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“Global Africa”: a new magazine for an activist concept

First used to address the issue of reparations for slavery and colonialism, the concept of “Global Africa” has since been adopted by UNESCO experts.

While a new scientific journal called “Global Africa” wants to correct the marginalization of African research in international scientific production, it is important to return to the origins of the concept that gives it its name and the issues it covers.

Today, many books and articles use the phrase “Global Africa” to emphasize the idea that Africa must be studied and understood through its interactions and interconnections with the world. This perspective, which is however not recent, tends to conceal a specific dimension associated with the notion of “Global Africa”. Indeed, this is directly derived from the African and Pan-African mobilization of the 1990s and evokes a dimension of struggle, radical and non-consensual, represented by the practices, projects and cultures that constitute the Pan-Africanism

Pan-Africanism, sometimes identified as "black internationalism", "black intellectual tradition" or "black radical tradition" has been widely documented in English and not in French, despite a small library on the subject, for reasons that deserve to be discussed. precisely. It is indeed a subject which has difficulty in imposing itself in the constitution of university knowledge in French and which often remains discredited because any research which would be linked to it would be biased, engaged and not objective.

Going back to the origin, the meaning and the issues covered by the terms "Global Africa" ​​represents an issue of knowledge: thanks to the presentation of two articles and the project to revise the general history of Africa supported by Unesco, it is a question of situating “Global Africa” in the genealogies of struggle produced by the relationship between Africans and Afro-descendants. This makes it possible to grasp its militant origin and to place Pan-Africanism back in the ways of thinking and representing the presence of Africa and Africans in our globalized world.

Ali Mazrui and the Crusade for Reparations

The first occurrence of the notion "Global Africa" ​​in a scientific publication dates back to a article on the issue of reparations for slavery and colonialism, signed by the Kenyan intellectual Ali Mazrui (1933-2014), political scientist, prolific author and great humanist. The previous year, in 1993, Ali Mazrui had presented this text on the occasion of the first Bashorun MKO Abiola Distinguished Lecture held during the annual meeting of theAfrican Studies Association, the professional organization of American Africanists.

Ali Mazrui places himself firmly in the wake of the Nigerian chef MKO Abiola (1937-1998), defender and soon to be a martyr of Nigerian democracy, whose pan-Africanist commitment to reason for repairs remains poorly known. In fact, Ali Mazrui participated in the initiatives funded and organized by Chief MKO Abiola in favor of reparations, and is a member of the Group of Eminent Persons (EPG) mobilized by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and chaired by Chief MKO Abiola, with the objective of placing reparations on the international diplomatic agenda.

Ali Mazrui sets the stage for the birth of global Africa: the Blacks of the diaspora demanded reparations from their countries, but it is the commitment of Africa, led by Chief MKO Abiola, which would overturn these claims scattered towards a "global crusade" for reparations for the benefit of all black and African people. He therefore defines global Africa as made up of the African continent, plus the diaspora resulting from slavery, plus the diaspora resulting from colonialism; and defined in particular by militant and politically engaged relationships that are associated with the fabric of Pan-Africanism.

Michael West and the History of Pan-Africanism

The second occurrence of these terms is in the title of a other article, published in 2005 by the African-American historian Michael West, who makes the distinction between on the one hand "the physical existence" of the African diasporas, the fruit of forced and voluntary migrations from Africa and, on the other hand, "the conscious and systematic articulation of the idea of African Diaspora” – and it is this idea that he calls “Global Africa”. This idea holds that historical experiences such as slavery, colonialism, racial oppression and their consequences, shared by Africans and Afro-descendants, form the basis of a common struggle for emancipation and mutual liberation. .

Thus, global Africa would overlap exactly with the definition of Pan-Africanism, the history of which is presented by Michael West through a summary chronology:

Here the terms GlobalAfrica become synonymous with Pan-Africanism and identify the consciousness of a shared condition and a common struggle guided by ideals of sovereignty, solidarity and justice.

Global Africa: Exploring the African Presence in the World (Unesco).

Institutionalize GlobalAfrica

On the occasion of the 50e anniversary of the OAU, celebrated in big pump in addis ababa in 2013, Unesco convened a meeting of experts involved in the development of the ninth volume of theGeneral history of Africa (HGA), this monumental enterprise launched in 1964 whose objective was to facilitate the reappropriation by Africa of the factory of its history.

Supported by funding from Brazil and chaired by the historian Elikia M'Bokolo, this meeting was to discuss the orientations and terms of this new volume. The session devoted to African diasporas was moderated by the historian Sir Hillary Beckles, then president of the University of the West Indies in Barbados, in the Caribbean, who called for “destabilizing” the concept of the diaspora and finding themes that could represent this global Africa.

Ultimately, these terms, “Global Africa”, were adopted by the GHA and qualified as an “innovative concept”, thus launching their institutionalization. While having the ambition to embrace the great diversity of African diasporas, the HGA claims political projects born of the relationship between Africa and the Atlantic diasporas: African Renaissance and Pan-Africanism; and thus places them at the heart of his way of thinking and representing the presence of Africa and Africans in our globalized world.

The future of GlobalAfrica

Knowledge of Pan-Africanism, and in particular the study of pleas for reparations, the critical history of the struggle and of solidarity, the idea of ​​a global Africanity could contribute more directly to the constitution of university knowledge in French on Africa.

Boosting African research: the great challenge of the journal "Global Africa", March 16, 2022.

It is a question of giving their full place to divisive personalities, to ambiguous political projects, to multiple instrumentalizations, and to divergent interpretations, as well as to the great aspirations, to the bitter failures and to the fantastic victories carried by many voices from this Africa. global.

This new journal, “Global Africa”, could thus, as its name seems to promise, become a space for discussing, nurturing and disseminating precise and documented knowledge on the history of Pan-Africanism and its radical political and cultural projects.


Giulia Bonacci, historian, researcher, Research Institute for Development (IRD)

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

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