We must unite or perish
By: Kwame Nkrumah ( OAU 1963)
“I am happy to be here in Addis Ababa on this most historic occasion. I bring with me the hopes and fraternal greetings of the government and people of Ghana. Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish. I am confident that by our concerned effort and determination, we shall lay here the foundations for a continental Union of African States.
A whole continent has imposed a mandate upon us to lay the foundation of our union at this conference. It is our responsibility to execute this mandate by creating here and now, the formula upon which the requisite superstructure may be erected.
On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence.
Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonial controls and interference.
From the start, we have been threatened with frustration where rapid change is imperative and with instability where sustained effort and ordered rule are indispensable. No sporadic act or pious resolution can resolve our present problems. Nothing will be of avail, except the united act of a united Africa.
Unite or sink
We have already reached the stage where we must unite or sink into that condition which has made Latin America the unwilling and distressed prey of imperialism after one-and-a-half centuries of political independence.
As a continent, we have emerged into independence in a different age, with imperialism grown stronger, more ruthless and experienced, and more dangerous in its international associations. Our economic advancement demands the end of colonialist and neo-colonialist domination in Africa.
But just as we understood that the shaping of our national destinies required of each of us our political independence and bent all our strength to its attainment, so we must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement. The unity of our continent, no less than our separate independence, will be delayed if, indeed we do not lose it, by hobnobbing with colonialism.
African unity, is above all, a political kingdom which can only be gained by political means. The social and economic development of Africa will come only within the political kingdom, not the other way round. Is it not unity alone that can weld us into an effective force, capable of creating our own progress and making our valuable contribution to world peace? Which independent African state, which of you here, will claim that its financial structure and banking institutions are fully harnessed to its national development? Which will claim that its material resources and human energies are available for its own aspirations? Which will disclaim a substantial measure of disappointment and disillusionment in its agricultural and urban development?
In independent Africa, we are already re-experiencing the instability and frustration which existed under colonial rule. We are fast learning that political independence is not enough to rid us of the consequences of colonial rule. The movement of the masses of the people of Africa for freedom from that kind of rule was not only a revolt against the conditions which it imposed. Our people supported us in our fight for independence because they believed that African governments could cure the ills of the past in a way which could never be accomplished under colonial rule.
If, therefore, now that we are independent we allow the same conditions to exist that existed in colonial days, all the resentment which overthrew colonialism will be mobilised against us.
The resources are there. It is for us to marshal them in the active service of our people. Unless we do this by our concerned efforts, within the framework of our combined planning, we shall not progress at the tempo demanded by today’s events and the mood of our people. The symptoms of our troubles will grow, and the troubles themselves become chronic. It will then be too late even for pan-African unity to secure for us stability and tranquillity in our labours for a continent of social justice and material well-being.
Our continent certainly exceeds all the others in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42% of the world’s total. What need is there for us to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water for the industrialised areas of the world?
It is said, of course, that we have no capital, no industrial skill, no communications and no internal markets, and that we cannot even agree among ourselves how best to utilise our resources for our own social needs. Yet all stock exchanges in the world are pre-occupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ore.
Our capital flows out in streams to irrigate the whole system of Western economy. Fifty-two per cent of the gold in Fort Knox at this moment, where the USA stores its bullion, is believed to have originated from our shores.
Africa provides more than 60% of the world’s gold. A great deal of the uranium for nuclear power, of copper for electronics, of titanium for supersonic projectiles, of iron and steel for heavy industries, of other minerals and raw materials for higher industries–the basic economic might of the foreign powers–come from our continent.
Experts have estimated that the Congo Basin alone can produce enough food crops to satisfy the requirements of nearly half the population of the whole world, and here we sit talking about regionalism, talking about gradualism, talking about step by step. Are you afraid to tackle the bull by the horn?
For centuries, Africa has been the milch cow of the Western world. Was it not our continent that helped the Western world to build up its accumulated wealth? We have the resources. It was colonialism in the first place that prevented us from accumulating the effective capital; but we ourselves have failed to make full use of our power in independence to mobilise our resources for the most effective take-off into thorough-going economic and social development.
We have been too busy nursing our separate states to understand fully the basic need of our union, rooted in common purpose, common planning and common endeavour. A union that ignores the fundamental necessities will be but a sham. It is only by uniting our productive capacity and the resultant production that we can amass capital. And once we start, the momentum will increase. With capital controlled by our own banks, harnessed to our own true industrial and agricultural development, we shall make our advance.
We shall accumulate machinery and establish steel works, iron foundries and factories; we shall link the various states of our continent with communications by land, sea and air. We shall cable from one place to another, phone from one place to the other and around the world with our hydroelectric power; we shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the under-nourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease.
What are the games of independence?
It is within the possibility of science and technology to make even the Sahara bloom into a vast field with verdant vegetation for agricultural and industrial developments. We shall harness radio, television, giant printing presses to lift our people from the dark recesses of illiteracy.
A decade ago, these would have been visionary words, the fantasies of an idle dreamer. But this is the age in which science has transcended the limits of the material world, and technology has invaded the usilences of nature.
Time and space have been reduced to unimportant abstractions. Giant machines make roads, clear forests, dig dams, lay out aerodromes; monster trucks and planes distribute goods, huge laboratories manufacture drugs; complicated geological surveys are made; mighty power stations are built; colossal factories erected–all at an incredible speed. The world is no longer moving through bush paths or on camels and donkeys.
We cannot afford to pace our needs, our development, our security, to the gait of camels and donkeys. We cannot afford not to cut down the overgrown bush of outmoded attitudes that obstruct our path to the modern open road of the widest and earlier achievement of economic independence and the raising up of the lives of our people to the highest level.
Even for other continents lacking the resources of Africa, this is the age that sees the end of human want. For us, it is a simple matter of grasping with certainty our heritage by using the political might of unity. All we need to do is to develop with our united strength the enormous resources of our continent.
What use to the farmer is education and mechanisation, what use is even capital for development, unless we can ensure for him a fair price and a ready market? What has the peasant, worker and farmer gained from political independence unless we can ensure for him a fair return for his labour and a higher standard of living?
Unless we can establish great industrial complexes in Africa, what have the urban worker, and those peasants on overcrowded land gained from political independence? If they are to remain unemployed or in unskilled occupation, what will avail them the better facilities for education, technical training, energy and ambition which independence enables us to provide?
There is hardly any African state without a frontier problem with its adjacent neighbours. It would be futile for me to enumerate them because they are already so familiar to us all. But let me suggest that this fatal relic of colonialism will drive us to war against one another as our unplanned and uncoordinated industrial development expands, just as happened in Europe?
Unless we succeed in arresting the danger through mutual understanding on fundamental issues and through African unity, which will render existing boundaries obsolete and superfluous, we shall have fought in vain for independence.
Only African unity can heal this festering sore of boundary disputes between our various states. The remedy for these ills is ready in our hands. It stares us in the face at every customs barrier, it shouts to us from every African heath. By creating a true political union of all the independent states of Africa, with executive powers for political direction, we can tackle hopefully every emergency and every complexity.
This is because we have emerged in the age of science and technology in which poverty, ignorance and disease are no longer the masters, but the retreating foes of mankind.
Above all, we have emerged at a time when a continental landmass like Africa with its population approaching 300 million are necessary to the economic capitalisation and profitability of modern productive methods and techniques.
Not one of us working singly and individually can successfully attain the fullest development. Certainly, in the circumstances, it will not be possible to give adequate assistance to sister states trying, against the most difficult conditions, to improve their economic and social structures. Only a united Africa functioning under a union government can forcefully mobilise the material and moral resources of our separate countries and apply them efficiently and energetically to bring a rapid change in the conditions of our people.
Unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, big or small, we can here and now forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, an African monetary zone and an African central bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent. We need a common defence system with African high command to ensure the stability and security
of Africa. We have been charged with this sacred task by our own people, and we cannot betray their trust by failing them .We will be mocking the hopes of our people if we show the slightest hesitation or delay in tackling realistically this question of African unity. The, supply of arms or other military aid to the colonial oppressors in Africa must be regarded not only as aid in the vanquishment of the freedom fighters battling for their African independence, but as an act of aggression against the whole of Africa. How can
we meet this aggression except by the full weight of our united strength?
Many of us have made non-alignment an article of faith on this continent. We have no wish, and no intention of being drawn into the cold war. But with the present weakness and insecurity of our states in the context of world politics, the search for bases and spheres of influence brings the cold war into Africa with its danger of nuclear warfare. Africa should be declared a nuclear-free zone and freed from cold war exigencies. But we cannot make this demand mandatory unless we support it from a position of strength to be found only in our unity.
Instead, many independent African states are involved by military pacts with the former colonial powers. The stability and security which such devices seek to establish are illusory, for the metropolitan powers seize the opportunity to support their neocolonialist controls by direct military involvement .we have seen how the neocolonialists use their bases to entrench themselves and even to attack neighboring independent states. Such bases are centers of tension and potential danger spots of military conflict. They threaten the security not only of the country in which they are situated but of neighboring countries as well.
How can we hope to make Africa a nuclear-free zone and independent of cold war pressure with such military involvement on our Continent? Only by counter balancing a common defence force with a common desire for an African untrammeled by foreign dictation or military and nuclear presence. This will require an all-embracing African High Command, especially if the military pacts with, the imperialists are to be renounced. It is the only way we can break these direct links between the colonialism of the past and the neo-colonialism which disrupts us today. We do not want nor do we visualize an African High Command in the terms of the power politics that now rule a great part of the world, but as an essential and indispensable instrument for ensuring stability and security in Africa.
We need unified economic planning for Africa. Until the economic power of Africa is in our hands, the masses can have no real concern and no real interest for safeguarding our security, for ensuring the stability of our regimes, and for bending their strength to the fulfillment of our ends With our united resources, energies and talents, we have the means, as soon as we show the will, to transform the economic structures of our individual states from poverty to that of wealth, from inequality to the satisfaction of popular needs. Only on a continental basis shall we be able to plan the proper utilization of all our resources for the full development of our continent.
How else will we retain our own capital for our development? How else will we
establish an internal market for our own industries? By belonging to different
economic zones, how will we break down the currency and trading barriers between African states and how will the economically stronger amongst us be able to assist the weaker and less developed state?
It is important to remember that independence financing and independent
development cannot take place without an independent currency: A currency system that is backed by the resources of a foreign state is ipso facto to the trade and financial arrangements of the foreign country. Because we have so many customs and currency barriers as a result of being subject to the different currency systems of foreign powers, this has served to widen the gap between us in Africa. How, for example, can related communities and families trade with, and support one another successfully, if they find themselves divided by national boundaries and currency restrictions? The only alternative open to them in these circumstances is to use smuggled currency and enrich,
national and international racketeers and crooks who prey upon our financial and economic difficulties.
No independent African state today by itself has a chance to follow an independent course of economic development, and many of us who have tried to do this have been almost ruined or have had to return to the fold: of the former colonial masters. This position will not change unless we have a unified policy working at the continental level. The first step towards our cohesive economy would be a unified monetary zone, with, initially, an agreed common parity for our currencies. To facilitate this arrangement, Ghana would change to a decimal system. When we find that the arrangement of a fixed common parity is working successfully, there would seem to be no reason for not instituting one common currency and a single bank of issue. With a common currency from one common bank to issue, we should be able to stand erect on our own feet because such an arrangement would be fully backed by the combined national products of the states composing the union. After all, the purchasing power of money depends on productivity and the productive exploitation of the natural, human
and physical resources of the nation.
While we are assuring our stability by a common defence system and our economy is being orientated beyond foreign control by a common currency, monetary zone and a central bank of issue, we can investigate the resources of our continent. We can begin to ascertain whether in reality we are the richest, and not, as we have been taught to believe, the poorest among the continents. We can determine whether we possess the largest potential in hydroelectric power, and whether we can harness it and other sources of energy to our industries. We can proceed to plan our industrialization on a continental scale, and to build up a common market for nearly three hundred million
people. Common continental planning for the industrial and agricultural, development of Africa is a vital necessity.
So many blessings flow from our unity; so many disasters must follow on our
continued disunity, that our failure to unite today will not be attributed by posterity only to faulty reasoning and lack of courage, but to our capitulation before the forces of ‘ neo- colonialism and imperialism. The hour of history which has brought us to this assembly is a revolutionary hour. It is the hour of decision. For the first time, the economic imperialism which menaces us is itself challenged by the irresistible will of the people.
The masses of the people of Africa are crying for unity. The people of Africa call for the breaking down of the boundaries that keep them apart. They demand an end to the border disputes between sister African states- disputes that arise out of the artificial barriers raised by colonialism. It was colonialism’s purpose that divided us. It was colonialism’s purpose that left us with our border irredentism that rejected our ethnic and cultural fusion. Our people call for unity so that they may not lose the patrimony in the perpetual service of neo colonialism. In their fervent push for unity, they understand that only its realization will give full meaning to their freedom and our African independence.
It is this popular determination that must move us on a union of independent African states. In delay lies danger to our well-being, to our very existence as Free states. It has been suggested that our approach to unity should be gradual, that it should go piecemeal. This point of view conceives of Africa as a static entity with “frozen” problems which can be eliminated one by one and when all have been cleared, then we can come together and say: “Now all is well, Let us now unite”. This view takes no account of the impact of external pressures, nor does it take cognizance of the danger that delay can deepen our isolation and exclusiveness: that it can enlarge our differences and drifting further and further apart into the net of neo colonialism, so that our union will become nothing but a fading hope, and the great design of Africa’s full redemption will he lost, perhaps, forever.
The view is also expressed that our difficulties can be resolved simply by a greater collaboration through cooperative association in our inter-territorial relationships. This way of looking at our problems denies a proper conception of their interrelationship and mutuality. It denies faith in a future for African advancement in African independence. It betrays a sense of solution only in continued reliance upon external sources through bilateral agreements for economic and other forms of aid. The fact is that although we have been co-operating and associating with one another in various fields of common endeavour even before colonial times, this has not given us the continental identity and the political and economic force which would help us to
deal effectively with the complicated problems confronting us in Africa today. As far as foreign aid concerned, a united Africa should be in a favorable position to attract assistance from foreign sources. There is the far more compelling advantage which this arrangement offers, in that aid will come from anywhere to a united Africa because our bargaining power would become infinitely greater. We shall no longer be dependent upon aid from restricted sources. We shall have the world to choose from.
What are we looking for in Africa? Are we looking for charters? Conceived in the light of the United Nations example? A type of United Nations Organisation whose decisions are framed on the basis of resolutions that in our experience have sometimes been ignored by member states? Where groupings are formed and pressures develop in accordance with the interest of the groups concerned? Or is it intended that Africa should be turned into loose Organisation of states on the model of the Organisation of American states, in which the weaker states within it can be at the mercy of the stronger or more powerful ones politically or economically and all at the mercy of some powerful outside nation or group of nations? Is this the kind of association we want for ourselves? In the United Africa we all speak of with such feeling and emotion?
Your Excellencies permit me to ask; Is this kind of framework we desire for our United Africa? An arrangement which in future could permit Ghana or Nigeria or the Sudan, or Liberia, or Egypt or Ethiopia for example, to use pressure, which either superior economic or political influence give, to dictate the flow and direction of trade from say, Burundi or Togo or Nyasaland to Mozambique or Madagascar? We all want a Unite Africa, united not only in our concept of what unity connotes, but united in our common desire to move forward together in dealing with all the problems that can best be solved only on a continental basis.
When the first congress of the United States met many years ago at Philadelphia, one of the delegates sounded the first chord of unity by declaring that they had met in ‘a state of nature’; In other words, they were not in Philadelphia as Virginians, or Pennsylvanians, but simply as Americans .This reference to them as Americans were in those days a new and strange experience. May 1 dare to assert equally on this occasion. Your Excellencies, that we meet here today not as Ghanaians, Guineans, Egyptians Algerians, Moroccans, Malians, Liberians, Congolese or Nigerians but as Africans. Africans united in our resolve to remain here until we have agreed on the basic principles of a new pact of unity among ourselves which guarantees for us and our future a new arrangement of continental government. If we succeed in establishing a new set of principles as the basis of a new charter or stature for the establishment of a continental Unity of Africa and the creation of political and social progress for our people, then in my view, this conference should mark the end of our various groupings and regional blocs. But if we fail and let this grand and historic opportunity slip by then we shall give way to greater dissention and division among us for which the people of Africa will never forgive us. And the popular and progressive forces and movements within Africa will condemn us. I am sure therefore that we shall not fail them.
I have spoken at some length, Your Excellencies, because it is necessary for us all to explain not only to one another present here but also to our people who have entrusted to us the fate and destiny of Africa. We must therefore not leave this place until we have set up effective machinery for achieving African unity. To this end, I propose for your consideration the following: As a first step Your Excellencies, a declaration of principles uniting and binding us together and to which we must all faithfully and loyally adhere, and laying the foundations of unity should be set down. And there should also be a formal declaration that all independent African states here and now agree to the establishment of a Union of African states. As a second and urgent step for the realization of the unification of Africa, an all- Africa Committee of foreign Ministers be set up now, and that before we rise from this Conference a date should be fixed for them to meet.
This committee should establish on behalf of the Heads of our Governments, a
permanent body of officials and experts to work out machinery for the Union
Government of Africa. This body of officials and experts should be made up of two of the best brains from each independent African state. The various charters of the existing groupings and experts. A Presidium consisting of the Heads of Governments of the independent African states should be called upon to meet and adopt a constitution and other recommendations which will launch the Union Government of Africa.
We must also decide on a location where this body of officials and experts will work as the new Headquarters or capital of our Union Government. Some Central place in Africa might be the fairest suggestion, either at Bangui in the Central African Republic or Leopoldville in Congo. My colleagues may have other proposals. The committee of foreign ministers, officials arid experts should be empowered to establish:
1. A Commission to frame a constitution for a Union government of African
2. A Commission to work out a continent-wide plan for a unified or common
economic and industrial programme for Africa; this place should include
proposals for setting up:
a. A common market for Africa
b. An African currency; •
c. An African monetary zone;
d. An African central Bank, and
e. A continental communication system.
3. A commission to draw up details for a common foreign policy and
4. A Commission to produce plans for a common system of defence.
5. A commission to make proposals for a common African citizenship
These commissions will report to the committee of Foreign Ministers who should in turn submit within six months of this conference their recommendations to the Praesidium. The Praesidium meeting in conference at the Union Headquarters will consider and approve the recommendations of the committee of Foreign Ministers. In order to provide, funds immediately for the work of the permanent officials and experts of the Headquarters of the Union, I suggest that a special Committee be set up to work out a budget for this. Your Excellencies, with these steps, I submit, we shall be irrevocably committed to the road which will bring us to a Union government foe Africa. Only a United Africa with central political direction can successfully- give effective material and moral support to our freedom fighters, In Southern Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique, South-West Africa, Bechuanaland, Portuguese Guinea, etc, and
of course South Africa. All Africa must be liberated now. It is therefore imperative for us here and now to establish a liberation bureau for African freedom fighters, the main object of this bureau, to watch all governments should subscribe, should be to accelerate the emancipation of the rest of Africa still under colonial and racialist domination and oppression. It should be our joint responsibility to finance and support this bureau. On their successful attainment of independence these territories will automatically join our Union of African states, and thus strengthen the fabric of mother Africa. We shall leave here, having laid the foundations for our unity.
Your Excellencies, nothing could be more fitting than that the unification of Africa should be born on the soil of the state which stood for centuries as the symbol of African independence. Let us return to our people of Africa not with empty hands and with High-sounding solutions, but with the firm hope and assurance that at long last African Unity has become a reality. We shall thus begin the triumphant march to the kingdom of the African personality, and to a continent of prosperity, and progress, of equality and justice and of work and happiness. This shall be our victory-victory within a continental government of a union of African states. This victory will give our voice greater force in world affairs and enable us to throw our weight more forcibly on the side of peace. The world needs peace in which the greatest advantage can be taken of the benefits of science and technology. Many of the World’s present ills are to be found
in the insecurity and fear engendered by the threat of nuclear war. Especially do the new nations need peace in order to make their way into a life of economic and social well-being amid an atmosphere of security and stability that will promote moral, cultural and spiritual fulfillment.
If we in Africa can achieve the example of a continent knit together in common policy and common purpose, we shall have made the finest possible contribution to that peace for which all men and women thirst today, and which will lift once and forever the deepening shadow of global destruction from mankind. Ethiopia shall STRETCH forth her hands to God.
AFRICA MUST UNITE OR PERISH!