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  Background

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It is a little over a century since Pan-Africanism as a concept was cast into circulation by the Trinidadian lawyer, Henry Sylvester Williams. Its meaning has with time acquired increasing appositeness and historicity as it addresses the evolving challenges that face Global Africans (Africans and the African diaspora) throughout the world. As theory and practice it is an emancipation principle, sui generis, which seeks to unite the realities and interests of Global Africans in order to uplift and free them from conditions and circumstances which have for so long inhibited their social progress as a historical and cultural sub-unit of the human community.

The idea has never been conceptually static. Pan-Africanism has developed from concerns with the amelioration of the life circumstances of Global Africans at the end of the 19th century; to cautious demands for self-management and a respective voice in colonial structures at the end of the 1st World War; to the demand for colonial freedom after the 2nd World War and a call for political independence and African unity in the late 1950s. Today, a half-century later, the issue of unity and the means to that end has become the advanced objective of Pan-Africanism.

An important instrument for the progress of the process has been the Congress movement which was for several decades, until the 5th Congress (1945), led by the inspiration of W. E. B. Du Bois. Recognition and tally of these Congresses have not been unproblematic. The Congress tradition has generally failed to count the London 1900 congress as the first congress. Also, outside the Congress tradition, very importantly, since the second decade of the 20th century, the work and legacy of Marcus Garvey has been a decisive factor in strengthening the resolve and providing self-assertiveness to people of African descent both on the continent and in the diaspora. The All-Africa Peoples Conference (Accra) organized by the Nkrumah administration in 1958 was described by Du Bois as “… in fact the 6th Pan-African Congress to unite Africa”. The decade of 1960-1970 saw two-thirds of the emergent colonial states of Africa achieve political independence. However, African independence proved to be essentially neo-colonial. The idea of unity could only reach representation in the form of the Organization for African Unity, OAU, in 1963. This latter has with minor amendments, become the African Union which was launched in 2002. The 6th Congress held in Dar Es Salaam (1974) and the 7th Congress in Kampala (1995) were not able to push the unity idea beyond geographical commitments.

We have made progress over the last century. In the US the civil rights movement of the last century pushed the emancipation process forward. In Brazil, today affirmative action for African descendants has been endorsed by the state. African descendants in the rest of South America are slowly gaining voice and asserting themselves. In the Caribbean, independence and statehood has come and social conditions have improved for some. In Europe, Africans and African descendants are everywhere slowly climbing up the social ladder. But in Asia, communities like the Siddis, Afro-Palestinians and African descendants in the rest of the Arab world remain depressingly marginalized. In Africa, although statehood and socio-economic conditions have advanced for a small minority, poverty, disease, poor and misguided education, and rampant misrule continue to blight the aspirations of the overwhelming majorities.

The 8th PAC would be committed to the revisit and review of critical issues of common concern to Global Africans. These issues will be articulated and solutions for the problems will be offered in the immediate form of resolutions and recommendations.

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