The historical Bandung Conference: Part One…when Asia and Africa came together


PAN-AFRICANISM is a form of patriotism by black people centred on the continent that is now known as Africa.
Pan-Africanists, in and out of Africa, have a goal to unite the continent which has been divided into over 54 countries in the last few centuries owing to colonisation and slavery.
Labour shortages, brain drain and an upset of traditional systems of governance were also experienced in the once peaceful, developed and united landscape of Africa.
In olden times, there were no borders except those set by nature such as, rivers, mountains and gorges.
Blacks from this continent would travel freely in the land and announce their presence to nations and kingdoms they would come across.
Because of this oneness, the Bantu migrated from the Sahara region to west, central and southern Africa with ease.
Genetic and linguistic studies have shown that the people of southern Africa are closely related to those in the Great Lakes region around Uganda.
Shemitic groups also entered Africa via the Phoenician route and the Indian Ocean.
In the Bible, we see accounts of Abraham and his descendants crossing into Africa and back to Asia numerous times.
They stayed in Africa for as long as 430 years, multiplying to a population of about 600 000.
Moses travelled down to Ethiopia where he met other descendants of Abraham like Jethro who were referred to as Ethiopians.
This shows that not only was Africa united, but it was also joined to Asia.
The Greeks, at one point called Africa hither India, implying that Africa was the mainland of India and India was its offshoot.
Blacks would sail to and from Asia and trade, along with cultural exchange, led to the advancement of technology and so on.
The building style of the Great Zimbabwe monument, along with the minaret (conical tower) can therefore be found in places like Yemen and also Machema in northern South Africa.
All this would cease because of the division of the lands and peoples who were one.
It is difficult for many to imagine Africa could become one again; even more far-fetched is the idea that Africa could become one with Asia.
Unity does not mean nations have to forgo their governments and nationalities.
The states of North America, the states of China are united.
Each state functions as a country and has a leader who is called a governor.
But all the states work together and share resources and ideas.
This is why both China and the US are so large in population and area, yet they function efficiently.
Past attempts have been made in this era to bring the lands of Africa and Asia back to their former strength and glory.
We shall look at the very first conference that took place with the goal of forming a united front for these two continents to push for co-operation, freedom, sovereignty and development for the whole region. It was a historic conference that set the pace and standard for other movements that would follow.
The year was 1955.
Both Africa and Asia had gone through centuries and decades of attacks by European nations, chiefly Britain, France and the Netherlands.
Traditional ways of governance were destroyed; peoples were alienated from their culture and were forced to adopt European ways. The leaders of African and Asian nations realised they had the same enemy and problems.
They met up to discuss ways to deal with these issues and made sure no Western nations were in attendance.
The conference, held in the Indonesian city of Bandung, was sponsored by the Prime Ministers of Burma (Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
They invited leaders from 24 Asian and African nations besides themselves and a total of 29 nations were represented at the aptly named Asian-African Conference.
These included Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold coast (Ghana), Liberia, Libya, Nepal, Democratic Republic of Vietnam, State of Vietnam, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the five sponsor-nations stated above.
The bulk of African nations were still under colonial governments and such settler-regimes were not eligible to join the conference.
The agenda was to discuss ways for the indigenous people of Asia and Africa to achieve full economic, cultural and political co-operation and development.
They sought to establish a platform to unite matters of mutual interest and to attain national sovereignty for all the members of the region.
The conference’s topics of discussion were divided into three parts; economic, cultural and political.
The allocation of funds by international banks for the purpose of reconstruction and development was recommended.
This would allow the region to compete fairly on the international market and would facilitate for the repatriation and reparations of victims of colonisation and slavery.
Besides this, the conference recommended that the region open its own international finance corporations in order to flexibly conduct joint business ventures with each other.
Depending on Western-based finance corporations had limitations and left them vulnerable.
They also agreed that regional trade had to be stabilised.
Africa and Asia have been, and continue to be, seen as mere sources of raw materials.
They remain the so-called Third World countries while the West exploits us for resources and labour.
The conference set a goal to let the regions of Asia and Africa benefit from their produce first before satisfying the needs of the West for the cause of home development.
Before exporting commodities outside the region, reasonable intra-regional trade fairs were to be set up first.
Multi-lateral trade and payment were encouraged and so was the exchange of information and samples among regional members.
The West was charged with taking resources cheaply in their raw state and leaving the host countries with very little.
Thus regional members were encouraged to process raw materials locally or regionally before exporting them.
This would also help diversify export goods and add value to the commodities.
Because the colonial borders left many countries landlocked, strategic facilities were to be set up for the transit of goods to coasts from the hinterland.
This included railway networks that interconnected the region and easing of policies to do with trade among regional members.
The shipping industry was also to be nationalised by coastal nations.
This was in response to the high prices of shipping that were being charged to indigenous traders by settler-companies like the Dutch East India Company as a way to curb competition.
Besides regional banks, the conference also recommended that regional insurance companies be set up.
The regional exchange of information concerning oil and minerals, for example remittances, profits and taxes was considered vital.
Such actions would lead to the formulation of common policies and would greatly benefit the members of the region.
The conference found it necessary for liaison officers to be appointed by governments in each nation of the region.
These would serve the purpose of information exchange, trade and discussing issues of mutual interest.
Regional members were encouraged to make better use of already existing international organisations to achieve their interests.
At this juncture, regional members were encouraged to attend international forums only after prior consultations among each other so as to become one solid front and yield better results.
They were encouraged to make agreements with non-regional parties with the view of fathering the interests of the region first.
The conference recommended that an international atomic energy agency with regional members in executive authority should be set up for nuclear energy to be used for peaceful purposes.
Regional members were advised to study and understand atomic energy.
These were the deliberations concerning economics that took place at the conference.
The main idea was to ensure that Africans and Asians would function as an unofficial regional bloc so that their vote would be stronger and their interests met.


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