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Map of Africa's 53 sovereign states (click to enlarge)
The United States of Africa is the name proposed for the concept of a federation of the 53 sovereign states of Africa, with a combined population of 992 million. The United States of Africa, if created, would share the acronym "U.S.A." with the United States of Americamarker.

Libyanmarker leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who is the 2009 Chairperson of the African Union (AU), has advanced the idea of a United States of Africa at two regional African summits: in June 2007 in Conakrymarker, Guineamarker, and again in February 2009 in Addis Ababamarker, Ethiopiamarker. Gaddafi had previously pushed for the creation of the African Union at a summit in Lomémarker, Togomarker, in 2000. Having since described the AU as a failure, Gaddafi has asserted that only a true pan-African state can provide stability and wealth to Africa.

A number of senior AU members also support the proposed federation, believing that it could bring peace to a 'new' Africa. Alpha Oumar Konaré, former President of Malimarker and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, spoke in favour of the concept at the commemoration of Africa Day, on May 25, 2006.

Origins

Marcus Garvey in 1924
The "United States of Africa" was mentioned first by the Jamaicanmarker thinker Marcus Garvey in his poem 'Hail, United States of Africa' in 1924. Garvey's ideas deeply influenced the birth of the Pan-Africanist movement which culminated in 1945 with the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchestermarker, United Kingdommarker, attended by W. E. B. Du Bois, Patrice Lumumba, George Padmore, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. Later, Nkrumah and Haile Selassie (among many others) took the idea forward to form the 37 nation Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of today's African Union.

The idea of a multinational unifying African state is seen by the Frenchmarker publication Le Monde diplomatique as a successor to the medieval African empires: the Ethiopian Empire, the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire, the Songhai Empire, the Benin Empire, the Kanem Empire and other historic nation states.

Demographics

From these origins, and as a result of the more recent colonialism, Africa has today developed into a continent of 53 independent countries, with a population of 992 million. The proposed federation would have the largest total territory of any state, exceeding the Russian Federationmarker. It would also be the third most populous state after Chinamarker and Indiamarker, and with a population speaking an estimated 2,000 languages.

Future development

Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2003


At the June 2007 meeting of the African Union, discussions centred upon Gaddafi's idea of a federation of African states.

In February 2009, upon being elected chairman of the 53-nation African Union in Ethiopia, Gaddafi told the assembled African leaders: "I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa." The BBC reported that Gaddafi had proposed "a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent". Other African leaders stated they would study the proposal's implications, and rediscuss it in May 2009.

While development remains in the early stages of planning, ambitious targets have been set. The focus so far has been on building subdivisions of Africa - the proposed East African Federation can be seen as an example of this. The President of Senegalmarker, Abdoulaye Wade, has indicated that the United States of Africa may exist from as early as 2017. The African Union, by contrast, has set itself the task of building a "united and integrated" Africa by 2025. Gaddafi has also indicated that the proposed federation may extend as far west as the Caribbeanmarker: Haitimarker, Jamaicamarker, the Dominican Republicmarker, and other islands featuring a large African diaspora, may be invited to join.

Differing views

The African continent.
Of the African nations other than Libya, support for the "United States of Africa" has come from Ghanamarker, Senegalmarker and Zimbabwemarker. Others, such as South Africa, Kenyamarker and Nigeriamarker, have shown less interest in the idea.

Doubts have been raised about whether the goal of a unified Africa can ever be achieved while ongoing problems of conflict and poverty persist throughout the continent. Gaddafi has also received criticism for his involvement in the movement, and lack of support for the idea from among other African leaders. Richard Dowden, director of the Royal African Society, said: "The African Union has got all these aspirations to be a club of democrats – and this is a man who has been a dictator for 40 years."

References

  1. African Union website - list of AU member states
  2. Gaddafi Calls for a "U.S." of Africa, from Mafé Tiga blog, July 1 2007
  3. AU summit extended amid divisions, from BBC News, 4 February 2009
  4. "United States of Africa?", from BBC News, 11 July 2000
  5. Gaddafi urges pan-African state, from BBC News, 26 June 2007
  6. Statement of the UA Commission Chairperson
  7. Would a United States of Africa work?, from Le Monde diplomatique (English edition), September 2000
  8. United States of Africa - A Wishful Thinking, from AfricaLoft, republished 4 February 2009
  9. United States of Africa may take off in 2017, says Wade, from Guardian Newspapers, published 13 February 2009
  10. 'United States of Africa' Still an Idea Ahead of Its Time, from World Politics Review, 13 July 2007
  11. Gadhafi pledges 'United States of Africa', from msnbc, 2 February 2009
  12. Hail King Gaddafi of Africa!, from AfricanLoft, 2 February 2009


See also



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