The President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate has cautioned the International Conference on Pan-Africanism and Negritude not to continue to dwell in the philosophical scheme and concept of Pan Africanism, but must go beyond the scope of the everyday challenges and how to solve the many questions confronting the organization and its peoples.
Pro Tempore Armah Zolu Jallah made the assertion when he was selected to deliver the opening remarks at the historic international conference held early this month at the Howard University in Washington DC, the United States.
Declared Mr. Jallah, “We must rise majestically to new heights of solving the many questions that confront us as a people and work substantially to make Pan Africanism a realty and not a mere concept discussed in our many intellectual assemblies.”
Delving into the background of the organization, Pro Temp Jallah described Pan-Africanism as a movement with a rich and long history spanning more than 200 years. “Africans on the African continent and those in the Diaspora have wrestled with asserting a common African identity and with the inescapable fact that all Africans, whether on the continent or in the Diaspora, share an interconnected past, present and future.”
“One of the earliest of Pan-African Congresses,” Senator Jallah recalled, “was the Chicago Conference on Africa, held on August 14, 1893. That conference addressed such questions as: “The African in America”; “Liberia as a Factor in the Progress of the Negro Race”; and, “What do American Negroes Owe to their Kinsmen beyond the Sea…”
The Gbarpolu County lawmaker recognized Trinidadian Barrister Henry Sylvester Williams, whom he said, thinking about a political movement organized around a series of conferences that would draw representatives of the African Race from all parts of the World, in 1897 established the African Association. The aim of the association was to encourage a feeling of unity and facilitate friendly intercourse among Africans, and “promote and protect the interests of all subjects claiming African descent, wholly or in part in the British Colonies and other places, especially in Africa,” said Mr. Jallah.
Pro Temp Jallah specifically recalled contributions of several luminaries to the evolution of pan-Africanism, among them: the Jamaican Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey, the African American scholar W. E. B. Dubois and Tanzanian President Julius Mwalimu Nyerere. “What remains true is that the questions and verities that challenged these Pan-African luminaries and pioneers still haunt us today.”
Drilling deep beneath what he termed as the vast universe that is Pan-Africanism and to focus on the specifics of existing political, economic and cultural realities as they impact the Pan-African experience, Jallah admonished the movement not to stand in awe of the Pan-African forests and forget the trees.
As the conference discussed Africa, the lawmaker Jallah reminded the participants that Sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind every other region in the world on almost any conceivable socioeconomic, sociopolitical metric.
“In the last 25 years, Africa South of the Sahara was only able to lift 28 percent of its poor out of extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day in purchasing power parity terms. In Asia that number is close to 70 percent. In Latin America, that number is 66 percent. This I argue is a fundamental challenge of Pan-Africanism. This is a tree that this conference should reflect upon.”
“Why,” he wondered, “is it that challenges of poor governance appear to disproportionately affect sub-Saharan Africa, and that even here in the United States and Europe, persons of African descent continue to live in poverty amid American and European affluence?”
“Scores for the Program of International School Assessment (PISA), which measures math and reading skills of students in different countries, show that sub-Saharan Africa ranks at the very bottom among all regions. Here in the United States, about 45 percent of black students in American public high schools drops out before graduation, while figure of whites is 22 percent. The academic underachievement of Africans in our current technological globalized universe is a fundamental pan-Africanist challenge,” Jallah declared.