Pan-Africanism: it is a belief that African peoples, both on the African continent and in the Diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny. This sense of interconnected pasts and futures has taken many forms, especially in the creation of political institutions. “We the African people are our own liberators and thinkers whose task is to make a mighty stride towards genuine freedom by any means necessary.” Malcolm X

These ideas are referenced in Elumelu’s Africapitalism which is defined as the positive role the private sector must play in Africa by making long-term investments in strategic sectors of the economy in a way that creates and multiplies local value in order to accelerate and broaden prosperity throughout the continent and around the world. Africapitalism calls for a new kind of capitalism – a version in which Africa leapfrogs other models, creating a more broad-based and sustainable economy. One does wonder how capitalism can provide succour in the same place it has laid waste.

The history of Africa has been characterised by massive swings in political thought. The anti-colonial and initial postcolonial movements were concerned with imagining Africa as a refinement of its precolonial past. Due to postcolonial troubles, SAP etc, current intellectual political thought is concerned with imagining Africa as a pale imitation of neo-liberal structures.

However,  little attention has been paid to the role of informal sector in fostering growth and creating jobs. In fact, the informal sector contributes about 55 per cent of what is designated Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP and 80 per cent of the labour force. Nine in ten rural and urban workers have informal jobs in Africa and most employees are women and youth.

The beauty of the informal economy is that it reflects everyday realities and is divorced from the strictures of neo-liberalism. The informal economy involves practices, knowledge and values that are related to, and grow out of, local and community circumstances. On the other hand, the dominant discourse is that indigenous practices are outmoded, archaic and out of tune with modernity. Yet these practices as they are engaged with today are not trapped in time, but have evolved in tandem with society’s many iterations.

This illustrates that knowledge production is still going on on the continent. It may not be curated or valued by the Global North, but it is happening. And knowledge is being exchanged as Africans are finding new ways to produce and share knowledge. For example, as Siyanda Mohutsiwa states quite succinctly, social media has finally given Pan-Africanism a new voice. The world and Africa would do well not to ignore this voice. These are our voices.

Can Pan-Africanism save us? Time will tell.


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