Exploring The Need of Pan-Africanism
Modern day Pan-Africanism, for the most part, has been synonymous with afrocentrism, and it’s been taking the West, especially the U.S. and U.K., by storm. From Wizkid’s “Closer” featuring rapper Drake rising through the charts,
Modern day Pan-Africanism, for the most part, has been synonymous with afrocentrism, and it’s been taking the West, especially the U.S. and U.K., by storm. From Wizkid’s “Closer” featuring rapper Drake rising through the charts, to people of every background donning African-print clothing and accessories as the latest fashion statement, love for the African identity has increased both from Africans and the Diaspora, as well as others.
Although we originated these cultures, there are a plethora of outstanding businesses and brands in this community that appeal to the culture, but are failing to grow due to the lack of funding and strategic partnerships. During the Face2Face Africa Pan-African Weekend held in New York City, we decided to explore whether Pan-African partnerships in the U.S. could lead to more impactful outcomes in the diaspora as a whole.
One of the most significant benefits to Pan-African partnerships in the U.S. is the potential for these partnerships to lead to U.S. dollars. Certain countries in the diaspora consider the significant emigration of their educated and talented natives, to the United States, to be harmful to the economic growth of these countries. However, the majority of second generation immigrants from the diaspora are composed of millennials and these individuals are reversing the brain drain by leveraging their education, skills, access, and U.S. dollars to move back to, reconnect with, and invest in the communities and economies of their homelands.
With the value of the dollar being much higher than local currencies on the continent, the potential effect of these dollars is quite significant. One problem local businesses and brands in Africa often encounter is becoming stuck at the local level due to the lack of capital and prospective partnerships to help them grow nationally or internationally.
“Because the people who originated the aesthetics of the culture don’t have access to resources and funding in their native countries they are unable to compete with the machines behind the production of culturally appropriated goods,” said Frances Poku III, a Ghanaian native who focuses on building strategic partnerships for businesses on the continent.
The execution of partnerships between Pan-African business owners based in the U.S. can lead to relationships that help them to jointly raise capital, gain access to resources, and garner a wide range of support. These businesses can also partner with their U.S.-based clientele to insert more USD into their business through sales and exponentially increase revenue.
“An advantage I’ve seen of working in the U.S. is that it is so big. Unlike smaller countries like England, there are a lot more representations of the diaspora here, and this creates more opportunities,” said Ama K. Abebrese, an award-winning British Ghanaian actress and panelist for the Pan-African Weekend Women’s Forum.
As we celebrated the honoree’s of the F.A.C.E. List Awards during Pan-African weekend and watched each of them step on to the stage representing African-Americans, Congolese, Ethiopians, and more, it made sense why pan-africanism is growing here – we are realizing we are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.
F.A.C.E. Award Honoree and long-time civil activist Reverend Dr. Al Sharpton described this by saying, “When I see President Trump and others dealing with European nations, which they should, I am reminded that we should have that same focus and attention on Africa.”
There is no doubt the times we live in, especially in America, are causing immigrants, minorities, and marginalized communities to feel more and more isolated. But we are getting increasing support and encouragement from our own communities, and others in the larger diaspora to do better, achieve greater, and uplift ourselves — together. And this is something we could (and should) continue to cultivate through pan-africanism.
Combining the experience of millennials from the continent that are connected to the diaspora in the U.S. are also bridging the gap of pan-africanism.
For Chiney Ogwumike playing in the WNBA with her sister, and getting the chance to co-host ESPN SportsCenter Africa. Chiney believes being a Nigerian American is the great mixture of cultures because “the U.S. comes with opportunity, but being a Nigerian gives [me] determination and together [I] feel like [I] can attack every opportunity available here and become successful.”
But as an African, I’ve also often heard the theory that pan-africanism could be damaging to the “African identity.” Because of the innate habit of the West generalizing Africa, and often the lack of interest in recognizing the diversity of people, cultures, and abilities on the continent, there are those Africans who fear that a strong pan-african movement will threaten our individuality and strong national identities. I understand these fears and they are valid.
How can a movement successfully address and appreciate an African-American agenda, a Somali agenda, and a Nigerian agenda all at the same time?
How can we find something in common with each other?
And how can we be celebrated without playing into stereotype?
Well, I think the answer is in what we saw at the F.A.C.E. List Awards. The key is that there is room for individuality in pan-africanism and that we, now more than ever, have platforms to showcase our achievements to each other and the world.
The award show convened such esteemed guests as Wyclef Jean, Serge Ibaka, Adenah Bayou, and so many more while showing that we all ultimately have the same agenda – to develop Africa as a leading source of talent and promise for the future. Whether we are investing monetarily, building up communities, or entertaining the world through our traditions, we are advancing the Africa, its identities, and the diaspora as a whole.
The Reverend made one last poignant remark at the end of his speech, when he was honored with the Icon Award for Advocacy and Public Service:
“…We cannot just deal with our African roots with lipservice and romance, we must deal with it with chip-service and finance. We must continue with what the “Mimi Alemayehou’s” of the world are doing. Make investments happen, make those that we support here support the African development.”
Written by: Yayne Hailu and Inez Nelson