Likewise, as a leader in the efforts of Amisom, the KDF works to build peace in the region and create long term stability for our people and beyond.
Kenya has long been a reliable ally to our neighbours in East Africa, with whom we share historical roots of trade, exchange and cohabitation of a gloriously green part of the world. Though our Kenyan identity is strong and must remain so, being a part of the East African Community not only enriches us culturally, but economically too through commerce. Likewise, as a leader in the efforts of Amisom, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) works to build peace in the region and create long term stability for our people and beyond.
Africa as a whole, however, still stands fairly fragmented as it is today. The continent lacks a collective vision for where we see ourselves in the future and how we can help each other. Some African citizens have a harder time than Europeans getting a visa to visit other African countries. Xenophobia exists between African countries, and instead of exchanging goods and intelligence with one another, we often exchange it with Europe and North America.
Though the African Union was founded to unify and eventually strengthen our continent, it is not quite where it needs to be. As the power of the European Union declines and it becomes increasingly fragmented as a regional bloc, there is no better time than now to reevaluate what changes can be made to strengthen our own identity as the African continent.
In the 1950s, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser led the diverse Arab peoples in a pan-Arab movement that historians call Nasserism. Nasserism was a way to unify a group of people with similar linguistic and religious roots who had been fragmented by imperialism and infighting. Following that, in the 1960s we saw pan-Africanism for the first time, which connected people across Africa, North America and the Carribean who shared a common ancestry.
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Black people in Africa and the diaspora were able to come together through a social-political movement to explore their sense of identity and advocate for their advancement. These social movements were characteristic of the 1950s and 60s. While much has changed, the need for strength through solidarity has not.
Beyond the ideological implications of a pan-Africanist social order, we have to think about the ideological ones. And the recent news announcement that the Lapsset corridor project has been adopted by the African Union is a great place to start.
Lapsset, a rail line which connects Lamu to South Sudan and Ethiopia, has long been a stalled project since its inception in 2012. Until now, each country involved in the project has been paying for its own segments. Funding came mostly through political goodwill, but the three countries involved lacked a cohesive strategy to fund and complete the project together.
Now that it has been established as an AU project, it will connect the African continent from Lamu port on the Indian Ocean to Douala port, Cameroon on the Atlantic Ocean.
The project’s new pivot means that it will not only connect Kenya with Ethiopia and South Sudan. It will link us by rail line throughout West Africa and create a land bridge through the Great Lakes region. Moreover, making it into a larger AU project will be instrumental in attracting more FDI.
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Since most of the project has been funded only by Kenya until now, the three countries signed a MoU with the AfDP, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and the AU’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development to find alternative sources of funding for the project and carry out its full implementation.
As part of this agreement, Kenya will also seek shared approaches with all countries involved in the construction to coordinate more efficient and cost-effective implementation.
This is an indication of the great potential Kenya has to act as a leader for all of Africa. Ideologically we might have our fair share of differences, but economically few Africans would dispute that better infrastructure is necessary for intra-African trade and increased financial flows.
And who better to establish stronger ties throughout all of Africa then our president. As the African population grows rapidly and our economic growth expands faster than almost any other region in the world, it is clear that a new way of thinking about pan-African identity is necessary. President Uhuru Kenyatta has already established Kenya as a regional leader in infrastructure development, and has ushered in an era of unprecedented stability despite the constant threat of terrorism.
It is our nation’s duty to lead the African people on the continent and in the diaspora, if we are to define this century as Africa’s strongest yet.
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- The writer is Igembe North Member of Parliament