This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The African Union (AU) has lined up several commemorative celebrations this week with the intention of reaffirming the spirit of pan-Africanism and African solidarity. However, several questions remain: Will the celebrations transcend both the cynicism and idealism that have accompanied previous debates on pan-Africanism? At a basic level, is pan-Africanism achievable? If it is, what concrete steps should be taken to move the continent towards that desired unity?
The idea of uniting Africa historically typified the quest for self-assertion and resistance to oppression and discrimination. In the recent past, however, in the context of the increasing global challenges affecting Africa, pan-Africanism evolved into a call for continental socio-economic and political unity. The transformation of the OAU into the AU was prompted by this desire to accelerate the process of integration.