Panafricanism: People will talk about an Africa of People rather than an Africa of states, Edwin Ikhuoria
Bwiza.com carried out in interview with Nigerian Edwin Ikhuoria, a panafricanist and member of ONE Campaign. He is in Kigali to participate at Mo Ibrahim 2018 edition, where former Liberian president Ellen Sirleaf is awarded for good governance. For him, he dreams of an Africa of people, rather than an Africa of states. African story is not story of poverty is not story of disease and death but a story of people that are enterprising, people that have strength.
Edwin is the Policy Manager for Transparency and Accountability covering Africa for ONE Campaign, an International anti-poverty campaigns organization. He also worked for the Development Impact Evaluation Unit of the World Bank as an Impact Evaluation and Advocacy Coordinator in the Nigeria Country Office.
Bwiza: Even though we have some information about your background, we wish you would tell us more about your personality, first of all.
Edwin: Okay. I will just say that I am a panafricanist and I would like Africa to be one. That is key part of my being so and I would like to see that African story is not story of poverty, is not story of disease and death but a story of people that are enterprising, people that have strength.
I would like to tell story of Africa as a tree of people who love culture, who love music, who love to play, who love to work, who have strength and that is for me the kind of story I’d like to tell rather than the common story of Africa, of the place of poor people, place of disease, place of poverty. That is another part of me.
Bwiza: As far as panafricanism is concerned, what do you think challenges panafricanism and the AU?
Edwin: I think the first thing is political will. There is the whole issue of sovereignty and you can understand that African countries are led by people who have given so much to either fight for the struggle, fight for independence , fight for sovereignty.
Right now they have it; we are now trying to give that part up so that we can become bigger world, it is a difficult thing and that is why you can see many African leaders are still skeptical, they are not sure, it is not gonna be good for me, it is not gonna be good for me.
But when we have a single Africa without borders, it is still a concept that they are ragging on it, you know overlooking the economic benefit of that, overlooking the political benefit of that, imagine that the whole Africa is one big country as you mean, and where we have a hope that whatever we put our investment in, if you are producing anything you will have over 1.2 billion people as a market.
That is a consideration that it is not really permitted the mindset of African leaders to the point where they are willing to give bit sovereignty to create a panafrican continent that is one.
And so I will say that the political will and political choice to make Africa one is still very weak, and that is why you will see we respect President Paul Kagame for what he has done with Rwanda. For making it free for travel and this home for every African and this is the kind of small things that even Kenya has done this, then the regional blocks are doing it within the region like west Africa travel is free, southern Africa travel is free, visa free, those are kinds of things we would like to see happen on a panafrican level, at the continental level.
People can know, we can mentally feel that we are actually one Africa. Apart from the languages we speak, and at official boundaries that were created by colonial masters, what really makes you different from me, if we are standing side by side, nobody will know I am Nigerian or you are Rwandan, oh let us we start to speak or say that we all are same. So these are legacies we need to think about how to grow of, so that we can halest the economic potential of being one Africa. Thank you
Bwiza: You have mentioned that AU has adopted one African market, but next is ratification by countries and by each country, what do you think about this process? Is there any challenge?
Edwin: I think the continental free trade agreement is a key part of the fight to have united and one common African market.
One of the things you should understand in this case is this. If this works it will be one of the biggest markets in the world, it will be one of the most ambitious. A free trade area in the world, if this happens. And that is why we really look for what will be taken on. And you see the biggest economist like Nigeria and South Africa have not really signed on and that is so they do more consultations. It is okay because that at the end of the date it is not the end about coming together to trade.
People will talk about an Africa of People rather than an Africa of states. So, for that to happen there is need to be wide consultation, we as Africans we need to understand the benefit of being in bigger regional market rather than to be in a small fragmented place. And so, that is why it is not a crime South Africa and Nigeria, the biggest economists said they want to consult their people because it is actually the people that will make it work.
So, that is why it is not a problem yet, but we hope that it has to go faster; we are hoping that actually people will see beyond the artificial boundaries, to think about the benefit that they can get for having one regional market. I have been really looking for regional step to take in, to actualize that. So that at any regional market there is no tariff regime across the whole continent is taking out.
They will talk about it because we are free. There we can talk about one African passport. That is a dream for me. That is what we all are looking for.
Bwiza: Do you think there are African propagandists who can help to realize the dream? Are there any Mandelas for that?
Edwin: A key figure right now again, not because I am in Rwanda, is Paul Kagame that has to work so hard to make this reality. That is number one. But there are other people, as well. In their minds they want to do it and have to work so hard to make this become reality. So there are many panafricanists but they are not in political positions.
So we need to see and think about how to make panafricanists come into leadership positions to take decisions at the continental level. That is all that we would like to see because that is going to drive, it will give the political capital, to move the things forward.
So, I would really hope, that more figures come out, more personalities that are really governing. Publicly they are not so many right now. And that is the challenge we have, because it could have changed the political question that we have.
More about Edwin
With over 15 years’ experience in the development sector, he has worked in various capacities of project and programme management in Agriculture and livelihoods, Trade and Customs reforms, health and education sector advocacy and he is a policy expert in public resource governance.
His advocacy work covers pro-poor policies and transparency in public finance management, health, agriculture, food security and trade, engaging Policy Makers and African Civil Society groups regularly in the last 15 years. He holds 2 Masters degrees in Development Management (University of Turin, Italy) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the University of Lagos, Nigeria.
Jean Baptiste Karegeya