Sport as a driver of the African Unity project

“Without unity, there is no future for Africa”

– Dr. Julius Nyerere

SEVEN years ago, we joined the intellectual mind of the continent to articulate the sport agenda within the parameters of Pan Africanism. This subject matter was welcomed whole-heartedly within the corridors of the Pan African family and we were fortunate to share our deep sentiments with one of the most never-tiring and decorated Pan Africanists in Namibia, the late Bankie Foster Bankie.

I am optimistic that the seed that was planted and articulated in the body politics of AfroVoice has touched the hearts and souls of many African luminaries. Our pre-occupation was the promotion of the unity project Africa.

At this juncture, it is imperative to note that the unification of the African continent has been delayed in all its manifestation for the past 56 years. Those that fashioned the promotion of the unity project of Africa were primarily political freedom fighters in 1960s. At the time, they faced several counter-arguments (and contradictions) to the unity project, with many saying Africa was not ready to unite, or had to do so gradually.

While addressing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, Kwame Nkrumah opposed the critics by stating that “The hour of history which brought us to this assembly is a revolutionary hour … Our people call for unity so that they may not lose the patrimony in the perpetual services of neocolonialism… It has been suggested that our approach to unity should be gradual, that it should go piecemeal. This point of view conceives of Africa as a static entity with ‘frozen’ problems, which can only be eliminated one by one… Africa must unite now or perish.”

The paramount questions we should ask are: Have we moved closer to achieving African unity? Is the formation of the African Union government as envisaged by Nkrumah and his contemporaries a dream deferred? Are we closer to strengthening our social, political, economic and cultural ties?

The organic thinker Thabo Mbeki has always opined that Africa has made a lot of progress in some areas of development. Mbeki has perhaps drunk from the fountain of Nkrumah when he eloquently advised that “Those who judge us merely by heights we have achieved would do well to remember the depth from which we started.”

While addressing the birth centenary Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 2009, Ambassador Tuliameni Kalomoh advised that “The construction of the African Union government cannot be achieved through slogans and romanticism of Pan Africanism as a philosophy only that should bind us together. Real African unity and the establishment of an African Union government will require of African leaders to demonstrate greater political and financial commitment to the Union.”

Over the years, sport has taken the leap of faith by proving beyond comprehension, lack of adequate financial and intellectual investment, to be a unifying vehicle for the continent both systematically and holistically.

Of greater significance has been the need for African countries to prioritize and invest in sport development as a matter of urgency. In this regard, Kalomoh at the same public lecture further challenged African leaders to demonstrate a broader commitment to peace and to deepening and broadening African unity, and equitable economic development through sport engagement and empowerment should be an answer.

Promoters of African unity should never despair as cautioned by Kalomoh. As Mwalimu Nyerere once said: “Of all the sins that Africa can commit, the sin of despair would be the most unforgivable.”

Let sport rehabilitate the souls that have lost hope and despair.