From January 14-16, in Johannesburg, South Africa, approximately 160 attendees from 20 countries crowded into a series of rooms in the Jubilee conference hall at the University of Witswatersrand—the higher education pride of South Africa—to convene what the organizers called the 8th Pan African Congress. The aim of this gathering was to interrogate the issue of speeding up Africa’s unification into a United States of Africa through community-based or Non-governmental organization work (NGOs).
This gathering was the 8th in the series of Pan African Congresses started by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois in 1919 in Paris, France. This gathering was the third on African soil, and followed a pattern of a PAC every 20 years. The 6th PAC was in Tanzania, 1974, the 7th in Kampala, Uganda in 1994, and this one in South Africa in 2014.
Similar to the others, this one was not without controversy in its planning and preparation. It billed itself as the anti-continentalism Congress, that is, the organizers advocated an African unification of sub-Saharan states and peoples, and strongly suggested that the Arab-African states in the north of the continent were only geographically African, not African-first, and thus they had to be ignored. The organizers of this gathering said they were echoing Marcus Garvey, who in 1924 first called for African unification of all Black African territories. The African Union (the dominant African organization on the continent), on the other hand, has long advocated a unification of all of the current African countries, and thus another group of organizers within that same vein, has challenged the South African meeting as being illegitimate as a Pan African Congress gathering because of that, and because a group of 15 self-selected activists and academics organized the South African gathering without much, if any, regional community organizing. This challenging group has said the South African meeting should only call itself a conference, not a Congress within the Dubois tradition.
Be that as it may, the 8th Pan African Congress came and went with an audience of talkative Afro-Latin Americans from Ecuador, Brazil Columbia, Venezuela, and Peru, the Black Siddis from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, African-descendants from England, Denmark, Poland, France, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad-Tobago, Canada and the US., etc. The Siddis enthralled everyone with their story of relentless discrimination and abject poverty.
The gathering ended with a series of implementable recommendations, including the establishment of a policy of including youth in all phases of future Pan African work, and a commitment to focus extraordinary effort in creating and operationalizing a new Pan African education curriculum that would not only teach more STEM courses, but which would also teach all African children to see themselves first as Africans, and only secondarily as a member of a Wolof, Zulu or any other ethno-tribal group.
The 8th PAC made a powerful step forward.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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