African Rising is a Pan-African Movement of over 30,000 individuals and 800 organizations working across the continent and diaspora to foster governments, corporations, and established national and global non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to focus on issues that Africans consider vital. The movement creates a venue for progressive African civil society leaders and groups involved in diverse civic initiatives to gather, communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, and develop solidarity among people and across concerns.
The Africans Rising movement and its members play an important role in bringing positive impact and global visibility to the challenges that Africans consider critical, such as calls for a fair global trading system, concrete action to address the effects of climate change, and the formation and strengthening of a representative coalition to protect our natural resources and the environment.
The movement implements its work under five pillars namely expanding civic and political space, women’s rights and freedom for all societies, promoting good guidance and ending corruption and impunities, promoting equity and dignity and promoting climate and environmental justice.
The group recently launched Borderless Africa campaign aiming at promoting the free movement of Africans across the continent abolition of visa requirements for intra-African travel, elimination of all border barriers, and the widespread adoption of the African passport, including the availability of it to diaspora family.
Pan African Visions News Correspondent Samuel Ouma had a one-on-one talk with the movement’s coordinator Hardi Yakubu on its progress and plans. Hardi is a Pan-Africanist organizer and social justice campaigner with focus on grassroots people power to build the Africa we want. Here was the conversation:
Could we start with an introduction of yourself, the Africans Rising Movement and its objectives?
Hardi Yakubu: My name is Hardi Yakubu. I am the Movement Coordinator for Africans Rising. Africans Rising is a Pan-African movement whose objective is to mobilize African people to build solidarity and unity of purpose for the pursuit of Civic space expansion, climate justice, gender justice, reparative justice, borderless Africa.
What prompted you to become an activist, how has the journey been and what are some of the challenges you have faced?
Hardi Yakubu: Well, I have always been against any form of injustice since my school days. So, it took a lot of movement to stop complaining about those injustices whether they were being meted out to my colleagues in class or the entire school by some school authority. To be an activist I would say probably the law preferred word is revolutionary because you are seeking fundamental systemic changes and to be that is not easy it is something that takes a lot of sacrifice, a lot of courage because your security entire life is always on the line somebody whose office of authority that you are seeking accountability from is not happy. But it is not our job to make people happy, it is our job to demand accountability from those people who by their own volition have accepted to be the servants and employees of the people.
As the movement coordinator, what are your responsibilities and what achievements have been recorded since you got to office?
Hardi Yakubu: The role of movement coordinator in Africans rising is a secretariat job so that’s why the movement coordinator according to the constitution is the lead of the Pan African secretariat. This is because there is a coordinating collective whose responsibility it is to provide strategic guidance and be able to bring the various regions together for Pan African solidarity and the secretariat is there as the administrative but also operational units of the movement. So, in a nutshell for me, the movement coordinator is only an employee of members of the movement to bring them together to support them to connect and to support the coordinating Collective in his duties as a governing body. So, you have responsibilities to do with program coma programming implementation, fundraising governance support, financial oversight recruitment and supervision of staff being a spokesperson for the movement etcetera. So, it involves a lot but of course you have very dedicated staff in the secretariat who are helping in very important ways to to get things done. You may not see them, you may not hear them, but they are there and then we have supportive coordinating collective members who are not only knowledgeable but always ready to step in where they are needed.
This is why I don’t like talking about achievements as if I have done them individually and alone. If I have led people to accomplish something, I don’t think I can take their credit as my achievement since it is collective effort that brought it about. A movement person does not do that and move as much as it recognizes the efforts of the individual also places emphasis on collective accomplishments. I think we’ve managed in a short time to put the concept of borderlands Africa in free movement on the front bench of movement members and a lot of our members are engaging with the concept and I’m very surprised to find the massive support that this campaign has gained from movement members and even non members across the continent. And of course, there are those who have been doing this work for years and therefore we are also building on the work that they have done and continue to do. But I think this borderless Africa shows a lot of promise that I believe points to something greater to come and that is always the pride of a movement – the promise.
What are some of the difficulties and common challenges that Africans Rising is grappling with?
Hardi Yakubu: One will always have one issue or another when dealing with people because we have a diversity of opinion, interests, backgrounds. But I see this as a beautiful challenge because in the end when one is looking at the end goal, if we are able to bring together all these divergent opinions interest and backgrounds to agree on a common vision of a unified peace for justice and dignified Africa, then that would be a monumental achievement for us all.
What is the significance of the African Liberation Week and how will African Rising approach the week?
Hardi Yakubu: African Liberation week is the week of May 25 every year during which Africans rise and mobilize membership and constituencies to take actions in solidarity. It is a pan African solidarity mobilization in a nutshell. We usually pick a theme in consultation with members to mobilize around that theme. This year’s theme was borderless Africa as a broad theme with sub themes on fight against economic inequality and injustice fighting for gender justice, climate justice, dealing with the food crisis and the energy and climate crisis. The Mobilization activities include peaceful demonstrations in multiple countries for borderless Africa, film shows, Concerts, poetry shows, football matches etc.
Could you shed light on the Borderless Campaign and the response from African countries?
Hardi Yakubu: I think in a short time we have been able to popularized the borderless Africa campaign amongst movement members. And as you know Africans rising is 45000 strong member movement with members across 55 African countries and over 100 others in the diaspora. Some of these members are organizations and social movements whose membership are very large so the buy in from them is a critical boost to the campaign and also, we are getting a lot of interest from other quarters. A touch of strategies one of the key pillars of the campaign is the People ones Petition for borderlands Africa. And we launched an online version of it but also quickly realized that as a social movement there are people who are not necessarily online and so deployed volunteers to collect signatures on the ground currently about 200 of them in 30 countries. During the African Liberation Week, we also activated the second pillar which is the grassroots mobilization towards borderless Africa, and we saw peaceful marches and demonstrations in no less than Ten countries concerts, poetry, Campfires, community engagements, town halls Etc. We believe that direct engagement with the people is necessary to bring them on board the border as Africa because this is for all Africans and not just for the leaders. So, a grassroots push is absolutely necessary and that is the angle that we are taking. Of course, there is also engagement with leaders and policymakers across the continent to push further ratification of the AU protocol on free movement of persons.
What benefits will African citizens receive if countries on the continent remove border controls and what about risks involved like illicit trade, money laundering, human trafficking, and so on?
Hardi Yakubu: I think a borderless Africa Will boost into African trade, increase employment, facilitate the creation of transboundary infrastructure, harmonize labor and other frameworks making it easy for Africans to work across boundaries, increase cultural understanding and harmony, help to deal with security with collective strength and partnership, and overall make our continent a better place for all of us. And indeed these are not my words, these are findings that have been made in many studies published over the years. People may sometimes be too quick to list all the problems that we have. I think it is necessary to also look at what opportunities we can leverage to turn things around. As Africa is It’s not all about money laundering, illicit trade or whatever. Our story is also about great innovation, massive energy, entrepreneurial spirit of our young and vibrant population and therefore the key thing to look at is what are some of the things that we can do on our own accord to activate and harness the potential inherent in this population. And I believe that borderless Africa is one of the key opportunities that we can take advantage of.
Africa is currently confronted with a slew of problems, including famine, climate change, poverty, youth unemployment, insecurity, and war. Which strategies do you believe can be employed to combat these threats that are dragging the continent down?
Hardi Yakubu: I think the best strategy for any of these problems is to work together, that’s all. In our isolated small states, there is very little that we can do on our own and that is why you see that a lot of the Times were being dictated to by external forces and given conditionalities because we have to go and borrow. But if we are working together, we can deal with our security, our unemployment, and our climate issues collectively because if you travel around the continent, you will see that a lot of these issues are quite similar across borders and therefore it’s only by working together that we can adequately deal with them.
Apart from the borderless campaign, are there other projects the movement is working on, any insights into future plans?
Hardi Yakubu: Africans Rising’s pillars of work are encapsulated in the Kilimanjaro Declaration 2.0, which we implement through three broad approaches namely Pan-African mobilization, movement building, campaigns and advocacy. So as you can see the Borderlands Africa is a key on African campaign other campaigns include, reparations, gender justice, Climate justice etc. We are also building a pan African solidarity action network that will pan Africanize African issues from one African country to the whole continent at any point in time. And then we have movement building and support where we build movements to take up issues on the ground and also support existing movements to do their work better in anti-corruption, holding government accountable, opening Civic spaces etc.
This article originally appeared in the June issue of the Pan African Visions Magazine and it is republished here with the permission of the publication. No changes were made to the original article.