Pan-Africanism is a global movement that supports and reinforces bonds of solidarity between the diaspora and indigenous ethnic groups of African descent. Based on a shared goal recording back to the Atlantic slave trade, the campaign stretches beyond continental Africans with a strong support base among the African diaspora in Europe and the Americas.
We can confirm Pan-Africanism’s origins the struggles of the African people against colonization and enslavement, and we may trace this struggle back to the initial resistance on slave ships—suicides and rebellions—through the regular plantation and colonial uprisings and the “Back to Africa” movements of the early 19th century. Based on the belief that unity is essential to social, political, and economic progress and aims to “uplift and unify” people of African descent.
As an ideology/philosophy, Pan-Africanism represents the aggregation of Africans’ cultural, historical, artistic, spiritual, philosophical, and scientific legacies from ancient times to the current day. Pan-Africanism, as an ethical practice, traces its roots from ancient times. It promotes values that are the African civilizations’ product and the struggles against racism, slavery, neo-colonialism, and colonialism.
Concurring with various New World slave revolts, highlighted by the Haitian Revolution, the dawn of the 19th century started an intercontinental pro-African political movement that attempted to unify different campaigns goal to stop oppression. Another primary political form of a religious Pan-Africanist worldview arrived in the form of Ethiopianism.
In Britain’s London, the Sons of Africa was a prominent political group petitioned by Quobna Ottobah Cugoano in the 1791 edition of his book Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery. The group organized meetings and raised letter-writing campaigns, distributed campaigning material, and attended parliament. They wrote to figures such as William Pitt, Granville Sharp, and other prominent white abolition movement members and King George III.
Pan African anarchists
Modern Pan-Africanism started around the inception of the 20th century. Later renamed the Pan-African Association, the African Association was installed around 1897 by Henry Sylvester Williams, who coordinated the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900.
With Ghana’s independence in March 1957, Kwame Nkrumah was chosen as the first President of the State and Prime Minister. Nkrumah emerged as a significant advocate for the unity of Africa. The Ghanaian President embraced an activist-political approach to Pan-Africanism as he propagated the search for local union of the whole of the African continent. This era depicted a “golden age of high pan-African ambitions”; the continent had experienced decolonization and revolution against Western powers, and the narrative of solidarity and rebirth had gained humongous followers within the Pan-African movement. Nkrumah’s Pan-African policies intended for a union between the Independent African states upon recognizing their commonality (i.e., suppression under imperialism). Pan-Africanism under Nkrumah evolved past the hypotheses of a racially exclusive movement associated with black Africa and adopted a political dialogue for regional unity.
In April 1958, Nkrumah coordinated the first AAPC (All-African Peoples’ Conference) in Accra in Ghana. This Conference attracted delegates of political movements and prominent political leaders. Except for South Africa, all Independent States of the Continent attended: Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Liberia, Tunisia, Sudan, and Morocco. This Conference signified a grand event in the Pan-African movement, as it exhibited a social and political union between the black African regions and those considered Arabic states. Further, the Conference adopted a common African Nationalist identity, unity, and anti-Imperialism, among the States. Frantz Fanon, journalist, freedom fighter, and a member of the Algerian FLN party, attended the Conference as an Algeria member.
Thinking about the armed conflict of the FLN against French colonial rule, the Conference attendees agreed to back the struggle of those States under colonial oppression. This reinforced the commitment of direct engagement in the “emancipation of the Continent; thus, a fight against colonial influences on South Africa was announced and the full support of the FLN struggle in Algeria, against French colonial rule.”
Tom Mboya, a Kenyan anti-colonial activist and trade unionist, also visited this Conference. This visit motivated him to increase the speed of political activity aimed at stirring for Kenya’s independence. In the period following 1958, Accra Conference also marked the institution of a new foreign policy of non-alignment between the US and USSR. It established an “African Identity” in global affairs by supporting unity between the African States on foreign relations. This would be solely based on the Bandung Declaration, the UN Charter, and on loyalty to UN decisions.”
In 1960, another All-African Peoples’ Conference was organized in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The membership of the AAPO (All-African Peoples’ Organisation) had increased with the inclusion of the “Algerian Provisional Government, Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroun, and the United Arab Republic.”
The Conference highlighted different ideologies within the movement, as Nkrumah’s call for an economic and political union between the free African States gained little recognition. The disagreements following 1960 gave rise to two different factions (they rivaled each other on international relations) within the Pan-African movement: the Brazzaville Bloc and the Casablanca Bloc.
In 1962, Algeria won independence from French colonial rule, and Ahmed Ben Bella became the President. Ben Bella was a powerful advocate for Pan-Africanism and Pan African Unity. Following the FLN’s armed struggle for freedom, Ben Bella spoke at the UN. He espoused for Independent Africa’s role in providing financial and military support to the African freedom movements fighting apartheid and challenging Portuguese colonialism.
In search of a concrete united voice, in 1963, at an African Summit gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 32 African states met and founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The OAU Charter’s origin took place at this Summit and defines a coordinated “effort to boost the standard of living of member Countries and maintain their sovereignty” by supporting decolonization and freedom fighters.
Thus, was the start of the African Liberation Committee (ALC) during the 1963 Summit. Championing the assistance of liberation movements was Algeria’s President Ben Bella, who immediately donated 100 million francs ( a huge amount during those da7s) to its finances and was one of the Organisation’s first countries to boycott South African and Portuguese goods.
In 1972, after Kwame Nkrumah died, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi assumed the mantle of leader of the Pan-Africanist movement and became the most candid advocate of African Unity, like Nkrumah before him – for the homecoming of a “United States of Africa.”