We should all be Pan Africanists: guidelines for the African Diaspora

We should all be Pan Africanists: guidelines for the African Diaspora

By Tima Otu Anwana 

The marginalisation and destruction of people who look like me is part of an accepted world order. People who look like me have faced some of the worst atrocities known to man from slavery, colonisation to imperial rule, apartheid, police brutality and ongoing racism. All of these have manifested themselves in the modern-day lynches perpetrated against African Americans, the coronavirus discrimination against Africans in China and the ongoing struggles faced by all Black, Brown and people of colour across the globe.

The fight against racism and oppression is essential; I support and honour those who continue this fight. However, the eradication of racism is no longer my core focus, I now pass this burden to our white allies to address the bigotry in their communities and systematic racism. My goal now is on the inward improvement of the global black community. My goal now is to become an unapologetic Pan Africanist.

At its core, Pan Africanism is the belief that people of African origin, both on the continent and in the diaspora*, share not merely a common history but a common identity and struggle. From my family in Akwa Ibom Nigeria, Africans in Europe, African Americans and my brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, we all share a common identity, and this entails certain responsibilities. In my opinion, Pan Africanism should be the goal for all young people concerned with the advancement of Black people. To this end, I have provided five key points to guide the modern Pan Africanist. 

Tima’s 5 guidelines for the millennial pan-africanist

  1. Adopt a Pan African mindset

In 1919, the first Pan-African Congress was held, bringing together 57 members and 15 nationalities from the African diaspora. Over the years, five Pan-African Congresses were held bringing together delegates of African descent from the Continent, Britain, USA, the Caribbean and the West Indies. The Congresses aimed to lay out a vision to improve the social, political, and economic position of the black people all over the world. Some of the issues addressed at the Congresses included the end of colonial rule and racial discrimination globally, the end of racial segregation in the US, the colour problem in Britain, the oppression of black South Africans and women’s rights in the West Indies. The theme for the early Pan-Africanists was the historical links between people of African origin and the benefits of unity and cooperation as a way of resisting imperialism, racism and white supremacy.

This is the mind-set that the millennial Pan Africanist must adopt, we must acknowledge that all people of African descent are connected, we all share a common history plagued by subjugation, oppression and racism but blessed with resilience, culture and excellence. Having acknowledged this connectedness, a Pan African mind-set requires unity and cooperation between black people to ensure our advancement in a world where the odds are stacked against us. The unity that is required between people of African descent is best illustrated by the African proverb which says, cross the river in a crowd and the crocodile cannot eat you. If the Pan Africanists in 1919 could unify and have such an impact, imagine what millennial Pan Africanists can achieve with technology and social media at our fingertips.


  1. Understanding our common history and identity

The South African proverb of Ubuntu is a key philosophy behind Pan Africanism. This philosophy places emphasis on being oneself through others, umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu, I am because you are. This philosophy requires us to care about the plight of our neighbours, in the context of Pan Africanism, it is our duty to care about the issues facing people of African descent globally. To fulfil this duty, we must understand our common history, divergent experiences, and unique identity.

It is essential that we understand African history beyond the borders established by our former colonial masters. The journey to enlightenment starts with African history. We need to be informed on what our continent looked like before our people were captured into slavery and colonial domination. Learn about the early kingdoms and empires that existed in Africa, the great ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe, the powerful Zulu Kingdom, and the Ashanti and Oyo Empires of West Africa. Learn about the wars fought by Africans throughout the continent as we defended our land against imperialism, study the decolonisation movement and the end of Imperial rule. Do not listen to the biased western media and expose yourself to our history that remains untold and uncelebrated. This is how you build an understanding and respect for the common identity and history that we all share, this is the source of our excellence.

Although connected through history and identity, Black people are not monolithic, it is therefore essential that we educate ourselves on the history of our people in the diaspora and the cultures that developed once we were stolen from Africa. Those of us Africans who remain on the continent have a duty to understand the trauma faced by millions of Africans who were stripped from their homes and sold into slavery. We should all learn about the magnificent slave revolts during the 18th and 19th century including the Tacky’s rebellion in 1760s Jamaica, the Haitian Revolution in 1789, the 1816 Barbados slave revolt and may others. This history shaped the development of our people in the diaspora, this history affects the global world view of black people and therefore it is an essential part of the black struggle.

  1. Reject Xenophobia and Afrophobia

In 2008, I was a young naive 13-year-old, concerned about boys and Facebook. It had never occurred to me that as a Nigerian living in South Africa my life could be in danger. I understood racism very well at 13, I had experienced racism, but I never experienced hatred from Black South Africans, until the violent attacks against foreigners in 2008. In 2008 a series of attacks against African immigrants left 62 people dead, in 2015 South Africa experienced another spike in attacks, prompting many governments to encourage their citizens to return home. Just last year, businesses owned by foreign nationals were looted, thousands were displaced, and twelve people died. In June 2020, the hashtag hate filled #NigeriaMustFall is shamelessly trending in South Africa.

Xenophobia and Afrophobia are massive threats to African development and prejudicial towards the unity and harmony of her peoples and countries. Many academics have argued that attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa cannot be defined as xenophobia because this hatred is specifically targeted at African foreigners. The term to better describe this form of prejudice is ‘Afrophobia’. Afrophobia refers to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards black people or people of African descent. Afrophobia is the antithesis of Africanism, we must reject such attitudes and focus on our collective development as a people.

  1. Keep showing up for your brothers and sisters

It was incredible to witness the global reaction to the murder of George Floyd and the mobilisation of the African diaspora. In the weeks following the brutal murder, we saw public protests, marches, and demonstrations from Cape Town to Amsterdam. We saw black people all over the world embrace the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement and show up in support of our African American brothers and sisters. Going through my Instagram feed and seeing my cousins in London marching, my friends in Cape Town holding BLM posters and my family in Nigeria posting pictures in solidarity was incredible. My dad often tells stories about how African countries assisted South Africa during Apartheid. I have read stories about how independent countries called for the independence of their neighbours during the decolonisation movement. BLM is our modern-day example of this, this is the first time in my lifetime that I have witnessed the power of African unity. This is the energy that we always need to have, we need to continue to show up for each other because the oppression of one is the oppression of all. 

  1. Invest in Africa

Until Africa is an independent and developed global powerhouse, its people will continue to face subjugation around the world. It is in our best interest as people of African descent to invest in Africa. One of the easiest ways to invest in Africa is to consume African content. This may be through buying African music, art, fashion, and other products. Another effective way to invest in Africa is by coming to the continent. Save that money and book a holiday to Accra, Zanzibar, Durban, Abuja or Kigali.

Finally, directly invest your money towards the development of our continent. I recently begun doing my research in this area and I have come across some incredible sources that might be a good place for us to start. “Toolkit for Understanding Diaspora Investment” published by Making Finance Work for Africa is a great document which gives you a detailed introduction to investing in the continent, including different investment channels both public and private. The Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a detailed guide for diaspora remittance and investment. The guide includes instructions on diaspora banking, starting a business in Kenya, informal group investments, investing in capital markets, securities, real estate and much more. Other African nations have created similar documents, which you can access online. There are also many private means to invest in and support African businesses through crowdfunding platforms, investor programs and accelerators, all it takes is a little reading and research.

It is time for us African millennials to strive towards an African renaissance, establish a Pan Africanist network across social media that will thrive into a strong global movement and bring together all people of African descent.

*African Diaspora - The African diaspora consists of the worldwide collection of communities descended from Africa. The term is commonly used to describe the mass dispersion of peoples taken from Africa during the Slave Trades. The term today also refers to African immigrant communities all over the world.

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