The AU’s Project Wakanda One: A symbol of a new Africa?

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Wakanda One seeks to turn Mosi-oa-Tunya, on the border of Zimbabwe into Africas technological epicentre. File picture: Themba Hadebe/AP

Is the AU leadership watching too many movies or they are genuinely seeking to achieve the Agenda 2063? Encouraged by the famous fictitious blockbuster movie, Marvel’s Black Panther, the AU has announced an ambitious project called, Wakanda One, a technologically advanced hub or village as a symbol of the new African civilisation – envisioned in the Agenda 2063. This will be Africa’s own Silicon Vally or Shenzhen – the main site for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.     

Wakanda One, seeks to turn the present Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls) bordering Zimbabwe (two thousand hectares) into Africa’s technological epicentre, while Zambia (offering one hundred and thirty two hectares) to the project. Indeed the move is consistent with Africa’s long held desire to develop the continent.  

The irony of the chosen leading country, however, cannot be ignored – Zimbabwe. As this news came out Zimbabweans were on the streets – violently protesting against the deepening economic and political environment. This country has not enjoyed freedom since the year 2000 mainly due to poor leadership. Both the ruling party and the opposition leadership have abdicated their constitutional duties to outsiders’, mainly former coloniser Britain and the western world. It is also perhaps the leading country in the world contributing the largest number of the African Diaspora. 

On one hand, Zanu PF relies heavily on its unquestioned liberation credentials and pan African ideology to commit heinous economic and political crimes. Similarly, the opposition MDC appears short of any independent thought and strategy. Both the ruling party and the opposition appear to be living in a wonderland, expecting outsiders (SADC, the AU and the West) to wave the magic stick that can instantly resolve their domestic challenges. They hardly speak or listen to each other. When they do, their audience seems to be outsiders; mainly westerners, to either impose restrictions on the government or lift sanctions and attract investments.     

Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the AU’s ambassador to the United States, met President Emmerson Mnangagwa to flesh out the idea. She said, “We don’t even realise we are on autopilot waiting for the White man to build this ‘civilisation’ for us. So we are taking our destiny into our own hands and creating something built for and by the people of the African diaspora”.  Those steeped in African history realise that there is absolutely nothing new about Wakanda One project in southern Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe. The country’s name, ‘Dzimba-dza-mabwe’ Shona word meaning, ‘houses built of stones’, was once such a major civilization. The Monomutapa Kingdom spread from the Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo province reaching Beira in Mozambique with endless satellites across southern Africa including the famous Mapungubwe in South Africa.  

One wonders, if the AU can entrust the current Zimbabwean leadership with such a huge project. Wakanda One project requires serious transformative leadership that can tap on the African indigenous knowledge system, to marshal unity of purpose, and the existing abundant resources on the continent and the diaspora. 

As in the Black Panther movie (ironically written by a white man), the African diaspora managed to mobilise resources in the world to bring to life Africa’s potential civilization. It is therefore critical for the AU to stop watching movies and roll up their sleeves. First, Wakanda One cannot succeed on the colonial curriculum taught in our universities. It does not have African interest to give birth to such a new civilization. Second, there is a need to completely change the African mind-set, which remains deeply rooted in Western thought. This year marks the 400th anniversary of slavery of the African people. Although physical slavery and colonialism ended, Africans remain trapped in a colonial mind-set, which devalues Ubuntu in favour of Western notions of development, modernity and spirituality. Third, Africans must declare corruption as a crime against humanity. There are high levels of corruption across the continent that if not tackled head-on will ultimately hinder Wakanda One project. 

The idea of Wakanda Village situated in southern Africa is long overdue. While drawing plans for the Wakanda village, African leaders should strive to stabilise the continent by prioritising peace and security. Wakanda as the imaginary epitome of African civilization now being turned into reality need to meet all of the above preconditions.  

The Wakanda Village idea can be realised if Africa could pragmatically harness the rich historical experience of its former glorious civilisations such as the Mali Empire (Timbuktu), Carthage in Tunisia, and the Egyptian, to name just a few. Africans need to cooperate with the international community to learn from other civilisations in Asia, the Americas and Europe. Africa can fully learn knowledge and skills all over the world, particularly in science and technology. For Africa to actively participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution it requires projects such as Wakanda One to channel the abundant resources in Africa and the diaspora.             

Dr David Monyae is a senior political analyst and co-director at the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute and Bhaso Ndzendze is a research coordinator at the same institute.