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25 May 2020 | Story Prof Danie Brand | Photo iStock

We are indeed privileged to have this paper from Prof Toyin Falola to include in our celebrations of Africa Day. Toyin Falola is a world-renowned African. A scholar of African history and African studies, he holds the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. He has published, as author or editor, more than 100 scholarly books on topics ranging from diaspora, migration, empire and globalization to intellectual history, international relations, religion and culture. He has been awarded seven honorary doctorates and has received, among many other awards, the Distinguished Africanist Award from the African Studies Association, the Ibadan Foundation Award for Professional Excellence in Scholarship and the Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Excellence in African Studies. He served as Vice President of UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee, Slave Route Project from 2011 – 2015 and currently is a member of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellows Programme and the International Committee of the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute at UNISA.

In this wide-ranging paper, originally presented as keynote address at the Visions of African Unity (1930s – 2018) conference at the University of the Free State, Prof Falola begins with a tour of the intellectual history of ideas of African Continentalism (Pan-Africanism / African Unity), from Henry Sylvester Williams, through WEB du Bois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore and Julius Nyerere, to Kwame Nkrumah. He then describes the current institutional landscape of African unity and present-day intellectual versions of African Continentalism. Asking, and answering the question ‘Why must Africa unite?’, he then proceeds, on the basis of a consideration of more contemporary intellectual versions of African continentalism such as Black Consciousness, Black Nationalism, Afropolitanism, and now Afrofuturism (which he depicts as ‘ideological dispensations of true African cultural recovery and re-orientation’), to propose a disaggregated approach to contemporary African unity that is not fixated on global-Northern models. This means that unity should (re)start small, working territorially from regional units toward a continental unit, on the one hand; and on the other, seeking unity and cooperation around discrete substantive themes, from the more obvious and traditional, such as economic policy, global politics and a reformed unified political and military system, to the less, such as common educational policy, synergizing science and technology with African culture(s) and language, culture and literary exchange.

We thank him for the gift.

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