“Pan-Africanism in the 21st Century”

Since the early 20th century, the Pan-African Conference has served as a tradition that has united people of African descent and those passionate about spurring progress across the continent. The first Pan-African Conference took place in 1900 in London. The gathering advocated the rejection of racial discrimination and the formation of a black political consciousness capable of conferring dignity and commanding respect on the international stage. Later, during the independence era, prominent African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta adopted the philosophy of Pan-Africanism as a rallying call for political and economic integration.


At the inaugural meeting of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), the organization that preceded our contemporary African Union (AU), Kwame Nkrumah gave a seminal speech which would come to define the Pan-African movement. In a rousing oratory, Nkrumah declared that “the masses of the people of Africa are crying for unity!” This statement encapsulates the belief undergirding the philosophy of Pan-Africanism: the idea that all African peoples are of a common history and destiny.


In order to empower the people of Africa, the OAU was created to promote social cohesion and a common economic program. However, some might say that the lofty vision of integration envisioned by the fathers of Pan-Africanism has been hampered by divisive forces such as nationalism, tribalism and sexism that have fragmented countries internally and created hostility among neighbors. These factors coupled with the growing impact of globalization lead us to question whether or not Pan-Africanism remains a relevant philosophy in rapidly changing 21st century world.


This year’s conference will explore strategies for us to overcome the dilemmas of divisions and how we as individuals, as communities and as nations can work together to forge partnerships that foster success across the continent and promote peace. We will look at how the social landscape of the nation-state is shifting through changes in population and infrastructure; at the ways in which Africa can invest in Africa; at the ways in which we forge connections across boundaries; at how our leadership influences the trajectory of growth and at how our health challenges require a global, holistic outlook to provide solutions.


We will move beyond dissension and conflict in order to renew our commitment to peace, to development and, most importantly, to unity.