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?

The first issue of credibility and legitimacy for the AU-Diaspora project, is that of inclusion, as expected from the 2003 AU invitation to the African Diaspora, and the subsequent meetings, declarations, definitions and pronouncements which have directly or implicitly confirmed these expectations. Even though the AU’s ECOSOCC is and will remain an advisory, recommending body only, it is a permanent commission of the AU and it is the designated first AU entity to include African Diasporans as voting members. So inclusion in ECOSOCC would mean the advanced opportunities for the African Diaspora members to gain valuable diplomatic experience and to ready themselves for eventual participation in other areas of the African Union, including the Pan African Parliament.

As of the middle of 2016, the 20 delegate seats assigned to the African Diaspora by the AU in 2003-2004 through the AU’s ECOSOCC, remain unfilled for a variety of mainly bureaucratic reasons. That is a credibility problem of the first order. To date, the AU has not approved a general method for the African Diaspora to elect its 20 representatives for inclusion in the AU, and a full debate/discussion on resolving that issue has yet to occur.

Clearly, becoming members of ECOSOCC will not be the ultimate credibility nor legitimacy standard for the African Diaspora. However, it is part of the first level of real credibility that must occur, and must occur soon. Otherwise the African Diaspora’s credentials and reputation as a serious international player in this chess game of paradigmatic change will never rise above the mediocre. The AU-African Diaspora relationship will remain ephemeral and paper-related only, in spite of the grandiose declaration of an AU-Diaspora Programme of Action and Consolidated Outcomes.

Recently, in preparation for the May 25, 2012 African Diaspora Summit in Pretoria, South Africa, most of the major NGO organizations within the African Diaspora have adopted a regional approach that has a significant chance of success in getting those 20 representatives elected from the global African Diaspora. To wit, there is already a North American Region Unity Council (NAADUC), a Caribbean Pan African Network (CPAN), a Central American Region Unity Council (CARADUC), and a Middle East Region Unity Council (MEADUC) established and operating, with a Western Europe African Diaspora Unity Commission, an Eastern Europe African Diaspora Unity Commission, and a South American Region Diaspora Unity Council, on tap for establishment before the end of 2012. Such regional unity councils address the challenge of the AU’s having to wade through over 10,000 active Pan African-oriented organizations, large and very small, within the African Diaspora. Such a confusing cacophony has long had a chilling effect on closing the African Diaspora inclusion deal.

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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