Pan-Africanism, the United Nations and inter-state co-operation in Africa

Pan-Africanism, the United Nations and inter-state co-operation in Africa


  • Pan-Africanism is a movement that believes in the unity and solidarity of African states as a key driving force for uplifting the continent. The collective action and endeavours of African nations are seen as vital for tackling common problems and achieving socio-political progress.

  • Prominent leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah from Ghana and Julius Nyerere from Tanzania were active proponents of Pan-Africanism. They believed that the postcolonial reconstruction of Africa requires a continent-wide solution rather than individual national actions.

  • The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established in 1963, is a product of Pan-African sentiment. It aimed to foster unity between African nations, defend sovereignty, eradicate all forms of colonialism, and promote international cooperation.

The United Nations and Africa

  • The United Nations (UN) has played a significant role in Africa’s transition from colonial rule to independence, providing platforms for dialogue and setting norms for decolonisation.

  • The UN instituted trusteeship arrangements to help former colonies transition to self-governance. Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and Togoland are examples of territories under UN trusteeship that successfully gained independence.

  • The UN’s support for the principle of self-determination was crucial in the fight against colonial rule. Its adoption of resolutions such as the “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples” in 1960 exerted moral and political pressure on imperial powers to decolonise.

  • Apart from political issues, the UN and its subsidiary organisations, like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), continue to address developmental and humanitarian concerns in Africa.

Inter-State Co-operation in Africa

  • Beyond the Pan-African movement, inter-state cooperation has been key to addressing multifaceted challenges in post-colonial Africa. The setting up of regional cooperation entities such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) exemplifies this trend.

  • These regional bodies aim to promote economic integration, political stability, security, and social development. They also play crucial roles in settling regional conflicts and disputes, acting as mediators in crisis situations.

  • Coupled with such regional alliances, bilateral cooperation agreements between specific African states have also played an important part in fostering diplomatic relationships and mutual support.

  • However, inter-state co-operation has been fraught with challenges. Differences in political ideologies, territorial disputes, and issues concerning sovereignty often hamper effective cooperation.