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“Africa needs federalism but its future is the youth” 1

Many African states are too small to continue to exist independently. The statement comes from the Sudan-born magnate Mo Ibrahim, who said the idea that 53 small African countries could compete with other countries was a “fallacy”. But what might happen if African countries were to gather into larger states? T. Jeff Tall, President of the newborn “Africa 2030” association and author of the e-book “Fixing Africa” – which has registered over 50,000 downloads – has his theory about African federalism.

“I started thinking about it in December 2008,” he says, “because it is clear that the African Union approach had not led to much progress in terms of integration”. Born in the US, Tall – who is Malian – has founded the association, which employs eight people and is based in Addis Ababa, with clear ideas about it. Interviewed by Afronline.org, he explains his project and hopes for Africa.

What is the main aim of “Fixing Africa” and “Africa 2030”?

The main aim of both the book and the non-profit organization Africa 2030 is to promote federalism in Africa and transnational projects, particularly in the area of infrastructures, communication, transportation and energy.

You have written that you want to promote a political model of the four Super States.

Yes, the current official aim of the African Union, which involves 53 countries, is to make this organization revolve in the United States of Africa. I think that this is not the right way because it is very easy to block the process. Countries who don’t want the federal integration, including South Africa and Uganda, at every moment could block the resolution. We advocate federalism on the original basis.

Do you think that your project is different?

It’s different because it allows each region to act in different ways. For example in West Africa the ECOWAS is taking some strong decision. So there is a first kind of coordination and there are free movements of people and relatively free movements of goods among the countries. It means that the region can be a real federation if there is the political will. And if it starts, East and Southern Africa will follow.

Do you think that African political leaders would agree with your vision?

Honestly I think very few agree, for two main reasons. Firstly, their population is not pushing them to go in this direction. We need to explain to the population in order to push politicians. The second reason is that there tend to be a lot of mistrust between the current political generation and the emerging generation, made of people more willing to explain why they deserve to be in power. I think it will be easier to convince the emerging generation of politicians. It will be a long process and it will take a generation to complete it. But we could help the governments in some projects. The organization will function like a think tank or like a consulting firm that produces studies. We are more focused on involving people.

How do you think people can be involved?

This is the main challenge. You really put the finger where it hurts. We don’t have billions of dollars, so the goal is to exploit the Internet as Obama and his staff did in the US, pushing on university students and public organizations. After that, they could go to a larger number of people to explain why change is needed. This happens in all big projects: it starts with a small number of people and then it becomes larger. And I am particularly focused on the youth.

Why?

When I wrote and published the book the reactions we had by email were of two categories: people who were under 25 were enthusiastic and positive and people who were above 25 were thinking that leaders will never let this happen and that the situation could not change in Africa. It all encouraged me to target the younger generation. They are open-minded and they are also very connected on line through social networks, through mobile phones. They can really spread ideas.

Do you see any possible partner among the African NGOs?

Well, I think that 90% of those activities are made to alleviate sufferings, from medication to food and preventing mutilations, which are all very useful and necessary, but fundamentally they will not change things. What I want to do is to change this tradition of Europe helping Africa. There are very few people working on these types of things. We should follow also what they did in India, where people have been dying in the streets for years and now they have high tech companies and business. Now when people think about India this is what comes first. My dream is to see that level of shift happening in African countries.

You are very focused on the role of African people. Do you think that foreign aid and institutions are not working?

I think that African governments have outsourced the development of their countries to other people. When they have problems they tend to ask what the World Bank thinks about it or what Oxfam  – to make an example – can do to help them. I think this is a shame. They should firstly explore all the other possible avenues within their countries. I hope the idea of aid is dying. African governments should start adding value to their activities, using imagination in their policies and gradually make foreign organizations not needed. Changes should come from African people and what I expect from the West is some kind of neutrality.

What will be the next “Africa 2030” step?

We are building a website and we also want to meet with the existing organizations like ECOWAS and SADC to see the projects they have that are not making progress. I think we could contribute and collaborate to make projects work. We want to go to fifteen capitals, like Casablanca, Dakar, Abuja, Cape Town, Addis Ababa, Cairo. Right now we are mostly present in Addis Ababa and in Dakar. We have put June 2010 as being our deadline to be present in other big cities too and after that we plan to have representatives in the smaller nations.

Download the book “Fixing Africa”

www.fixingafrica.comwww.africa2030.org

By Chiara Caprio – Afronline.org

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