Crisis of Identity and Xenophobia in Africa: The Imperative of a Pan-African Thought Liberation

Part of the Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development book series (AAESPD)


Far too often, Africans have been up in arms against one another. Cases of the local population attacking those that are considered ‘the others’ have occurred in many African countries. Several factors have been advanced for such incidences, the most prominent been, contestations over economic opportunities. The force of globalisation and the peripheral position of African countries in the global capitalist economic order have limited opportunities for improved livelihood for the masses. The locals unwittingly scapegoat immigrants as the culprit and the causes of their limited socio-economic prospects. In many instances, political elites also prop up discourses which reinforce the notion that foreigners are responsible for government inability to meet its obligation to provide public good for their citizens. While this line of argument holds some merit, this paper departs from this intellectual tradition by locating the problem of xenophobia in the realm of identity crisis. Identity crisis is here contextualised to mean ignorance or deliberate denial of the salience of ethnic, national or racial categorisation both in its essence and determinant of being in the global hierarchy of power. Crisis of identity also denotes a falsification or obfuscation of historical realities both in terms of the previous pan-Africanist movements in which African countries collectively confront political colonialism and contend with Africa’s economic regression. The latter point is particularly salient because of the continuity of neo-imperial designs that led to the bifurcation of African countries into enclaves of exploitation, which calls for multilateral approach to resisting the underdevelopment of Africa. Using historical materialism and political economy theoretical approach, I argue that a proper understanding of the shared identity of Africans and their subordinate position in the international division of labour will reduce if not totally remove incidences of xenophobia. Therefore, the reconstruction of African identity must flow from an ideological and intellectual project of Pan African thought liberation.


Xenophobia Globalization Identity Pan-Africanism Thought liberation Africa 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thabo Mbeki InstituteUniversity of South Africa (UNISA)PretoriaSouth Africa

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