As we mark 61 years since the formation of the Organization of African Unity (now the Africa Union), we reflect on the significance of Africa Day in 2024. The era of global powers viewing Africa with indifference is over. Africa is transforming rapidly, driven by the continental free trade agreement, increasing interest in its mineral wealth, and superpower competition for global influence. Many African nations are making strides towards economic and political independence. Recent military coups in the Sahel region, while problematic, demonstrate the desire for more political-economic freedom.

But while Africa is growing fast, it is not growing together. Pan-African solidarity has given way to national self-interest, putting the continent at crossroads and undermining its progress. Aware of the new global iteration and greater interest in the continent, African leaders are seeking new partners as a means of diversification.

As some countries break away from one colonial power, newly assertive powers offer themselves as partners, while old ones offer ‘new opportunities.’ On the one hand, Russia, China, and other emerging markets have aggressively courted new African leaders with lucrative deals, fending off the West. On the other, the recent White House State Dinner honoring Kenya’s President Ruto and the bilateral trade negotiations between Kenya and the United States (US) signals economic prosperity for Kenya.

But these bilateral alliances raise concerns about transparency and participation. There is a need for greater transparency and meaningful civic participation before concluding any part of a US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership. Bilateral investment deals must not undermine regional economic integration which could potentially harm smaller African economies. As African leaders seek new alliances, the desire for individual progress must not threaten the collective growth and independence that Africa seeks.

On this Africa Day therefore, let us embrace our shared heritage, celebrate our achievements, and empower the African narrative. But above all, Africa must grow together, even if it means sacrificing speed for unity and collective progress, as the famous African proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’.