Decolonizing Africa and African Development

The Twenty-First-Century Pan-Africanist Challenge

by Anthony Victor Obeng (Author)
Monographs XX, 280 Pages
Series: Africa in Development, Volume 15


The book is an intellectual and political response to Thomas Sankara’s challenge to the African people to dare to invent their own future, an echo of Patrice Lumumba’s call for them to write their own history. Exploring the history of Africa’s underdevelopment and the short-circuiting of the Pan-African movement, it argues for the revival of Pan-Africanism as a force for change and calls for a worthy successor to the Fifth Pan-African Congress.
As a background to this argument and call, the book revisits Pan-Africanism’s history and founding ideals and conducts ruthless forensic examinations of the de facto Bantustanization of much of Africa and parts of the Caribbean, the ‘alternative development’ fiascos of the late twentieth century, the contemporary ‘globalization’ and ‘democratization’ of African projects by imperialist interests, the ‘Pan-Africanisms’ of imperialism’s active collaborators and other obstructions to the decolonization of Africa and African development.
Finally, recognizing that the plights of many Afro-Latinos, Afro-Indians, Afro-Arabs and other ‘lost’ or neglected ‘tribes of Africa’ – as well as those of the victims of ‘black-empowered’ predators – call out for urgent Pan-Africanist responses, the book contains numerous start-up project ideas for action-oriented Pan-Africanists.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Africa and the World from 1943 to the Present
  • Chapter 2: Haiti as Food for Thought
  • Chapter 3: Democracy versus the People: African Edition
  • Chapter 4: Reclaiming African Development for the African People
  • Chapter 5: Plus Ça Change, Plus Ça Reste la Même Chose
  • Chapter 6: Pan-Africanism in the Twenty-First Century: Old, New and Unearthed Challenges
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →


Many are those, and not only in Africa, who do not regard the world order which has framed ‘African development’ for centuries positively. This book takes a dim view of the present world order, ‘African development’ and the African development industry spawned by the first two. The devastating effects on the African people of the development of Africa’s underdevelopment described by Walter Rodney and others should speak for themselves. But facts, unfortunately, do not always speak for themselves. To add insult to injury, every turn of the underdevelopment screw and scream of its victims is met by its architects and principal beneficiaries with more programmes and language designed to supplement or replace existing ‘opiums of the people’. And their consistent and predictable long-term effects are to worsen the dependency complexes of the ‘beneficiary-victims’, strengthen the power of the development industry over them – with spill-over job opportunities in the allied humanitarian-aid industry – and lock them further into the underdevelopment cycle. Tony Blair’s use of the African people’s relentless misery as a pretext for more of the politics of crocodile tears, ‘politics of pity’ and ‘white-saviour-complex’-loaded meddling in African affairs (after his condescending ‘scar-on-the-conscience-of-the-world’ declaration) is a case in point.

Exposing the chicanery and its fallouts is a conscientized African’s duty. But it cannot be done as truthfully and pointedly as needed without disturbing the squeamish or offending those whose comforts and tranquillity demand the least possible unearthing or repetition of inconvenient truths – or their presentation in language so opaque that the inconvenient truths are effectively buried. Like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, this book is not and cannot be for everyone. Writing a book that will not disturb the many myths, half-truths and outright lies about underdevelopment and poverty in Africa is, frankly, not among my limited supply of talents – or consistent with my sense of duty as an African, a Pan-Africanist and a human being. I offer this explanation as a pre-emptive apology to any friends and intellectually ← ix | x → honest readers who would have preferred to see some of the language of the text watered down or some inconvenient but relevant facts, ideas and materials excluded from it completely. I hasten to assure my respected readers, however, that while the book does not bow to unreasonable tastes and sensibilities, they will find no gratuitous insults in it either. Nor will they find in it any of the licentious exploitations of the freshly minted ‘right’ to offend the weak, unprotected and unpopular – or ‘give ‘em hell’ – which has come to be peddled by uncouth new-age norm setters as ‘the right to insult religion’ or extensions of the cynically defined and just as cynically practised ‘freedoms’ of speech, the press and expression!

The trickier challenge which this book had to manage from the planning to the execution stages was how to satisfy between two covers readers who are already familiar with the lives and works of the likes of Kwame Nkrumah, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Thomas Sankara, Archie Mafeje, Walter Rodney and Samir Amin from Africa and the African Diaspora, and of Noam Chomsky, Susan George, Naomi Klein, among others, from the non-African world, on one hand; and those who are not, and would rather their cosy worlds were not disturbed by inconvenient truths, on the other. To square this particular circle, if that is what it is, the book relies on the hope that established and aspiring intellectual freedom fighters who are not averse to learning from or revisiting the leading lights in intellectual activism, dead and alive, and the comfortable of the earth who would rather see, hear or read no evil, will find common grounds, and interest, in the following quotable quotes which have driven and informed it in several ways:

  1. ‘You cannot fool all the people all the time.’ (Abraham Lincoln)
  2. ‘Men [and women] do not only make history but also learn from it.’ (Archie Mafeje)
  3. ‘The future will have no pity for those men [and women] who, possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and sometimes of cold complicity.’ (Frantz Fanon) ← x | xi →
  4. ‘The highest purpose of man is the liberation of man from his bonds of fear, his bonds of poverty, the liberation of man from the physical, spiritual and intellectual bonds which have for long stunted the development of humanity’s majority.’ (Ahmad Sukarno)
  5. ‘Dare to invent [a better] future.’ (Thomas Sankara)

For the further and specific reflections of those who are already persuaded that this is not the best of all possible worlds – and a better world needs to be invented in its place – it is additionally submitted that:

This retelling of the African liberation and development saga promises, moreover, to do ‘more than add to the catalogue of what we already know’, to quote Howard Zinn’s characterization of people’s histories.

I would, finally, urge those (African and non-African) who are bound to find the book hurtful, to resist their natural instinct to want to smash the mirror. They may well find it more rewarding to accept, ← xi | xii → instead, that the ‘You’ in Lincoln’s observation that ‘You cannot fool all the people all the time’ applies to them as well – and Africans are among the people who cannot be fooled all the time. No apologies can be offered, on the other hand, for knocking down a few masks for a good cause.

← xii | xiii →


For good personal reasons I have taken a special interest in African and world developments since 1943. A combination of the accident of birth, life and work experiences has long given me an urge to share with peers and my younger family and friends my reading of the events and pseudo-events of my lifetime which I deem important to them. The formative experiences include a childhood happily spent under the influence of senior extended family members and their peers who militated alongside Kwame Nkrumah for the independence of the Gold Coast and Africa, and served in his governments in various capacities – and some thirty-five years of a relationship with the African development industry as a student, observer, participant and reviewer.

The urge I got to write this book thus derives partly from a desire to do for others that which my own family elders, mentors and peers have done for me through a lifetime of formal and informal political and development education. Acknowledgement is thus due to them for helping to make me who I am. But by the same token they cannot escape blame entirely for my principles and foolhardiness in recklessly dishing out in the following pages the sacred facts and educated opinions about the politics of Africa’s development and underdevelopment which more cautious individuals would rather leave unsaid.

But, as I researched and wrote the book, the conviction that keeping to myself the knowledge, opinions and alternative African development ideas I had acquired or independently developed was not a morally defensible option was only strengthened by persistent affronts to the African people which mainstream academic and public commentators tend to ignore and which too many of their African victims accept with the same fatalism with which they accept taxes and death! For, as I continued to watch the rebranding of the unreconstructed ‘civilizing missionaries’ as ‘development partners’ it became increasingly obvious to me that it was cowardly and irresponsible not to contribute the power of the proverbial pen at one’s ← xiii | xiv → command to the cause of Africa’s liberation from informal but real ‘post-colonial’-colonial subjugation and to the development of the continent for the benefit of its peoples at home and abroad.

Much of the credit or blame for my choice of engagement over the peace of comfortable retirement belongs, as hinted above, to my beloved offspring, nephews, nieces and their friends whose love, friendship, respect and thirst over the years for my ‘take’ on a wide range of issues left me without the freedom to shirk my parental, mzee, and African liberation and development responsibilities in the form which many of them insisted upon; that is, a book. It is a further mark of their faith and kindness, which I also salute, that they have accepted this modest response as the most important legacy they can expect from me.

While thanking my multiracial and cosmopolitan group of young relatives and friends for their contributions in their own special ways to the idea and execution of the book – and hoping that it will benefit them and their own descendants and friends – I hasten to absolve them from responsibility for its contents. I do not expect them, in particular, to agree with everything I write in the following pages any more than they have agreed with everything I have told them verbally over the years.

But I hope that the book will add clarity and more force to their already formidable moral compasses and cognitive maps and help them navigate their ways through a world which is often bewildering and treacherous; help them, in particular, to demystify ‘poverty’ in Africa and ‘African development’; and further help them avoid the low self-esteem which has condemned too many of their elders and some, I fear, of their own peers, to the wretched life of agents of the underdevelopment of their mother continent and impoverishment of their own people. For rewarding me with the cathartic benefits I have derived from researching and writing the book I cannot thank my children, family and young friends enough for their own courage in persuading me to write anyway, knowing as they did the risks even they could face on account of their association with one who tells truth to power.

Pressure of a related kind came from other irresistible sources I can easily identify. Dr Jeggan C. Senghor, a fellow Pan-Africanist; former UN colleague; friend and soul brother of some forty years standing; ← xiv | xv → Senior Research Fellow at the School of Advanced Study, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; and General Editor of Peter Lang’s Africa in Development series, is a leader among those who bear special responsibility for the book. Having earlier succeeded in getting me to write the chapter on ‘Vassal States, Development Options and African Development’ for Towards Africa’s Renewal (2007), which he co-edited, Jeggan pushed his luck and provoked me into writing this follow-up book by persuading me that the alternative to writing what turned out to be the book before you was to join the ranks, eventually, of the African ancestors and contemporaries we had both privately condemned on numerous occasions for taking valuable knowledge and skills with them to their graves, rather than share or leave them behind in accessible forms for possible future use.

To the above pressures was added another irresistible one from Dr Hashim Gibrill, professor, former chair of the political science department and a brain behind the international development programme of Clark Atlanta University, USA, the iconic W. E. B. Du Bois’ old university. Hashim’s kind offer to me, in March 2007, of the forum of his department’s graduate students’ seminars, open to the faculties and students of other Atlanta-based universities was, indeed, a multiple blessing. Above all, it gave me precious post-retirement exposure to the thinking, concerns and determination of some of the brightest, cosmopolitan and conscientized youth I have been privileged to interact with. It was also particularly energizing in confirming to me that the quest for a new and better world order and the Pan-Africanist ideals articulated and defended by the founding fathers are not dead, despite the worst efforts of the neoliberal globalizers and their continental and Diaspora-African collaborators and front men and women. In addition to providing me with another opportunity to recharge my intellectual batteries, the forum was thus encouraging in confirming to me that a book such as this would have waiting audiences worth investing in. I am profoundly grateful to Hashim and the staff and students of Clark Atlanta University and the other Atlanta-based universities who attended my seminar for these precious gifts.

It will be evident to all who read this book that I am indebted to many more people and sources for orientation and content than I can name here. The references to books and articles that helped to shape my thoughts in ← xv | xvi → diverse ways constitute a partial acknowledgement of this debt. But I take this opportunity to salute the many uncited thinkers, scholars, intellectual freedom fighters, other activists and ‘ordinary folks’ who have shaped my understanding of the politics of Africa’s underdevelopment over the years, and enabled me to contribute this book to the intellectual and political struggles for the liberation of Africa and its development from their external and internal hijackers.

I must also, at this juncture, acknowledge, without thanking or saluting them, the Africa and African development hijackers, external and internal, who, taking advantage of the collapse of African nationalism since the independences and civil rights achievements of the 1960s and the end of the ‘Cold War’ in the West’s favour, have returned to vintage imperial arrogance and practices – and the ‘useful idiots’ who have facilitated the rollback of many of the nationalist and Cold-War-era concessions to African interests and pride – for making it impossible for me to turn a blind eye to their sins of commission and omission, and compelling me to exhale as vigorously as I hope I have done in this book.

To those who are familiar with their immense contributions to the development of social and economic research and analysis in and about Africa, my indebtedness to two great African intellectuals and freedom fighters, the South African-born Professor Archie Mafeje and the Egyptian-born Professor Samir Amin, for their guidance and insights will be obvious. Nonetheless, I must take this opportunity to acknowledge upfront their contributions to my intellectual and political development in ways which may not stand out as clearly as they should in the following pages.

Besides acknowledging and thanking Archie Mafeje for the privilege of his company as my professor and academic adviser in The Hague from 1968 to 1969 – and my mentor, role model, elder brother and very close friend thereafter until his death in March 2007 – I am also happy to celebrate him as one of the Pan-Africanists to whom this book is dedicated. But, like others whom I acknowledge in these pages, I cannot presume that Archie would have agreed with everything I have had to say. What I do know, on the other hand, is that he would have applauded my saying it anyway. For, while he was always a robust scholar and debater who did not suffer fools gladly, he abhorred sycophancy and never attempted to make disciples of ← xvi | xvii → his students, ex-students and younger friends. I thank him especially for challenging me to always strive to make a difference and not to waste my life and mind while I still have them.


XX, 280
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (October)
Pan-Africanist struggles African history and future alternative to neoliberal globalisation
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2017. XX, 280 pp.

Biographical notes

Anthony Victor Obeng (Author)

After a stint in academic research at the Encyclopedia Africana Secretariat in Accra, Ghana, Anthony Victor Obeng moved into development research, with appointments at the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development in Tangier, Morocco and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex (1970–1972). This was followed by a teaching and research position at the United Nations African Institute for Economic Development and Planning in Dakar, Senegal, under Samir Amin. He transferred to the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1980 as its focal point on policy and technical coordination with the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and other intergovernmental organizations. His post-retirement activities include contributions to development conferences and seminars and to the book Towards Africa’s Renewal (2007), for which he wrote the chapter ‘Vassal States, Development Options and African Development’. His current developmental affiliations include the Third World Forum, the World Forum for Alternatives and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa.


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