Our collective identity as Africans is marked by our diverse cultures and peoples, our rich histories which some have fought to erase and to have us forget and by the abundance of our experiences within this beloved continent and beyond. It is marked by the values we espouse and the future we seek and look forward to so earnestly and sometime eagerly. 

There is a thread that runs through all the many nations of our great land connecting all our histories and making them alike. That thread is the era of colonialism and how diabolical it was. Our minds carry images of the oppression, the struggle and the liberation that followed. We did not need independence because we were already before the advent of these diabolical whites. Our souls are scarred from stories and pictures of our strong ones being picked on to be taken as slaves. Families were separated and destroyed, children were orphaned and many were left impoverished because an uninvited guest looked at our ancestors and saw a labor force and nothing more. Time can try to heal those wounds but that’s a stamp and print in historical ground of Africa that is hard to cover over. 

Say what you will about Africans but we are creatures of rhythm. It is even in our step whatever gait we choose. It is in the sounds babies hear when yet unborn. It is what fills the air amid celebrations of victories and losses. Music, at a point, is what kept the movements for liberation going. The roar of drums in West Africa meets the soothing harmonies from the South over the melodies of thump pianos in Central Africa casting people into vibrant dance rhythms. Whatever has happened or is yet to happen, we have sang about it. Any region you point to has got an icon of music that represents an era.Time will fail me to tell of Fela Kuti, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Miriam Makeba, Youssou N’Dour, Afrigo Band, Herman Basudde, or the women’s movement that gave rise to ‘Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ in South Africa, all found music as the channel to speak out best for their time and their people. 

Nothing unites and separates a people like language and Africa is home to over two thousand languages. Roots and regions are unique identifiers of languages even with the variations that exist between some of them. Language is a great source of pride. Even when you think the difference is subtle and negligible, the speakers are quick to correct you when certain inflections and intonations slant by a small degree. Wrong translations, deliberate or otherwise, have started conflicts. Fusions of people of different heritages gave rise to different languages in time far back from now. That’s how powerful the spoken tongue is. It is unexplainable to the uninitiated what it is like to hear a familiar tongue in a foreign land. It is like the sound of home has pursued and found you in an unlikely place. 

Our value for interconnectedness and communal support espoused in what we collectively call Ubuntu, which translates ‘I am because you are’ is a pillar of our existence. The understanding that we are more alike than we are different and we thrive together or struggle together. If I rise and you fall, together we fell. I am my sister’s keeper. They are all our children. We come from the same village, plant in the same soil, harvest in the same seasons from the same gardens and drink from the same wells dug by all our fathers. I am not apart from you and you are very much a part of what makes me who I am. This is the cornerstone of our identity and solidarity. 

Perhaps it is because of this that we dream the same dreams. Collectively, we desire peace in our borders and prosperity for our peoples. We do not stop at desiring but we are working hard toward achieving it. We might be the united states of Africa but we sure can be the peaceful and successful nations of this great continent. Our shared goals inspire collective action which, if we stick with the vision, will lead us to the integration we speak of.

The future belongs to us and is as broad and wide as our dreams and hearts can contain. The rise of technological influences and internet penetration, increased education and the possibilities of extending our cultures beyond our individual nations has opened us up to richer influences, insights and inspiration. 

Every country has an icon; the French have the big brown pylon in the middle of Paris, Australians have Uluru also known as Ayers Rock near the centre of Australia in the southern part of the Northern Territory, the Belgians have Manneken Pis which is a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin. For us, Pan Africanism, is the ideology around which we rally to unify and uplift all African around the group. It is the movement we have chosen to deliver us to our promised land. It is our chariot of fire.