Thursday, September 16, 2010

Africa @ 50: Progress or Regress

Africa @ 50: Progress or Regress
by Pamela Appea
Amandla Newspaper
Volume 9, Issue 9
September 16-October 15, 2010

The Sixth Annual African Development Institute (ADI) Policy Forum took place on Tuesday evening, August 31st at The Gabarron Foundation Carriage House Center for the Arts in Manhattan. Participants of the forum entitled “Africa @ 50” Progress or Regress” hotly debated issues involving politics, corruption, socio-economic disparities, the issue of a unified federation of African nation-states and the rights of African women.

As the 50th anniversary of independence for some 17 African nations has been reached this year, reflection, assessment and the setting of new goals are a natural area to focus on. But some panelists believe time will tell if the majority of African citizens would see significant socio-economic progress, while other panelists charge that gradualism and keeping the status quo of existing political and social policies within so-called African democracies fail to solve anything.

“Is Africa free today? Is Africa united? Is Africa developed? For those three questions, I’m going to say no. Without a united Africa, it is going to be difficult for Africa to progress …” said Enock Mensah, ADI’s co-founder and president and advocate of a united federation of African states.

“We require new leadership and bold thinking… until or unless an African Federation
is created, the African continent is doomed,” Mensah said. Following an intense audience reaction, he went on to note, “People say if you cannot even get Nigeria together, then how can you get the entire continent on board … I say, if we have five, seven or more states [on board] then the rest will follow.”

In contrast, Dr. Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College, said, “There is a tendency for us Africans to write off everything
we do as inadequate. If you are looking for a revolution it will be bloody. Yes, many people say Africa is on the regress side and many people tend to be hung up on economic growth or inequality,” she said. But from a basic standpoint, the immediate goal of independence, the professor explained, was for these African nations to achieve freedom from colonialism, to function independently and to serve as a homeland for possibility.

“Many people thought we would now be in the land of milk and honey… achieving all of their hopes and dreams,” she said. “We are forgetting the struggle, the spirit, the energy of Africans. There have been moments in African history that inspire me and should inspire everyone,” she said. “Now at 50, there should be a sense of urgency. We cannot afford to relax. We have to give it what it takes.

Nearly 100 audience members including business professionals, students, grassroots community activists to government civil servants and others, some visiting from Ghana to Uganda to Cameroon to Haiti participated in the ADI question and answer period.

"The best part of the evening was when the audience provided input, particularly the youth. Their willingness, the demand to get involved and to be part of whatever change was inspiring. With young people they don't believe they can fail. They are not inhibited by the past or the mistakes of the past. And they want to
forge ahead and get something done. It was very encouraging. And some of them seemed to be trying to impact change on the grassroots. I just hope that something productive comes out of this forum. This is the beginning of something promising," said Jacki Fisher, a forum attendee.

The policy forum included musical selections by Salieu Suso and forum remarks from Kwame Akonor, president and founder of African Development Institute (ADI); His Excellency Cheick Sidi Diarra; Dr. Mojubaolu Olufunke
Okome; Ambassador Adonia Ayebarre;and Enock Mensah also of ADI.