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African leaders in a group photo after signing the historic African Continental Free Trade Area agreement in March 2018 in Kigali. When AfCFTA goes into force next year, it would make Africa the world’s largest free trade zone of more than 1.2 billion people, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of about US$2.5 trillion. The agreement is expected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade/Photo: Paul Kagame Flickr

Making a rational case for Pan-Africanism

To those who keep on deriding Pan-Africanism as a hopeless dream, Fẹ̀mi Akọmọlàfẹ́, book author and political analyst, writing from Accra, Ghana, makes the case for a united continent that is stronger on the world stage

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The future, they say, belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Stop confusing Pan-Africanism with African-Romanticism. Pan-Africanism is not about falling in love with your fellow Africans, it is about combining your strength to face a very hostile, dog-eat-dog, man-eat-shit, Social-Darwinistic world where might is right and the weak are swallowed whole.

I can imagine your falling in love with the geographic expression of colonial garrison you choose to call a country. I can even understand your need to beat chest, wave flags and belch anthems as you feel giddy with excitement and awe at the display of the appurtenances of your ostensible independent country.

What I cannot understand is why it is beyond you to see how puny and pathetically insignificant your beloved country actually is in the global scheme of things.

Apart from Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt none of the other countries in Africa packed enough punch to rate high in geo-strategic calculations.

So, Mr Patriot, try to imagine yourself as the president of say, Benin Republic, going to negotiate a trade deal with, say, Germany.

What exactly will you bring to the table?

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Your economy, all of US$14.39 billion GDP, is significantly less than that of any of the 16 states that make up the Federal Republic of Germany – North Rhine Westphalia tops the list at US$711.4 billion, the lowest Bremen stands at US$33.6 billion.

At US $3.9 trillion, the German economy makes your national economy looks very tiny in comparison. The Germans will simply roll over you.

That’s just the teaser.

I know that, for many of us, thinking deep is an encumbrance, but try not to forget that Germany, being part of the EU, no longer negotiates bilateral trade deals with other countries. The EU does that on its behalf.

If the German economy makes your national economy looks tiny, the behemoth of the combined EU economy at US$18.8 trillion reduces your national economy to virtual invisibility.

Since we are still imagining things, now try to imagine if, instead of you going alone to Berlin (actually Brussels) to negotiate a trade deal as the Beninois Minister for Trade, you are part of an ECOWAS negotiating team.

By sheer scale of the combined population of the ECOWAS (300+ million), your prospects have dramatically improved. Your chances of being considered a serious player have increased exponentially.

Try to think about it even if the efforts will render you comatose!

Have a wonderful day.

Accra, 18 September 2020

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