Addis Ababa, 24 May 2013 (ECA) - At a session with various civil society stakeholders on the theme, Framing a 21st Century Narrative on Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Carlos Lopes acknowledged the role played by the African Diaspora in promoting panafricanism as a unique identity that was born out of slavery and displacement.
“We have to recognize the key role of the African Diaspora in promoting this ideal and the role played by leaders and intellectuals such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois and George Padmore,” said Lopes.
He explained that they promoted panafricanism as a rallying point for asserting their racial identity and cultural heritage; and for this historical reason, the ‘pan’ identity exists nowhere else but among people of African origin. “It is perhaps not surprising that there is not a similar discourse in Asia, Latin America and indeed the Arab world,” he said.
Mr Lopes lauded the OAU’s contribution to Continent’s liberation journey. “It established the Liberation Committee, which provided arms, training and military bases to various liberation movements on the continent,” he said.
“There were many countries and people associated with the work of the Liberation Committee but we must pay particular tribute to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who pushed for the creation of the Committee and to Tanzania which provided it a home,” he added.
He argued that Panafricanism “must be and should be about socio-economic transformation.”
He told the forum that Africa’s megatrends, in areas such as urbanization and the potential demographic dividend have given the rest of the world reason to see many positive things about the continent. He however, reiterated the need to control the narrative on Africa that often gets told based on external analysis and that should be driven by evidence-based data generated from within Africa.
“Most data constitute projections – and are not based on real facts; we must generate quality data and thus control the narrative,” said Lopes.
In this regard, he said that Africa should seize the moment in its favor and steer the transformation in the direction that benefits its people. “We can move from the unproductive systems we have right now into industrialization – our plan must be more than extraction and the selling of minerals,” he stressed.
The meeting was held on the margins of the ongoing celebrations to commemorate 50 years of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), which is now the African Union. In attendance were former Presidents, Karl Auguste Offman, (Mauritius); Joacquim Chissano (Mozambique); Amos sawyer (Liberia) and Chair of Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Panel.