As the saying goes, the world is getting smaller. The events of 2020, namely the pandemic and the global reaction to civil rights abuses in the United States, provide proof, if any was needed, that the world is perhaps the smallest it has ever been. Illness and news can travel twice around the planet in the time it takes us to refresh our Instagram feeds.
This interconnectedness has created opportunities and challenges in equal measure. Despite the advances made to many aspects of human life, there are still many challenges. From mental health at the level of the individual, to crime at the level of the community; from wars at the level of the nation, to wealth inequality on a global scale. Into this mix is thrown the issue of race and the historic and continuing difficulties faced by Black communities in Africa and in the western hemisphere. The result is that on a family, community and global scale, the people of the global south are unable to easily tap into the opportunities afforded by globalisation, while simultaneously being the communities most ill-placed to weather the challenges it brings. Thus, globalisation and the relegating of local and national discourses to matters of international concern have a disproportionately negative effect on Black communities around the world.
Why Not Global Citizenship Education?
One of the solutions offered for the world’s problems has been the concept of Global Citizenship. This is the idea that by fostering individual and group identities that transcend the local and national level, people will see themselves as part of a world society and therefore be more committed to finding global solutions to the world’s problems. The argument holds that the problems we face today are inherently global in nature and therefore only global solutions will suffice. That many of the problems we face are the result of globalisation itself means that cynics may argue that the ultimate aim of Global Citizenship is to nurture societies, particularly in the global south, more accepting of globalisation itself. That is to say, Global Citizenship Education as deployed in the global south and in the diasporic communities it feeds, could be promoting social, political, and economic systems that are not in the best interests of those communities.
Many scholars have criticised Global Citizenship Theory as being an inherently colonial enterprise. The behaviours and ideals venerated by the theory seem derived from western culture alone. Somehow the whole project seems to perpetuate ideas of a global south and its diasporas, new and old, steeped in problems, and a global north that must do its part by helping the poor souls of the south.
Such a theory is particularly harmful to Black individuals and communities. Under Global Citizenship Theory, a “citizen” and her “citizenship” are the western conceptions of the same. Thus, one is not a citizen unless one’s life is lived as life is lived in the west. And one does not possess citizenship unless is it a type of citizenship recognised by the west, which it will not be unless it operates along western lines. Thus, Global Citizenship could be accused of aiming simply to extend western hegemony across the world by casting its image as a universal definition of “the good life” when it is in fact “the western life”. In this way, Global Citizenship is not a preserver of the African personality; in fact it is quite the opposite.
Pan-Africanism is an ideology with many meanings. For the layman, it is the affinity and solidarity between Black peoples across the world. The layman may steep such affinity and solidarity in political Blackness borne of the excesses of white hegemony. For most intellectuals, definitions of Pan-Africanism have tended to lean more towards a shared identity that, while including elements of political Blackness, exists because of the shared heritage, culture and values among people of African descent. This idea of the indissolubility of African identity is what fuelled literary movements such as Négritude and elements of the Harlem Renaissance in the 20th century. For the political scientist and economist however, Pan-Africanism is a political and economic association of Black communities of the continent and the diaspora. Its aim is a political settlement that will stop the economic exploitation of Black communities around the world.
If Pan-African identity, rhetoric and actions are geared towards achieving ever greater union between people of African descent around the world, it could thus be said that Pan-Africanism is a form of Global Citizenship but one that is derived from the Black experience. Pan-African Citizenship then can be seen as a way to foster in people an understanding that global solutions are needed to the problems that Black communities face around the world.
However, Pan-Africanism goes beyond this. Global Citizenship itself is not entirely a doom and gloom thesis. It promotes the entrepreneurial value of having a consciousness that transcends one’s direct lived experience, where “community” is not geographically or ethnically bound, but objective bound. Global Citizenship consciousness can encourage enterprising people to solve their problems by stepping out of their comfort zones and, armed with an appreciation for diversity, find the solutions they seek outside their national boundaries. In the same vein, Pan-Africanism is made up of inherently constructive ideals. It is just as much about identifying and pushing forward opportunities as it is about tackling the problems of the Black lived experience. Pan-African Citizenship Education is thus essential for facilitating an understanding of the opportunities within the Black community, and how it can be used on a global scale to better life on a local and national level.
A lot has been written about Pan-Africanism at the highest levels, but to date there has been no practical and accessible framework for the fostering of Pan-African Citizenship among Africans and those of African descent. In the absence of such guidance, how are parents, community leaders and educators to put together education systems to support people, families and communities with seeing themselves as part of a larger global community of African descent, and thus able to find global solutions for the challenges they face? This is what this Paper aims to provide.
Looking at three important demographics: families, communities and educators, and informed by both historical and contemporary Pan-African action, this Paper will define Pan-African Citizenship and provide a framework for its nurturing at multiple levels.
We hope that this Paper will be the first in a series of Papers that explores this issue. If this Paper is well-received, we hope to dive deeper into Pan-African history and theory to derive a New Global Citizenship Agenda that empowers the global south and her communities in the diaspora in the face of their deficits under the prevailing globalisation agenda.
Focus on the Diaspora
This Paper in its investigation of contemporary Pan-Africans will focus on the diaspora, and particularly on contemporary Pan-Africanism in the United Kingdom. It is hoped that in future papers we can extend our investigations to the continent and to other diasporas around the world. Our historical analysis however will draw inspiration from Pan-Africanism of Africa, the Caribbean and North America.
Call to Action
This Briefing Paper is intended to give potential contributors an understanding of what the White Paper aims to achieve. We hope that it will encourage as many people and institutions as possible to take part in the consultation, either directly with the African History Project or through one of our Leading Contributing Institutions. We also hope that contributing individuals and institutions will encourage others in their network to join the consultation. The more information we are able to glean, the more powerful will be the framework we intend to propose.
Director, African History Project