The AEC (African Economic Community) and its two major corollaries, the African Union (AU) and the African Regional Economic Communities, have embarked on an enormous paradigm altering mission for the 21st century: the internal and external operational unity of Africa, and the transformation of that geophysical territory into a world power with the structural ability and capacity to fundamentally improve the quality of life of the majority of its citizens. A pipe dream to some (Marcus Garvey advocated this all the way back in 1924, though opposed by several Black leaders), this quest depends on the successful coordination and blending of many different components over a sustained period of time.
As stated at the end of a recent student debate in my advanced university class in Pan Africanism, “21st century Pan Africanism (i.e., the Union of African States) can and will only be achieved by a balanced combination of governmental action, consistent, even relentless community-based organizing, mass political mobilization, international networking, and technological expertise by Africans, with the timely and relevant assistance of specific allies for particular issues.”
The AU represents one huge collective government response to the objectives of 21st century Pan Africanism. In evaluating the success, remaining potential, and missteps of the African Union during its first 13 years of operations, the issue of another required part of the equation, the African Diaspora and its integration into the AU, still looms large. Although there is a pending MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the AU and certain CARICOM countries, and individual countries like Haiti have already submitted applications (which have been denied) for membership in the AU, the vast majority of the African Diaspora will be part of the massive NGO contribution to the equation. After all, in the AU’s 2003 3(q) amendment to its Constitutive Act, the African Diaspora as an amorphous body of African descendants was identified as a needed strategic partner in this 21st century quest.
Africa, itself, was subsequently defined as the five known geographical regions (i.e., North, South, East, West, and Central), and the African Diaspora was identified as a potential sixth geographical and equal region. How has that AU-Diaspora partnership grown and fared within the last decade? Is it even possible for the wildly scattered, essentially non-governmental African Diaspora to actually become a legitimate sixth region of Africa and the AU?
In any serious endeavor, more particularly one that is as potentially transformative to fundamental African relations as the 21st century Pan African Movement is, the twin issues of legitimacy and credibility of the major participants (organized and individual) are a reliable barometer of the dynamic status of the overall effort at any given time. Little to low credibility and/or legitimacy of the AUC (African Union Commission, the AU Secretariat) at any particular time, for example, equals virtually no respect for the AU as a whole.
So, what are the significant challenges of legitimacy and credibility for the African Diaspora project as part of the AU’s thrust forward, and how, if at all, are they being addressed?