Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
TODAY, May 25, Zambia joins the rest of the continent in commemorating the Africa Freedom Day. Africa Freedom Day (now Africa Day) was founded in 1958 during the first Conference of Independent African States in Ghana.
The day was set apart to commemorate the political liberation of African countries which had been under the shackles of colonialism for a long time.
During the scramble for Africa in the 19th century European powers divided Africa and its resources into political partitions at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.
By 1905 the African soil was almost completely controlled by European governments with exceptions of Liberia (which had been settled by Africa-American former slaves) and Ethiopia (which had successfully resisted colonialism from Italy.
Colonialism deprived Africans of important natural resources like minerals and was the main cause of economic devastation, cultural confusion and geopolitical division, among others.
Africa Freedom Day was therefore established to celebrate liberation progress and act as a symbol of determination by the African people to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation
In 1958 only 11 countries were independent, and between then and 1963, 17 more countries were liberated from colonial rule, bringing the number to 31.
On May 25, 1963 the leaders of the 31 countries convened a summit to found the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The leaders renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day” and changed its date to May 25 from 15th.
Today Africa celebrates the political liberation of its over 50 countries.
While this achievement is worth celebrating considering the price our founding fathers paid for it, Africa needs to realise that without economic independence the liberation story is incomplete.
Yes, our founding fathers did their part to ensure that political power was handed back to the indigenous Africans. It is therefore the responsibility of this generation to ensure that economic power is handed back, too.
It should concern us that after over five decades of political liberation, no single African country has transitioned to the developed cluster.
The continent’s biggest economies, like Nigeria and South Africa, are also nowhere near the benchmark.
Over 50 years after the political emancipation, Africa is still that beggar that is constantly knocking on the doors of the very European powers that were ousted for aid.
This has made the continent vulnerable to economic exploitation.
We have seen many colonialists come back to Africa in the name of investors and yet all they do is reap us off our natural resources for the benefit of their countries.
The only difference between colonial days and now is that this time they plunder resources with our permission.
During the privatisation era, memories are still fresh how as a country we sold our mines to foreigners for a song.
Major economic activities such as mining, manufacturing and construction, among others, are still largely dominated and controlled by foreigners in most African countries.
Not until Africans begin to command the lion’s share of economic activities on our continent, Africa Freedom Day may mean very little.
The responsibility to ensure that Africa claims back its economic birth right lies squarely on the shoulders of today’s generation.
Today’s generation will do well to emulate the spirit of unity and patriotism exhibited by our African founding fathers during the liberation struggle.
During the struggle, founding fathers like Dr Kenneth Kaunda and his compatriots worked not only for the liberation of their individual countries but the continent as a whole.
This is why Zambia was instrumental in the liberation of southern Africa.
This is what we need even today. African countries need to unite in fighting against economic slavery.
African countries should move away from singing intra-trade to implementation.
When trading with another African country, there is need to exhibit the brotherhood spirit to ensure a win-win situation as opposed to exploiting the weaker part.
This is the only way Africa will collectively develop strong economies.
Africa is endowed with vast natural resources such as minerals, oil, arable land and many others. There is therefore no justification for the continent to continue being dependent on former colonial masters whose interests do not match ours.
As we celebrate Africa Freedom Day today, let us remember that the victory is incomplete or indeed illusionary without economic liberation.
Our founding fathers passed on the baton; it is now up to the current generation to finish the race through economic liberation.
Let us aspire for a time when Africa will command a fair share of trade and economic power on the global stage.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA