What Qaddafi envisions is a unified African state that could play a powerful role in global affairs. He has repeatedly proposed immediate unity and the establishment of a single currency, army and passport for the entire continent, and is prepared to put the issue to a vote at the AU's next summit meeting in July. While all of this sounds rather preposterous now, a part of me wonders whether this might have made sense around the height of Africa's post-colonial independence.
In The Bottom Billion, for instance, Oxford's Paul Collier makes a passing claim that some African states should likely have never come into existence, owing either to their size (the 'bad governance in a small country' trap) or geographical positioning (the 'landlocked with bad neighbors' trap). Of course it's too late for any of that now, and forcing 61 countries with nearly 992 million people into one big, happy state would lead to catastrophe. But what if the 'United States of Africa' had come into fruition in the 1960s? Would problems of economic development be fewer? What about ethnic conflict? Would it be on a greater or lesser scale than it is today? Is Qaddafi's vision perhaps correct, but merely several decades too late? Or is it as absurd as it sounds?