Last week, a delegation of almost 100 people from America traveled to Senegal to witness the unveiling of the African Renaissance Monument and to celebrate 50 years of Senegalese independence. The three-day trip, packed with meetings and a ceremony, was highlighted by a colloquium about the past, present and future of Africa. The stage was set by Senegal’s president, Abdoulaye Wade.

Senegal is an interesting country. It has been one of the more successful post-colonial democratic transitions in Africa. Unlike many other African countries, it has not been plagued by war or torn apart by social unrest, and it has had a democratic civilian rule. This week marked the country’s 50th year of independence, and with that milestone, Senegal’s president proclaimed that Africa needs a United States of Africa. “We need a transition to a more robust sense of unity. I am talking about a Untied States of Africa,” he proclaimed during a colloquium taking place in Senegal as a precursor to the unveiling of the African Renaissance Monument.

Son of Harlem- Marcus Garvey first brought up the idea of a “United States of Africa” in 1924 in his poem “Hail, United States of Africa.” This idea helped to birth and fuel the Pan-Africanist Movement. The idea culminated in 1945 with the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, United Kingdom, attended by W. E. B. Du Bois, Patrice Lumumba, George Padmore, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah. Ambassador Dudley Thompson, chair of the World African Diaspora Union, who joined us on our recent trip to Senegal, was also on hand for that historic meeting. From that meeting came the idea of a union of African states, which became what is now known as the African Union.

With 53 independent countries in Africa and a population of more than 1 billion people, a “United States of Africa” would be the largest federation (in land mass) in the world, and third most populous after China and India.

This idea of the United States of Africa is one that President Wade spoke about with true passion, even going as far to say that he would not mind having his title changed to governor of Senegal if it would mean that Africa would be united.

Other regions of the world have followed the lead of the United States and have begun the process of integration. Most of Europe has united both politically and under a common currency.

Wade often pointed out that European integration has meant less opportunities for African people in Europe, as the Western European nations have forgone long-standing relationships with African nations and people in favor of newly integrated Central and Eastern Europeans.

And much of Asia has followed suit, developing strong ties with China. Increasingly, Latin Americans are working together. But what would it mean if Africa were united? Would countries like South Africa and Kenya go for such an alliance?

Many say that a common currency in Africa would make all the difference in the work, while others believe that it would make little difference. Like with the EU, some believe the wealthy countries would get wealthier while the poorer nations would simply lose their identities and get gobbled up.

And what role could those of us in the Diaspora play in such an integration? Wade suggests that we could play a critical role in the advancement of the continent, and I think he is absolutely correct. People of African descent from the Diaspora can bring economic and intellectual capital back to the continent, while those of us living in the United States can lobby our country to increase investment in the continent, rather than looking for the means to exploit, which has all too often been the world’s narrative towards the people and continent of Africa for generations.

The examples are endless, as we have just seen in Senegal. Wade made a deal with the North Koreans to create the African Renaissance Monument. In exchange for the building of the monument, land was given to North Korea to develop. While we have acknowledged in the paper the statue is beautiful, and may have economic benefits, what was the cost in land? In Nigeria, most of the road works and new development is coming from money from China. And while infrastructure improvement is critical, the Chinese have a habit of bringing their own labor into Africa, rather than creating jobs and training local people, which would build a sustainable class of workers with real skills and abilities.

So while the players have sometimes changed–less Europeans and more of an Asian influence–are we seeing simply another type of potentially damaging colonialism in Africa?

And while an African Union or a United States of Africa is a bold idea, the question is, with 53 countries mostly led by men with a grand need for power, could the idea of power sharing work? Would it lead to a united Africa or an African civil war?

These are all issues that the more than 100 million of us from the Diaspora must learn and be concerned about, since we should want peace, stability and prosperity for the states and people of our motherland.