Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA) – Pan African Parliament President Fortune Charumbira says Africans still suffer with an inferiority complex owing to the history and effects of colonialism.
By Noni Mokati
AMID high tensions and a fight for regional rotation and fairness, Zimbabwean senator and chief, Fortune Charumbira, was elected unopposed as president of the Pan African Parliament in Midrand last month. I chatted to him about his vision for the Parliament as well as what is required to improve Africa.
What does Pan-Africanism mean to you?
Pan Africanism is a means of getting us, as a group of people in Africa, united. It is meant to help us understand who we are and rediscover ourselves. In Africa, there is often a tendency for one group to impose itself on the other and it is common knowledge that if we are not careful, we will eventually go extinct as black people.
After all, our struggles emanate from the era of colonialism. All those epochs in our history have sought to diminish a certain race in Africa and those who have lived to tell the tale have spoken up about their experiences of being subjugated and dehumanised. Our identity has also been overshadowed by social ills, such as poverty. Identity and confidence cannot and will not thrive where there is poverty. Due to our history of colonialism, white people have had means of survival and have amassed wealth and most Africans have had to work for them. That itself perpetuated an inferiority complex which we, as Africans, still struggle with today. What we ought to remember, however, is that Pan Africanism is having absolute confidence in ourselves. When you are confident you can create things.
The innovation train has simply missed us mainly because inferiority complex is predominant on the continent. As a result, we have not been fast movers and innovating and creating a new world order. As a result, we tend to copy and follow others because we consider them superior. But we still have time. It is not for us to remember that as black people we are human beings like everyone else in the world and no less. Furthermore, my definition of Pan-Africanism goes beyond the African continent. It goes to look for those people who during the era of slavery were taken out of Africa and subjected to inhumane conditions in other regions across the world – but generations that followed them have reclaimed their identity and established themselves in those regions to become highly educated professionals and individuals who have influenced the world and continue to do so.
Can we completely decolonise Africa in this lifetime?
We must look at the knowledge we have acquired from Western material over the last few decades and ask ourselves what it has done for us Africans? We also need to analyse the knowledge that we, as a people, have acquired from universities across the world about African literature and ask if this truly represents us? The books that our children read were written from a very different context. How many people come from universities abroad into their communities and rural areas and are able to solve the problems faced by these communities because the education and knowledge they have acquired does not apply in their respective country or homeland. Their knowledge doesn’t help us in Africa.
If you look at all developed countries across the world that we often envy such as China, Japan and Germany, among others, you find that things that are common about the citizens of those countries is that they have not abandoned their own culture and their language. Our weakness as Africans is that we have abandoned our culture and languages. So we learn and think in foreign languages. There is no way that we can create anything or innovate in any way. It is also disconcerting that we are far from creating our innovations. For instance, if you wear a jacket that comes from a factory in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa you tend to look down on that product but if you see a jacket that has similar colours and comes from Paris, you are likely to buy it at a much higher rate. Our mentality is warped. We as Africans are inadequate. So we try to partake in projective identification. You want to identify with someone in Europe or some clothing thinking that wearing that shoe or suit from a Western country will make you valuable and that you will be seen. If it doesn’t come from Europe, you don’t feel it is worth it. In the end, we want to buy things that are not produced from our continent and that is where we are suffering. Furthermore, the solution to all these economic challenges Africa faces is production. In our case, the problem is that what we produce does not have a market. Our own people have less confidence in our products. We want to import from elsewhere. We grow the cotton here, it goes out and is processed somewhere. It then comes back to us and we wear it and feel good because it comes from overseas. We need to fight the feeling of inadequacy. We need five years where Africans will say, we will eat whatever is in our country. You will see, there will be a lot of production. Everyone will be employed and the factories will start running. Africa is laughable and as president of the Pan African Parliament, it is part of my agenda to fight that.
Eradicating conflict in Africa
A coup happens because some people think the system and those in leadership are benefiting compared to others. Being in office has become about “eating”. But at the end of the day, countries still have constitutions. So what we need to speak about is the socio-economic dynamic that makes people disrespect the law and their respective constitutions. The answer to eradicating conflicts on the continent lies in inclusivity. When people feel excluded they fight. More so, coups are characteristic of western values, not African values. In any system where you can find people removing others from power, it is a result of a lack of inclusiveness.
There has been a feeling that some groups are getting 90% of the share and dipping into other territories for votes. Rotations were introduced as a key value and principle by the AU. Those who introduced it realised that we cannot get anywhere unless there is unity. If some countries feel they are dominated by others, there will be no unity in the continent. Ours is to say that whether you are in Nigeria or Malawi you will get a chance to lead the Pan African Parliament. Since 2015, there has been a war over fairness and inclusion. But now we are back on track as the Pan African Parliament. We are not going to lose our way again. We are going to mobilise ourselves to be able to focus on the right deliverables by the Parliament.
Mokati is a content editor at African News Agency (ANA)