THE LATEST THINKING
The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.
Progress towards continental and global integration raises questions: who are we, who are our brothers, who are the "others"?
In Borko, a small village on the Dogon plateau in Mali, they made a pact with the crocodiles that infest their rivers and ponds: "We’ll feed you, but leave our livestock and people alone." And intruders are wary!
In Kigali, the African Union Summit this week deliberated on three documents: a Protocol on the Free Movement of People, the Kigali Declaration to commit to a continental Free Trade Area, and an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. While this has been an African theme for decades, the signing of these Agreements brings the dream a step closer to reality.
It’s not a done deal yet. Legislators must now implement these measures and eliminate many non-tariff barriers, and the biggest economies in Africa did not sign the final AfCFTA: South Africa must still go through legal procedures including consultation with Parliament, and Nigerian President Buhari was waylaid on his way to the airport by businessmen who feared that they would be disadvantaged.
This initiative does, however, indicate a continuing trend towards creating an integrated market with 1.2 billion consumers and a digital currency to overcome the present obstacles. Much still needs to be done. Most African banking is done through Europe or the US. The colonial heritage is blamed for the fact that only 15% of trade is within the region.
This at a time when Britain and the United States seem to be moving away from economic integration. Globalism seems to have fallen out of fashion. Fear of, and protection against ‘the others’ seems to be building walls between peoples.
The German philosopher Edmund Husserl, argued that the concept of ‘others’ is somehow based on our self-image; a mirror image which identifies and excludes the other from the social group. This concept is, of course, closely linked to the colonial view of natives as similar, but somehow inferior to the self.
Kigali holds special memories for me. In 1998, four years after the genocide, at a church not far from the city, our guide, a tall, attractive woman, showed us: “There lies my husband’s skeleton. I survived because he covered me with his body.” The violence between Hutu Interahamwe and what they called the "Foreign Tutsi Cockroaches" claimed a million lives while the world sat and watched. The Tutsi were said to be immigrants from Ethiopia, come to oppress the Hutu natives in this densely populated region, the "others."
However, anthropological studies, supported by DNA evidence, draws an appalling conclusion: they are in fact one nation: aristocracy and working class. Yet years after the massacres a well-educated military officer in the region insisted: “Those Tutsis are not quite human. I can tell from their noses and wrists.”
To paraphrase a paraphrase: ‘The others are us.’ We are all part of the same humanity. No man is an island. If the villagers of Borko can be friends with crocodiles, why can’t we love our neighbor?
Decades-long globalization of investment and trade flows “are not irreversible”