The idea of a wealthy, peaceful and powerful Europe has always been at the heart of the European project. In 1945 European union in its current form was unimaginable. The reality of Europe in 1918 was social inequality, war, and forced migration. The first step was for Europeans to recognise the potential of political and economic union.  The idea of Europe in the minds of white Europeans was much less bloody than their history makes clear. The colonies were directly exploited. The optics were bad. So the history of European colonialism is not taught in the colonies or in Europe. This handling of history is important to maintain the idea of Europe. It also maintains an idea of a forever dependent Africa.

In this piece I imagine an African project, where Africans and African-identified people live in peaceful, well-organized political and economic units, traveling, working and practicing their culture and religions without fear. Even in the imagination this is a difficult birth. The European colonial project is global and all-powerful. The African project can only exist in the space that remains. At the moment there are wealthy black people and powerful black communities all over the world. The countries or regions of Africa and the Caribbean are under the political control of African descended people.  So why do most black people still live in struggle? Why do Africans risk their lives to migrate? What shape could their utopia take? How could communities of the African diaspora connect more effectively to each other and to Africans on the continent? For a start, African people could be healthier and better educated, with better chances to earn a living in wealthier, more stable economies at home. Healthy African countries are the necessary core of a healthy diaspora.

Last year the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set targets for lower income African countries. They are to achieve economic progress through better technology, with wealth being created through environmentally responsible industry instead of agriculture. Few African countries will reach their wealth goals within the required time. At present the bulk of manufacturing capacity is in emerging middle-income economies. Energy production is a huge hurdle for African economies. African countries have to quickly increase energy production and manufacturing capacity.

However, low-income African countries do not have sufficient investment (Foreign Direct Investment, Overseas Development Aid, remittances from African “migrants” working abroad, trade, or credit) for large scale industrialisation. There is not enough money to provide public goods such as education, health, transport, energy infrastructures that would underpin any large-scale transformation of low-income African economies. European countries industrialized without taking into account environmental damage. All countries are now supposed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. But so-called “clean technology” is expensive and most schemes in Africa are too small for industrial purposes.  

For the African countries that do succeed in becoming wealthy the real proof of progress will be when this wealth makes a difference to the way most people live. In a utopia the health, education and employment policies benefit the majority instead of a small elite. Utopian governments would rule by consensus and not by repressing citizens. There would be stable power-sharing between ethnic blocks and reduced social conflicts.

At the moment African countries are client states within the international system. They pretty much do what the aid donors want and not what is good for their economies. In the 1960’s when most countries became independent the infrastructure in the colonies was designed to supply resources at unrealistically low prices to manufacturers in European countries. Manufacturing has shifted to Asia but African countries are still stuck in the position of cheap suppliers. They don’t compete effectively.  In a utopian system African states would take independent economic and political decisions. Instead of relying on “aid” which comes with unfavourable conditions, African countries would raise investment on international markets. They would sell processed goods as well as sustainably managed resources for much higher prices than at present. The consumers of African goods in Europe and Asia would agree to pay fairer prices. International companies would be compelled to pay the taxes they currently avoid, which cost African countries more money than they receive in aid.

The unified Pan African diaspora is a deliberate creation. Only revolutionary struggle will empower black people everywhere to work towards it. Once that’s done, the rest is easy. Empowered Black people already know that advanced African civilisations functioned before the Maa’afa, that these civilizations travelled, explored and traded with clients as far away as China. The names Great Zimbabwe, Benin, the great Library of Timbuctoo are familiar. Empowered Black people think of themselves as Black in a way, which has little to do with outward appearance. There is no colorist class system.  People understand the common origins and stories of the different diasporas, from South American to Afro-Iranian to Caribbean to Australian indigenous. They are familiar with the separations and the diversity as well, the way in which cultures have developed and will continue to develop differently, the potential for conflicts over different beliefs. And they see unifying the diaspora as inevitable.

The beginning of this piece mentioned an idea of Europe.  There are worries in Europe about the future of this idea. The British will most probably leave the union because of nationalism. The media paid much greater attention to racist attacks in the week that followed the British referendum, ignoring the daily realities of black and ethnic minorities. The white European population seems surprised by the mainstream popularity of fascist ideology in European party politics. The idea of Europe has changed. Perhaps the European Union will disintegrate completely. And perhaps by then this generation of Africans will have built societies that value and protect them.

Clementine Burnley

Clementine Burnley was born and raised in Cameroon. At the moment, she lives and writes in Berlin, Germany.


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