of the global disrespect for Africa is the continent’s economic dependence on the West.
Pan Africanism started with the visionary Marcus Garvey, who dreamed of black Americans returning home to Africa to build an African empire, completely distinct and separate from white societies. Born in the Caribbean, Garvey envisioned an Africa that would prosper politically, socially and economically.
Pan Africanism aims to banish the idea of black inferiority, by uniting African and black nations together with the aim of advancement. While later leaders like Malcolm X. and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would win the cultural war over white superiority, the political and economic war on white superiority is still one that later leaders like Fela Kuti and Nelson Mandela would fight. Pan Africanism today is the fight for Africa’s economic and political power on the global stage.
Pan Africanism Today
Africa has the most amount of countries owing money to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Africa’s debt to the West began when, during the 1960s, it began accepting loans from the IMF and the World Back to fund “massive industrial development projects”.
According to African economic and political analyst Lawrence Freeman, “Western nations, the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, etc., have ‘looted’ Africa of hundreds of billions of dollars in bloated debt payments and through the manipulation of currencies, and terms of trade.”
Under pressure from the US – an indisputable world power at the time – the IMF and the World Bank offered loans under the condition that poorer countries privatize their economies. Under this forced privatization, poorer countries also had to give free access to their market and their raw materials to Western corporations. Many African nations became financially trapped and encumbered by Western nations.
Although not all African nations are indebted to the IMF, for example Nigeria, China’s infrastructural investment in Sub-Saharan Africa in the last two decades has led to the continent being further indebted to another global power. Nigeria has the highest amount of Chinese debt at $44.65b, followed by Angola at $24.09b.
The US, Europe and China build their economies by financially exploiting Africa. The topic of international loans draws parallels to the topic of segregation in racially-charged America. At the forefront of the movement for black rights in the 1960s, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had opposing views on how these causes would be achieved. For Malcolm X., the solution was the complete separation of black societies from white societies. (This was the vision of Garvey who championed all African Americans returning to Africa.) For MLK, the solution was the full integration of blacks and whites into one society.
Globalisation, however, cannot work without integration. A globalised world means that when Africa suffers, the whole world suffers too, albeit in smaller doses. President Trump may rely on racist rhetoric to maintain the support of his ultra right-wing voters, but this has fuelled talks of a possible race war on American soil.
In a recent report, the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) for Africa revealed that visa applications to the British Home Office are twice as likely to be rejected when made by Africans. Britain’s hostile environment towards Africans is leading to “severe damage to UK-Africa relations across a variety of sectors,” according to British MP, Chi Onwurah.
Britain’s “hostile environment” for immigrants – a policy created by Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary at the time – further led to the Brexit vote. Five years later, now Prime Minister, May would begin a “trade mission” to Africa, to boost a post-Brexit trade between Africa and Britain.
A vote for Brexit was a vote for separation, especially separation from immigrants. Despite voting for Brexit, the UK relies heavily on foreigners to keep its economy afloat. Nigeria and Zimbabwe, for example, count towards the top ten non-UK nationalities working in the British NHS.
Across European and American borders, the global migrant crisis continues to be problematic, as Sub-Saharan Africans flee their countries for a better standard of living in the West. Africa is also facing a “brain-drain” problem, as African professionals flee the continent for better prospects in the West. There are more than 21,000 Nigerian medical doctors practising in the US alone, according to a study.
A stronger, unified, Pan Africa will protect African nations from being exploited by global financial powers, creating more stability at home for the African populace. Greater political and economic stability in Africa would equalize power relations between Africa and other global powers, leading to better Afro-global relationships. African migration to the West would also decrease, as Africa builds its continent for itself.