Because of the occasion1 and because of the promise implicit in the title of this address, it is essential that I state clearly at the outset what I Intend to cover and how I shall do this.
In a few words, I shall try to demonstrate how those processes which we now call “globalisation” have led necessarily to the formation of regional economic and political blocs. “Africa” is one of these blocs and the aspiring continental leadership, mainly the power elites of South Africa, Senegal and Nigeria, are in the process of making a virtue out of necessity by proclaiming another “African Renaissance” as well as forging the 18th “partnership” between the countries of the North and those of Africa during the past 20 years (Mills 2002:48-49). The new meanings associated with the concept of Panafricanism in the context of the new world order, as structured by the hegemonic project of neo-liberal conservatives, are contested by numerous forces, some nonantagonistic, others extremely antagonistic to one another. Towards the end of the paper, I attempt a succinct analysis of the openings for radical and transformative projects that are occurring as a result of the interaction between “Africa” and the world economy.
President Thabo Mbeki, in his capacity as the leader of the Republic of South Africa and as one of the foremost statespersons on the African continent, has sent out many signals and explicit statements that he intends, together with likeminded men and women in the leadership of other African states, to remake the image and the substance of the continent and of its peoples. Although he entered the international public limelight with a reputation as a realistic and pragmatic communist, it is clear that, since at least 1996, and probably even earlier, he has very deliberately been profiling himself as a Panafricanist, one who is conscious of the lowly position which the continent of Africa occupies in the global pecking order. He is, like many others before him, especially since Kwame Nkrumah first gave notice to the world that Africans were going to take back their continent and make it into an integral part of the progressive civilisation of the end of the 2nd millennium, attempting to awake the “sleeping giant” and to make it possible for Africans on the continent and in the diaspora to escape from the legendary curse of Ham.